One of the most refreshing things a band can do is release a sophomore album that truly solidifies their sound and elevates the project from interesting curiosity to a powerhouse in its own right. The Atmospheric Death Metal crew Alluvial more than achieves this on their upcoming release “Sarcoma” which sees the project develop from a two guitarist outfit into a full-fledged band that doesn’t solely focus on elongated barrages of riffs. There’s depth, dynamics, drama, and a degree of cinematography as I’ll get into later on.
Although the band is now without Keith Merrow, I’m of the opinion that the lineup has become much stronger with Founding Guitarist Wes Hauch (Black Crown Initiate, Glass Kasket, The Faceless) teaming up with the inimitable vocalist Kevin Muller (ex-Suffocation, ex-Pyrexia, The Merciless Concept), Bassist Tim Walker (Entheos) and Drummer Matt Paulazzo (Aegaeon).
These lineup additions are what truly propel the band forward as the stiffness and guitar-centric nature of the debut has given way to highly intelligent cohesion of instruments and unlike “The Deep Longing for Annihilation”, “Sarcoma” features powerful vocals on each track.
Another enjoyable trait is, these songs get to the point without lengthy sections of varied riffs or indulging in themselves. There’s a lot of space for all of the instruments to stretch out and dance around each other to create super interesting rhythms on top of established riff patterns. This makes for a progressive feel throughout where the songwriting expands into insane polyrhythms and poly modes scattered throughout but also an intuition to know when to not overload the listener and ease up into groove-based sing-alongs such as 40 Stories, Ulysses and Sleepers Become Giants.
Other tracks such as Sarcoma, Exponent, The Putrid Sunrise, and Anodyne are fast, unrestrained, and ANGRY bangers.
Of note, the songs Zero and Sugar Paper are among the most interesting. Zero will make you feel as though you are choking with most of the song occupied by passages of gasping and droning sounds churning away, whereas Sugar Paper is a half light touch and surprisingly pretty as if in a moment of still clarity before exploding into an airy solo and delving into a grind.
In terms of production, there is a great deal of depth and separation in the sound stage. It presents extremely well as a soundtrack to get lost in and the use of dynamic range throughout is utterly incredible! Some tracks thrash like thermite while others have jazzy embellishments but it doesn’t matter what’s happening at any particular point in time, there’s always something interesting happening and it’s presented through a cinematic lens.
It’s easy to sense that there were no shortcuts taken in the songwriting or production and all facets of the album were carefully considered from top to bottom, the attention to detail when capturing the instruments shines through to great effect.
Thematically, Hauch explains “At the end of working on everything, Kevin pinpointed that each song on the record was about the different perils that happen at the hand of one man to another. These perils live in our connections to one another, so Sarcoma became an apt title.”
In sum, I feel as though Alluvial has departed from its roots as a spotlight for guitar trickery into a cohesive and full demonstration of what a project can become when all members are on the same page aiming for the same goals. “Sarcoma” is an unequivocal success of an album that fans of Progressive Atmospheric Death Metal should get on board with.