Drenched in the dazzling lysergic spew of a coughing corpse reanimated mid-rot the fellowes who’d create Nikaia, Greece based ‘old school’ death mastery Ectoplasma yet traverse the veil for a third full-length since forming in 2012. Among the growing notable herd of 90’s death metal influenced ilk ‘White-Eyed Trance’ is cult without any too obvious reference, ‘retro’ without the usual associated gaudiness, and choking on a hundred brutal riffs that invoke the dynamism of death metal circa ’92. There is no looking ahead, no grand atmospheric pomp nor any genre-splicing post-modernism as Ectoplasma bring their own stew of favorites into another refreshingly pure death metal release. I’ll dig into the details well enough in the paragraphs ahead but the initiated should already know what to expect and the classicist death metal fan will already have this on order.
Ectoplasma is the first planted seed of collaboration between Giannis Grim (Spawn of Flesh Records, ex-Carnal Dread) and George Wolf and a point of growth that many other side-projects would spawn alongside. Their steadfast focus on late 80’s and early 90’s death metal for inspiration quickly reveals very specific taste in the raunchier, filthier spectrum of greats while the greater goal of the project almost subconsciously reaches for that ‘death metal debut’ album sound where a ragged basement-rotted sound only adds to the heaviness of their riff heavy style. Consider the brutally thrashed death of ‘Cross the Styx’ versus the slicked-over ‘Diabolical Summoning’ and you’ll get my meaning. In fact, early Sinister isn’t a terrible segue into the changes ‘White-Eyed Trance’ festoons beyond their impressive 2018 record ‘Cavern of Foul Unbeings’ where thrash metal influences appear to intensify alongside an even more brutal pace than the prior record. Though they share a different collaboration it does feel like some of their brutal death metal putridity in Vultur has rubbed off onto ‘White-Eyed Trance’ without going full ape. As a result I definitely felt a big hit of ‘Imperial Doom’-era Monstrosity urgency alongside a few nods to their love of Demigod and Finnish death metal in general and that’d normally suggest a sound as brutal as a contemporary like Resurgency but Ectoplasma stretch themselves between a broader set of influences.
At some point I have to wonder if decrypting the blatantly referential efforts of ‘new old school’ death metal bands isn’t much more than an addictive puzzle game but relief comes when struck by a band like Ectoplasma who’d hit with a raw but exquisitely structured set of death metal songs written for impact first and trance-induction second. There is a tendency to see the pre-’92 age of death metal as devolved or unenlightened due to the lighter attention paid to fidelity and intentional sound design but in every sense the death of the thrash riff in death metal saw increased linearity in thought throughout that decade. I’ve always felt like Ectoplasma hit upon that point of divergence in classic death metal while ensuring their thresher splattered Autopsy-esque grime never polishes off and the same goes for contemporaries Rotheads and Petrification. Anyhow the point is that there are riffs all over this album, good ones that aim for a head-first charging storm of evil while creating atmospheric horror with a brain squirming behind its eyes.
The blood-rusted metal plated beating of “Eviscerated In the Howling Winds” is a pure mosh to kick things off but it shouldn’t serve as a representative piece for the whole of the album because both halves of ‘White-Eyed Trance’ build in intensity as they progress. The first guaranteed reaction from the listener should at least come with the very Finnish death/early Amorphis-esque introduction of “White-Eyed Trance: Choronzonic Covenant” as I’d go as far as saying is one of the best songs Ectoplasma have written to date. From the first to the fifteenth listen I’d always felt like ‘White-Eyed Trance’ opened unassuming compared to how it’d left me and I don’t mean that the first two tracks are plain but it does feel like they begin to fire on all cylinders after that third track hits. That storm of evil I was talking about earlier fully arrives on “Ghostly Emanations In The Mortuary”, with its mosh heavy outro but the real favorites start deep into Side B with the fantastic pairing of the brutal “Alucarda, The Daughter of Darkness” and the sequel to an earlier highlight, “White-Eyed Trance: Ensnared in Devilry”. At this point the style of the album reaches an Adramelech or Demented Ted level of brutality and intricacy meshing that stops just short of the ‘brutal’ tag. This was the major peak of the record and beyond that the album ends with a new version of “Skeletal Lifeforms” from their 2016 EP by the same name and a cover of Devastation‘s (Texas) “Souls of Sacrifice” a post-‘Beneath the Remains’ death/thrash song which applies reasonably well to their sound, at the very least they’ve made it their own.
‘White-Eyed Trance’ is a more than worthy follow up to ‘Cavern of Foul Unbeings’ that feels just different enough to be an improvement and not a plain sequel. It wasn’t until I’d found myself listening several times in a row that I’d start to appreciate the riffcraft in hand, especially as the second half of the tracklist became more familiar. Ectoplasma‘s third full-length comes highly recommended because the full listen is well-rounded, dynamically achieved, and always assertive to the point of brutality. For preview purposes I’d suggest starting with “White-Eyed Trance: Choronzonic Covenant” and the pairing of “Alucarda, The Daughter of Darkness” with “White-Eyed Trance: Ensnared in Devilry” for the best possible first impression.
Forlorn in their humid vaults. 4.25/5.0
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