Affixed by its own rigid untouched molecular adhesion and devoid of any forced buoyancy a grotesquely out-of-reach sphere of life-giving gases, within another liquid water crust of it’s own protection, stagnates in security as a glimmering crystalline eye of torture. I cannot gasp or wrench and twist my weakened bone-softened body within this papier-mâché and foil-lined suit for fear of tearing away from the brutal clamp of the (typically) automatic garden bulkhead. I begin to obsess over how I am about to die, not in a panic but, a means of entertainment imagining my own death as I astrally project into the eye-bursting, lung-popping scene the inevitable vacuum of space will bring. Portholes of light see midday across whatever span of Earth is lucky enough to peek through the smoke and terror-filled atmosphere below. The sun kisses through the perfect diameter of the dew spheres that float around the unspectacular rectangle of plastics, ancient styrofoam and bolted-down boxes of firmly planted species before me. I will at least see life before me as I face my own death and just when I’ve shaken off the paralysis of morbid fear my darting eyes momentarily engorge with the pressure of pain radiant from temple to jaw. The door releases, a mechanical impossibility, the electricity could never run out and yet all systems appear to momentarily fail. The globes before me disappear as I swim towards their waters, enfeebled before but now additionally bruised. The shiv I’d used to cut thier throats floats past the porthole as the sun returns, a centrifugal spray of blood spins like a circular saw’s spray whilst severing a limb around it. I see red again but this time I cannot satisfy the thunder of the language scouring my mind for answers. It comes as fast as the suns rays when it hits me, untranslated and beyond all pace and energy I could muster, a shotgun blast after I’d reached my limited importance for the ‘Entity’ looming out of phase and sight. It, the Nucleus, would laugh before I die… First a slow, crawling cough within a cave of impossible reverberating anti-crepuscular rays and then a hammer of steel teeth upon crumbling stone, devouring.
Exciting as their taste in subject matter and artwork is, the immediate draw of Chicago, Illinois death metal band Nucleus when I’d discovered them back in 2015 (upon release of the ‘Hegemony’ EP) was the sharp taste in death and extreme thrash metal that came across in their work. They weren’t yet grinding down upon Demilich style rhythms in full though their attainment of the otherwordly ‘old school’ ethos had been realized and the Timeghoul cover was a clear indicator of the way forward. Looking back to 2016 it becomes clear that it’d been the year of science fiction metal from bands that’d been reaching for that high bar of quality it’d take to pull off from old legends (Mithras), savants like Vektor, the deeper underground old school heads like Blood Incantation, Chthe’ilist, Zealotry, and perhaps the most ‘original’ out of the gate full-length from Nucleus with ‘Sentient’. It was clear the rhythms of Demilich, Crematory, and Timeghoul were factors thanks to a new and more skilled drummer but, there was another layer of taste that shone through with grooves indicative of peak Obituary, Morbid Angel, and even death/thrash a la Sepultura. At the time I described it as ‘Immolation thrash’ and placed the album at the number nine spot on the best of 2016 list. It remains one of the best record in that ‘old school’ technical cosmic death hulk style without having pushed any particular limits at the time. Today we find Nucleus pushing the boundaries of avant-garde structure, modal experimentation, and cranking the deep space horror atmosphere on their second full-length ‘Entity’.
Chaos beyond that of even the most fusion-absorbent heights of Gorguts splashes through most every piece on ‘Entity’ almost in opposition of the buttoned-down ‘Unholy Cult’-esque array of strictly-paced techniques on ‘Sentient’. A grinding, ruthless energy punches out of the rhythm section with an Obliveon-esque (Voivod, maybe) flow that’d really separate out the olden Demilich spirit in exchange for earlier Timeghoul essence as well as more palatable Finnish death metal phrasing (Demigod, Adramelech). Even if you don’t exactly agree with all of those references it at least inspires me that I’m talking about some of my favorite death metal bands in reference to ‘Entity’. The circuitous leads and runs that characterize the drunken-robotic movements and constantly bending performances on this second Nucleus album bring a wild and disorienting quality that is at first stymieing and then gratifying when certain movements become memorable beyond their seemingly randomized nature. What separates this type of technical death metal experience from that of a Pyrrhon or Gigan record comes with atmospheric value and the deeper structural groove of classic death metal playing out in a gloriously convoluted manner. It may sound like the last gasp of a malevolent alien race as their sun implodes at first but there is an accessible core to ‘Entity’ despite how well veiled it will seem at first.
If you haven’t already been knee-deep in ‘old school’ technical death metal and the generally non-brutal spectrum of interest for the last twenty years there is a real danger of ‘Entity’ appearing momentarily impenetrable or, at least daunting. I’d say you really do want the reference of ‘Sentient’ beforehand at the very least, they’re different enough that a back-to-back session wouldn’t feel redundant, but that’d be your own call. On the other hand if you do have a couple hundred gnarly tech-death and sci-fi themed metal records floating in your brain you might want the atmo-blender of heaviness and madness that ‘Entity’ brings in contrast to the rigid slant of the previous record. I definitely enjoyed this shift both for the stylistic oomph that the wilder, almost improvised feeling of the performances brought and for the tweaks they’ve made with longtime producer Dan Klein (Iron Hand Audio) who continues to improve his command over presence. There isn’t a plainly obscuring cloud of reverb providing atmospheric value as there might’ve been ten years ago and this is where ‘Entity’ manages to feel cavernous but never compressed or blunted by the blurry rip of it all. The spectacle of performance and nigh randomized guitar runs is well treated with a more organic and spacious environment though I’m not sure how memorable any of the details are going to stand out with any immediacy. One of the more interesting choices that I wanted even more of is exemplified within the first few minutes of “Dominion” with some cleaner vocals sections that seem to recall Supuration‘s ‘The Cube’, or the more experimental side of Loudblast that same year. Otherwise the technique and actual tone (guitar, vocals) of Nucleus on this release are absolutely entertaining enough within the brutal and frantically shifting sands of ‘Entity’.
Much as I’d like to really comb over this album further I think its value is plainly evident within a full listen. That said, there are a few key tracks that anchor the listen beyond a mush of twisted riffs and roars. “Arrival” serves to ease the entrance of the band as much as possible before the attack begins and Nucleus do not let up from there until my personal favorite track “Mobilization”, which pairs meaningfully with “Uplift”. “Mobilization” hits like ‘Formulas Fatal to the Flesh’ seen through Adramelech eyes and I’d found myself leaving the track on repeat to marvel in its swinging ease of menacing attack; It also includes some of those differentiated vocal parts that I’d mentioned in reference to “Dominion” to great effect. Every moment beyond that fourth track keeps the momentum up and the interest high. Although I did expect something remarkable from Nucleus, they really could have gotten away with simple iteration of the previous album, ‘Entity’ blows well beyond expectations. I’ve had this one on rotation for at least a month now and still feel like there is more value to unpack, I’ve ended up more enamored with it than ‘Sentient’ on some level and the fact that I am still interested is a good sign. Beyond the music itself I highly value this sort of cover art (Adam Burke), it more or less tips the scales an inch higher as it did with Imperialist‘s record late last year. Very high recommendation and easily one of the best releases of June. For preview I’d suggest “Mobilization” for a hit of instant gratification, “Arrival” for a holistic look at technique throughout the album, and “Dominion” as a great example of wild, untamed growth in every direction.
Orbital bombardment. 4.5/5.0
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