Whenever I hear good blackened death, I wonder why there isn’t more of it out there. The fusion of the two genres is some of the most intense heavy music available, taking the fire and anger of black metal and infusing some of the crushing weight of death for a sound as dangerous and thrilling as a game of six bullet Russian Roulette.. Then I hear bad blackened death and I remember exactly why it’s a fringe genre. Done wrong it can be a worse version of its constituent parts: death with less oomph and black metal with less emotional resonance and bite. Fortunately, on their sophomore record Decreation, The Ugly have successfully avoided the potential pitfalls of blackened death and provided the world with a ripping, visceral metal experience to rock out to.
The Ugly take an almost punky approach to their music, with limited time given to lulls and establishing mood. Instead, they set out at a blistering tempo and keep it up for the majority of the record. This approach is all about attitude: high-tempo strummed riffs running into each other, bombarding the listener with hook after hook. It is music that never wants the circle pit to stop, the vocalist’s high-pitched shrieks and cackles adding to the chaotic nature of the overall package. This all-action, all the time philosophy results in an album with never a dull moment, and this is as close to a party album as blackened death will ever come, forty-five minutes of high energy, frenetic aural violence.
The secret sauce of good blackened death lies in the production. The riffs can be as gripping and the vocals as blood curdling as you like, but if it all sounds like it was recorded on the set of The Little Mermaid you have a problem even more serious than facing the scorn of hipster Ariel. Here too, The Ugly put on a clinic. The guitar tone is killer, bass notes impactful without being sludgy and highs cutting cleanly through the mix for a chilling bite. The bass itself chugs away providing a strong underpinning for the overlying musical chaos, and the drum sound is exceptional, every beat feeling as though you have your ear pressed against the skin. No instrument overpowers the others, but everything hits with the unstoppable force of a train.
The Ugly have produced a great sounding album here, a no frills blackened death joyride. It’s focused, filthy and loads of fun, like having a portable mosh pit for your living room (Patent pending). You can get your black death on with the embedded track Black Goat below and listen to the rest of the album on The Ugly’s Bandcamp page.