Australia and its neighbor New Zealand are both home to thriving metal communities. That part of the world has lately given rise to some of death metal’s most singular bands — specifically Ulcerate and Portal, each of whom has set up shop on the genre’s fringes and inspired cult-like fan bases. (The fact that “dissonant progressive death metal from Oceania” has become a notable thing demonstrates just how insanely specific metal can get these days.)
Among their local(ish) progeny is Départe. This band hails from the Australian island of Tasmania, and essentially spun off from the notable one-man death metal act Separatist, whose proprietor Sam Dishington serves as frontman. The regional influence shows its hand immediately on their debut LP Failure, Subside, especially that of Ulcerate. Départe attack their instruments with mechanical precision, bending somber chord progressions into strange and disquieting shapes.
The album’s pristine ice-sculpture production makes the Ulcerate comparison unavoidable, but Départe have unique charms at their disposal too. Chief among them is a real sense of direction in their songwriting. A lot of metal in this vein can feel repetitive and inert despite its complexity, but Départe songs offer memorable riffs and comprehensible narrative arcs — a lit path forward amidst all the churning darkness. Dishington’s surprising penchant for soaring vocal melodies, seemingly drawn from proggy black metal acts like Code and Enslaved, capitalizes on the momentum these cohesive structures build. It’s unusual to hear anything other than monotone growling in this realm, and Dishington uses this element of surprise to absolutely blow the roof off of “Ashes In Bloom” at its climactic moment. Listen.