Flourishing- The Sum of All Fossils
The Sum of All Fossils represents the hope of Death Metal.
New York's Flourishing are a fresh face, formed in 2009 with The Sum of All Fossils being the bands first full length release, yet also a last proud member of a dying breed: a breed of innovators and fearless song-writers in the Death Metal scene. It's not hard to see that Death Metal has, at the very least, become a regressive and trend happy genre: the scene is dominated by imitators, flavor of the month worship acts and tired veterans grinding out the same releases every year for a quick buck and a reason to go on tour. Flourishing do not fit into any of the categories, which in and of itself is worth praise: while the Gorguts influence is obvious, The Sum of All Fossils is in no way a cheap imitation or easy worship, but a unique album with a new, explosive sound. This is so rare in Death Metal now, it's almost a shock to hear it and I wasn't sure how to approach The Sum of All Fossils, as I could not easily categorize it, and any genre that I placed on it sounded either stupid, fake or failed to encompass the full scope of the album. Not being able to stick "Incantation clone" or "stupid wanky, clean BS" on it was a bit intimidating. But that's what makes The Sum of All Fossils so damn special. While other bands pose tough and grunt about Satan to stolen riffs, Flourishing have created an album which is actually tough to listen to. It's what Death Metal was always supposed to be: challenging, nihilistic and heavy as fuck.
In a vague, worthless attempt to categorize The Sum of All Fossils, it's fairly easy to hear the Gorguts influence here. What's nice is that the influence is clearly From Wisdom to Hate and not Obscura: the bass sounds pretty similar, and like From Wisdom to Hate it's an album which would fall closer to atmospheric then Jazz-y. Songs don't rely too heavily on speed or all out aggression to make their point, with each track taking the right amount of time to fully explore every idea. But it never becomes tedious or worn out and tracks move at the perfect level of pacing. While it remains largely mid-paced the band to a spectacular job mixing up tempos on a more subtle level, combing with the obvious technical chops on display to make The Sum of All Fossils one of the best active listening experiences I've heard from Death Metal in a long time. This is not merely background music as you surf the internet or read or some stupid, not-actually-listening activity that most Death Metal seems perfectly designed for in the modern scene. The Sum of All Fossils demands your maximum attention and energy to fully impress upon you just how complex, original and breathtaking it can be.
Flourishing accomplish all this by being fearless songwriters who don't care how stupid an idea might seem on it's surface, but instead take a level-headed, talent-guided shot at doing something new. In this case, it's mixing complex, discordant Technical Death Metal in the vein of Gorguts with Post-Rock. Now, that maybe doesn't sound like the best idea: it's one that would send your average musician running straight into the arms of Autopsy worship and never leaving that warm, gooey place again. It's a testament to the members of Flourishing that they even attempted this, but even more so that they pull it off so fucking beautifully. Despite sounding professionally recorded and played with actual skill and talent, The Sum of All Fossils is one of the deepest and emotional Death Metal albums I've heard in ages. It frequently crosses over into beautiful territory, particularly the final track "As If Bathed in Excellence," which has not been a word I have used to describe a Death Metal album since Anata's The Conductors Departure... another genre-defining masterpiece. It can also being extremely heavy and utterly chilling, while the Post-Rock elements bring so much to the table. The dynamic vocal shifts of "By Which We Are Cemented" are at first a bit off-putting on a Death Metal album, but once they grow on you it's hard to imagine why more Death Metal bands are not trying new things vocally(or why Flourishing don't go back to this later in the album.) Long sections of disonant, massive Rock guitars add a whole new level of immersion on The Sum of All Fossils, like the opening track "A Thimbles Worth," which starts off as a fairly typical Gorguts-style track before morphing wonderfully into a Shoegaze-y, wall-of-noise torrent that drenches you in longing and wonderment.
The fact you can't listen to a single track on The Sum of All Fossils without discovering something new and interesting, which more then makes up for the tiny nitpicks here and there. I am not a huge fan of the primary vocals and wish the band had remained consistently adventurous with them, instead choosing to stick with an energetic yet somewhat grating mid-growl for most of the album. I'm also not a huge fan of the drum production: they actually don't sound triggered which is great, but they do sound very clean and uneven in the mix. And not matter how impressed you might be with The Sum of All Fossils initially, it's a grower(it's not even in my top 20 albums of last year, as it took several listens to fully sink in). Little things... things that don't even really fucking matter. I am too impressed with The Sum of All Fossils as not only a wonderful, powerful album but as a piece of art. The album drips with personality and identity while remaining viable and accessible, and I never picked up on any pretentiousness or cynicism. And perhaps most impressive is that despite the Post-Rock elements, the professional production and the lyrics which don't in anyway touch on Satan or decapitating hookers, The Sum of All Fossils is a real Death Metal album. It's a challenging album which doesn't pander, posture or worship. It strikes out into a harsh, barren wasteland and from dying soil produces vivid, all encompassing life.