Flourishing don't play by anyone's rules. This is often a hallmark of interesting music that isn't ultimately engaging or enduring. The Sum of All Fossils breaks that mold; it's a genre-defying album that's utterly satisfying. Flourishing have conjured up a full-length debut that adroitly juxtaposes battery and beauty, showering us with stupendous riffs amidst a feast of ear-annihilating rhythmic bedlam. This hypnotizing pandemonium is faultlessly unified by strong songwriting; the result is intoxicating.
Building on the stunning deathgrind of their debut EP, Flourishing have pushed simultaneously into exacting industrial mechanization, realms of dissonance and looser progressive abstraction. They've also amped up the gorgeous melodic luminosity that already underpinned their music. These songs explode in all directions, plying vicious polyrhythmic meters that coalesce around crooked grooves and anti-grooves. Astonishing blasts of melody are steeped in the fine lineage of Godflesh and early Fear Factory. Each track feels like it's peeling back layers of molting skin, drawing us closer to some fundamental, ubiquitous truth.
Garett Bussanick's riffs swing deftly in the rigging above the album's tossing deck, performing repeated acrobatic feats. The guitar work is endlessly diverse and memorable, mutating constantly without exhibiting wanton caprice. The gorgeous staccato slaughter in “Fossil Record,” for example, flows into a soaring harmonic crescendo and back down into a gargantuan groove; it's one of my favorite moments on the album. The writhing grind aesthetic is marbled with ineluctable moments of melody, grabbing your guts in an inexorable grip. Some of these riffs are so good that they hurt.
Eric Rizk and Brian Corcoran drive the music with a purifying syncopation. The bubbling bass lines and relentless rhythmic belligerence provide each track with a cogent and cerebral undercurrent. Don't assume this is a merciless blastfest; a plethora of rhythms are represented. The Sum of All Fossils is blessed with a nuanced production that intensifies its physical impact. Eric Rizk's bass tone is huge and unnerving, pinning you to a wall with its intensity. The mix bears out all the detail of Brian Corcoran's breathless, martial drumming without ever stepping on the ripping guitar tones. All of the instruments display an absurd depth, almost as if the stereo field has a z-axis.
Garett Bussanick's growled vocals convey a delirious ire. His roar reminds me immediately of the open throated, hungry vocalizations of Obituary's John Tardy. On the third track, “By Which We're Cemented,” Garret steps back from the microphone and bellows out yells that sound distant, hollow and hopeless. The song's chorus of “Repeat just what they say” will have you screaming along and reaching for some citrus fruit to juice. The album's lyrics read as shockingly coherent prose, conveying haunting psychological anxieties, postmodern confusion and morbid introspection. The words are well worth studying on their own merit.
The Sum of All Fossils is the rare album that holds me rapt from start to finish. This beast of an LP delivers an absorbing aural ablution and begs for repeated examinations. I suspect that The Sum of All Fossils will stand the test of time, and I'm confident that it's one of the best albums of 2011.
The Sum of All Fossils is out on 8/2 via The Path Less Traveled Records.
Thanks to the discerning ears of NPR's Lars Gotrich, you can stream the entire album here.