Smokeheads – All In7th September 2023
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Label: 20 Buck Spin/Sure Shot Worx / Release date: 17th February 2023
Ulthar is a unholy trio hailing from Oakland, California. The band consists of Steve Peacock (bass & vocals), Shelby Lermo (guitars & vocals) and Justin Ennis (drums). Over the course of their first two albums, 2018’s Cosmovore and 2020’s Providence, Ulthar carved out a unique niche on the spectrum of underground metal, forging an unholy hybrid of technical death metal and ferocious black metal. Nearly 3 years after the release of the aforementioned second full-length Providence (widely hailed for its unique style of death metal) a burst of deadly creativity has resulted in two new albums, to be released simultaneously, entitled Helionomicon and Anthronomicon.
Today I have a pleasure of listening to this eight-tracker called Anthronomicon. Out of the two, Anthronomicon is the one that most closely aligned with its 2020’s predecessor Providence. Thus, each of Anthronomicon’s eight tracks represent a fractious piece of a larger puzzle, each a maze unto itself that when taken together allow one to traverse this inverted surrealist conundrum. Furthermore, all tracks presented here are knocking around the four-to-six-minute mark, so there’s no moment whatsoever of dullness.
The album opener “Cephalopohre” sets the tone for the rest of the album, with its razor-sharp, warped and jagged riffs, caustic bass work and some blasting drum beats. On this track, like on the rest of the album, the vocals ranging from shrieks to growls. Next comes a more dissonant track called “Fractional Fortresses” with its ominous opening, the descending leads and cyclical drumming. “Saccades” on the other hand features an explosive drumming while extra layers of technical guitar riffs are included. This song, along with the opening “Cephalophore” also features some dark/space ambient moment to end. I particularly enjoyed those quick transitions as exemplified within a song as “Flesh Propulsion” where the trio changes passages in a are fascinating and unexpected ways. Among other things, this makes Anthronomicon a very interesting, diverse and varied release. Then we move to one of my favorite pieces on the album, a track called “Astranumeral Octave Chants” (listen to the song below), due to this sweet recurring riff and an unpredictable amount of beats that’s a trip to headbang to. The riffing is simply, pummeling, overwhelming and awesome. It’s paired with incredible leads and groovy yet technical parts, all perfectly exemplified on a song called “Coagulation of Forms”. The final two songs of Anthronomicon, namely “Larynx Plateau” and “Cultus Quadrivium”, are pretty much two of the best death metal songs I’ve heard in a while. Esp. the album’s shortest track “Larynx Plateau” is an intense song with technical finesse yet this old-school death metal feeling to it, while “Cultus Quadrivium” serves as a nice album-closer. The production is old school, blackened, groovy, technical and atmospheric at the same time. Despite of being very punchy and loud, it allows each instrument and the vocals in particular to shine through.
Having reached albums three and four concurrently, and having many other bands and albums under their collective belts, the three seasoned players that comprise Ulthar have been highly productive and I feel that they’ve created another interesting and explosive album that will please fans of Atrosity, Absu, Deathspell Omega, Krallice, etc.
Overall Anthronomicon is definitely a step up from their past work, and there’s plenty to praise here. One can say that Anthronomicon embodies Ulthar’s continued progression on the sound they had carved out with their prior two albums. The release of these two albums shows us that the band had an apparent overflow of creativity during the last couple of years while Corona pandemics was raging.
For additional info on this American trio, and this particular album, go to https://20buckspin.bandcamp.com/album/anthronomicon