Written by: The Voiceless Apparition
20 Buck Spin is killing it lately. They continually release engaging albums that are a joy to listen to. I have to be honest and say that I was not privy to Ulthar before I received this promo, but because of the sheer pedigree of releases 20BS has, I knew I had to give this a chance. Providence is their second studio album and comes a year a half after their previous opus/debut album Cosmovore. I was not prepared for what horrors would await me upon clicking on the link, but as always, I kept an open mind. Here is my experience.
If there are two words to describe this album, they would be "horrifying" and "other-worldly." Atmosphere is crucial to the vibe of this album, but not in a soothing way--moreso in a "visionary" way. Each song transports you into a world outside of our own, a world of twisted and deformed creatures with a lust for carnage. Each planet seemingly more viscous and unrelenting than the one before. But enough of that, let's talk about the music. As soon as you click play, you are absolutely decimated by "Churn." This mighty opener is a viscous and brutal attack of the senses. Jagged riffs and dissonant melodies saw through battering blast-beats with such precision and malicious force.
Tracks like "Undying Spear" and "Furnace Hibernation" feature bludgeoning grooves that are undeniable, twisting and contorting into many different odd time signatures and tempo changes, all the while having one foot in cosmic hooks and catchiness. That said, a highlight on the album for me would have to be "Through Downward Dynasties." I pick this particular track due to the fluctuation between pummeling grooves and oddly enough I get feels of black/thrash metal, particularly the riffs close to the two-minute mark. The riff is infectious and has been stuck in my head for the past few days now at this point. If it isn't already apparent, this album is a hammer to the skull.
Dissonance is used as a tool for melody for this entity known as Ulthar. The melody on this album isn't one for sing-along choruses and barn-burning anthems, it is used to give the listener a feeling of uneasiness and malice. Though dissonance is used primarily throughout the album, songs like "Cudgel" and "Narcissus Drowning" exemplify that to the max. Piercing melodic noises and grotesque slimy riffs make these unconventionally catchy tunes stand out amongst other artists within that realm.
I HAVE to mention the production. Greg Wilkinson of Earhammer Studios did a stellar job handling production duties. It keeps the rawness that is needed in this genre, but all the while maintains a freshness and crispness that a lot of other producers have a hard time perfecting. The tones sound natural and give it a nice non-compressed clarity. I also need to point out the artwork, courtesy of Ian Miller. It's surreal and horrifying, all the while standing out in a scene of copycats. Great job to the both of you.
I'm so glad that I decided to review this album. It's a shame on my part that it took me this long to scope Ulthar out and finally give them a review. Having said that, please don't make the same mistake I made. This is not an album to sleep on. If you are looking for unrelenting, dissonant, and downright unhinged blackened death metal with strong nods to grindcore and atmospheric tendencies, this is for you. 20 Buck Spin are the flagbearers for keeping this scene that we love alive, as well as Ulthar themselves. For what it's worth, I highly recommend this slab of grotesque extreme metal.
Ulthar - Providence will be released June 12th from 20 Buck Spin
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!