It's been a long time since I've heard a new release from a Vermont-based extreme-metal band. Maybe I'm just out of touch -- I'll be the first to admit that I don't get to many heavy shows these days. Nevertheless, I'm absolutely blown away by Caracalla's debut EP, Letters to the Dead.
The four-song disc is one of the best metal offerings I've heard this year, locally or nationally. All of the staple ingredients are here, from howling vocals and ridiculously complex guitar figures to blastbeats and half-time breakdowns. Yet while many of their musical peers sound too mechanical, Caracalla tear into their tunes with passion that borders on psychotic. What do you expect from a band that takes its name from a particularly bloodthirsty Roman emperor?
Opener "Looking Through the Obituaries for You" stings like the needles on a tattoo gun. Meticulously plotted, the tune's nonstop meter shifts conspire to make heads spin. This is fitting, as later on, the band employs samples from the cinematic vomit-fest The Exorcist.
"Signed Yours Truly" boasts tumultuous riffs and relentless, jackhammer beats. Thunderous low-end chugs are met by searing guitar blasts that could tear flesh. "Is it haunting us, or killing us?" asks vocalist Kevin in a throat-rending howl. Judging from the music, both.
A tumbling, start-stop riff opens "Blood Soaked Dreams." At first, the band cops a robotic bounce a la Swedish math-metal champs Meshuggah. That is, before they careen into a molten middle section that sounds like Iron Maiden genetically fused with Dillinger Escape Plan.
The most unsettling, and adventurous, moments take place in "Letters to the Dead." It's tough to imagine more musical ideas being crammed into a 2-and-a-half-minute tune. Speed, precision, aggression and intensity are all here in spades.
Letters boasts more than its share of white-knuckle twists and turns. But Caracalla seem to understand that metal is heavier with the inclusion of the occasional slow-mo stomp. It's this kind of arrangement smarts that make the disc a miniature masterpiece.
It would surprise me if this band didn't get noticed on a national -- perhaps international -- level. Do me a favor, guys, and send this review to some labels.