Right of the bat I have to say this came as a massive surprise. I had heard of Usurpress but not actually heard them. I had been led to believe that they are a crusty Old School Swedish Death metal band, and apparently they once were, but this album certainly doesn’t fit that description. This has more in common with Enslaved than Entombed.
Not That I’m complaining, when I say it came as a surprise it was a very pleasant one. Well perhaps pleasant is the wrong word given how nasty this is, but you know what I mean. Bottom line is this is a lot more interesting than I expected.
I am sure a lot of folks would use the term “prog” at least once when describing these guys sound. But as soon as you read that you will probably be thinking of something along the lines of Opeth, which this is definitely not. These guys have their roots in death metal, but rather than blackened death metal or (vice versa) this is a sound that to me seems to straddle the line between black and death metal right down the middle, not leaning one way or the other. And it does so with ease, and feels completely natural.
With 10 tracks on offer here, the first 4 come thick and fast, keep up the vicious pace and tone which
made me think I had this band’s sound down. However from the much calmer instrumental 5th
track and onwards the pace is broken up. They seem to let their guard down from then on and the second half of the album broadens out with more of a progressive and experimental sound. With some slower more ominous riffs, and some great clean vocals which reminded me of Morbid Angel’s classic “God of Emptiness”. I found this to be a welcome change of pace which helped keep my interest for the duration of it.
I have noticed on repeated listens that quite a few of the tracks bleed into the start of the following track, which feeds into my initial feeling that is this is very much meant to be listened to as a whole rather than dipping in for a track or two. This approach of course demands patience and time to enjoy this to the fullest, but it is an investment worth making.
So I must say I am impressed by this album. I would have liked to hear them push the experimental side of their sound a bit more (which I am sure the will in the future), and the fact that it is an album of two halves means the pacing won’t be for everyone. But overall I would say this is a great album, but it also hints at the potential these guys have to go on make something truly special in the future and I am personally looking forward to hearing where they go from here.
(8/10 Mark Gleed)