Album of the Day: Ossuarium, “Living Tomb”

When one thinks of death metal, one doesn’t think free vibes and eternal sunshine psychedelia, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be trippy. “Corrosive Hallucinations,” the fourth track from Portland quartet Ossuarium’s debut record Living Tomb, affirms both the subgenre’s pummeling nature, and its potential for conjuring acid-drenched terror. “Hallucinations” violently seesaws throughout, unloading a flurry of guitar slashes in the time it takes to sputter out a single breath; if that wasn’t weird enough, there’s a dying synth squall midway, as if the embers of sci-fi prog-death outfit Nocturnus’ exploded spaceship were drifting back into the atmosphere.

Ossuarium does this, mind you, all while twisting a rusted death-doom blade in Disincarnate’s style of mind-searingly-fluid death metal. “Writhing in Emptiness” moves almost seamlessly from rotten Autopsy-style filth to placid dream sequences only to end up back in beatdown realms. The end results recall the work of Australian death-doom pioneers diSEMBOWELMENT if they had a thing for paisley.

With Ossarium forgoing most semblances of flash entirely, their softer breaks assume a deep, hypnotic character. Closer “End of Life Dreams and Visions Pt.2” spaces out into several moments of bliss, before a doomy riff storms in to kill it back to life. “Vomiting Black Death” begins with flanged pick scrapes and piano lines that would sound deafening were they not so submerged in the mix; they’re subtle enough to unnerve without overtaking the song’s structure.

Ossuarium delicately appeal to metal fandom’s many, often-warring factions with their kaleidoscopic, far-out approach: hard-headedness for the OSDM diehards, a little bit of oddity for the proggy Horrendous set, and just enough murk to get Incantation devotees drooling (consider “Malicious Equivalence,” a hulking highlight that captures Ossarium at their most dissonant and doomy). Ultimately, Tomb is a bona fide underground monolith that shapeshifts with each listen, all while maintaining its essential heaviness.

-Andy O’Connor

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