Metal needs a new sound and a new imagery ecosystem. 1970s metal had doom and warnings of the apocalypse, 1980s metal warned of collapse from within through choppy fractured sounds, and 1990s metal brought a fluid structuralism that emphasized pattern and order while embracing the evil that 1970s metal warned of and the chaos of the 1980s.
Looking for a more postmodern sound, Creature combines technical death metal riffing with atmospheric black metal and the type of layered multiple influences that bands like MGMT explored in indie pop. This both opens new pathways and leaves a void of concentrated focus, causing this album to constrain its tendency to ramble with open and rather similar song structures and rhythms.
Much like the early postmodern indie bands, Creature specializes in setting up ordinary rock and metal patterns and then mutilating them, while layering digital horn sounds and a collage of influences from other genres, including hip-hop, pop, Ras Algethi-style atmospheric sequences, and Lana del Ray style elongated song structures, all within a framework of fast, precise modern metal riffing that is equal parts death metal and 1980s progressive metal experiments.
As most postmodernists find out, postmodernism is ultimately a style or aesthetic formed of techniques, without an underlying core; any movement that suggests that pluralistic truth exists is bound to be unable to reach any final conclusions and therefore, finds memorable songs elusive while memorable moments abound, lost like memories written on postcards by millions and deposited into the same mail bag, read in a cut-up technique.
To an experienced metal observer, Ex Cathedra offers mostly openings, or the creation of spaces in which one could see a more “metal” take on this mixed savage riffing and genre fruit salad. The inversion of archetypes presents a new language, but it has not yet figured out what it wants to say, or the pattern of adventure suggested by its vocabulary.
Musicians would do well to attend to this chaotic offering because it shows where metal has wandered and some of the paths that might later bear fruit. At its strongest, this album offers a uniquely powerful vision of metal rhythm riffing that escapes specific sub-genre identity while borrowing from just about all of them.