Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ascariasis - Ocean of Colour [EP]


Canada’s metal scene has been very good to us over the past decade or so. The country has spawned a diverse selection of fantastic metal bands such as The Agonist, Augury, Blackguard, Threat Signal, Neuraxis, Despised Icon, Ex Deo, and countless others. A deathcore band that spawned out of Canada in 2010 is Ascariasis. Although when a lot of people hear that (for some reason) dreaded term “deathcore”, their minds go in automatic rejection mode. But here’s the thing, if there’s one thing I know about the progressive metal label that the band is signed on to, Subliminal Groove Records, it’s that the LAST thing they would do is sign on a generic band that causes people to go into “rejection mode”.

Ok, we’re at the point where we can instantly recognize Cameron Gray’s artwork. If you’ve seen the covers for The Discovery by Born of Osiris, The Harvest Wombs by Fallujah, or Time I by Wintersun, there’s a big chance that you would have stopped for a second and thought “wait a minute…where have I seen this before?” Well, the guy that’s known for making the trippiest science fiction-themed artwork is responsible for this one. But album artwork doesn’t necessarily describe a band’s sound right off the bat (although it can often times give you a pretty good hint), so we’re going to open this EP up and see what it has in store for us.

The band’s intriguing and sometimes mind-boggling blend of deathcore, polyrhythmic breakdown patterns, and technical death is what has caused them to get international attention. But wait, isn’t that the same reason Veil of Maya, Born of Osiris, Fallujah, and so many other bands are so big right now? What makes Ascariasis any different? Upon first listen, Ascariasis is no fucking different than any other trendy “djent” deathcore band. But, once you listen to the EP several times in a row, you start to realize how much complexity there is (not to say that those other bands aren’t complex). Unlike a lot of the recent deathcore bands that have been popping up recently, Ascariasis’ musical style has A LOT more to it than just those really fancy breakdowns that sometimes make you forget the actual tempo of the song. Technical deathcore band Veil of Maya is probably the band I would compare Ascariasis to, but then again, take everything that Veil of Maya does and blow it out of proportion.

Even though it’s not my personal favorite, the most interesting track, by far, is the first one, Shatter. The song starts in a similar way as Alpha Incipient by Fallujah with a very melodic and generally simple melody that fades in fairly quickly. Like Alpha Incipient, Shatter then goes from that light-hearted melody down to a driving breakdown. Here’s the difference between those two songs: although extremely catchy, the breakdown following the intro in Alpha Incipient is simple and easy to follow. The breakdown following the intro in Shatter is something completely different. It’s hard for someone to exaggerate when describing this because half the point of a breakdown is to have a drop in tempo and pitch that someone could more-or-less headbang to. Ascariasis has a completely different idea, because not even one full second into the breakdown, the polyrhythmic tempos caused me to COMPLETELY lose track of the tempo. Although it’s a phenomenal demonstration of the members’ instrumental and technical skills, it’s a bit overdone.

What is MUCH more enjoyable is the rest of the song. About 1.5 minutes into the track, you start to hear a complex breakdown with a Born of Osiris-influenced lead guitar line that, with its high-pitched frilly texture, transports the listener to the metallic clouds that can be seen on the album’s artwork. These really frilly guitar melodies, along with the extremely tight and complex kick drums are what take up the majority of the technicality on the record. Something that shouldn’t go unmentioned is the bass. As technical and complex the guitars and drums may be, neither of them even compare to the energy that the bass puts out, especially when the guitars and bass pull out insane arpeggios at the same time and weave in and out of each other. There are some bands that can pull off some insane bass/guitar harmonizations (The HAARP Machine, Obscura, Spawn of Possession, Rings of Saturn, Sadus, etc.), but very few have left me intrigued in the same way Ascariasis has.

I first noticed the insanity of the bassist at the very end of the second track, Torchbearer. During the breakdown, although quiet, the indescribable speed of the bassist speaks out. If only the bassist’s solos were easier to hear. Also, if the band’s goal is to have a more technical sound and less of a “djenty” deathcore sound, turning up the bass and possibly throwing in a couple extra blast beats in here and there will significantly help, as long as they’re careful not to overdo it. The one thing left to talk about has been saved for last, and that is the vocalist.

The vocalist is one of the best growlers I’ve heard in years. I have a set description of the perfect growler which includes being powerful, very deep, exhaled, not too much voice, and other little things that make me sound nit-picky. This guy has all of those qualities, he makes me happy! Even his screams that can rarely be heard are good! There’s just one problem, he doesn’t fit. Those extremely demonic growls that send chills down the spines of the weak don’t really sound good with the rest of the music. The reason why is probably because there’s a lot more growling than screaming going on here. During the really epic and melodic parts, there should be more screaming and less growling. This would sound better because there would be less clashing going on with the high-pitched guitar melodies and the EXTREMELY deep growls. Also, on one last note, a slightly less dependence on breakdowns will make their music sound much less predictable and more interesting.

Ascariasis is one of those bands that take common trends and meld them together to create a colorful and progressive sound. Mixing modern deathcore, polyrhythmic tempos, and technical death, Ascariasis acts as a refresher and a progressive act that is going down the exact same road as Veil of Maya, Born of Osiris, and Fallujah while still keeping their own identity. The music that Ascariasis has created on this EP hasn’t amazed me as much as it has intrigued me and more-or-less fucked with my mind. I look forward to hearing a full-length from this band and to see where they go. I would give this EP a 14/20.