The outer space psychedelics of Italian doom squad Ufomammut is what always brought me back to their music every time they had a new release. They are one of modern music’s finest at creating trance-inducing atmospherics, and I always get caught up in whatever composition they’re stretching to the boundaries of human dreaming. Unabashedly, I am a fan.
This year has been extra fruitful because the band announced two records that would work together, April’s “ORO: Opus Primum” and now the new “ORO: Opus Alter,” their first two efforts for Neurot. The entire project examined elements of alchemy, with “ORO” being a mutated Italian palindrome that translates to “gold,” with the Latin translation being “I prey.” Along with those ideals is humankind’s quest for total understanding and control of all living particles that make up our world, which is all pretty heady subject matter for two records that are largely instrumental.
“Opus Primum” was pretty much classic Ufomammut: Lots of stargazing, tempos that built deliberately and induced daydreaming, psychedelic electricity, and spiritual awareness, and something that bordered on metal without taking a gigantic leap into that pool. It’s a really great first installment that got my interest going for the second half, but it never made me wonder if “Opus Alter” would be significantly different from the first installment or the rest of the band’s collection. So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered “Opus Alter” is practically nothing like anything the band’s ever done before. For one, the thing is heavy. Really heavy. It’s disruptive and tarry and dangerous. Second, while it sets up an atmosphere, it’s filled with smoke and chaos rather than blue skies and vividly beautiful imaginations. It’s the gnarliest album the band’s ever recorded.
The six tracks found on “Opus Alter” really don’t let you do much relaxing or daydreaming. Instead, storm clouds set in, the world goes black, and hellacious displays of lightning and trauma permeate the landscape. Thought you were relatively safe on Ufomammut’s bizarre little planet? You were wrong, and now you must pay the price. But this isn’t just heaviness to go against the grain. If you go back to give “Opus Primum” further review, you can hear the momentum building for this display. Things are bubbling beneath the surface, and considering it’s supposed to be the first half of a collection that means to be jointed, it carries even more weight now that its second half is here. It flows perfectly into “Opus Alter,” and that heaviness that’s ever present is infectious and addicting, making for a walloping album that grows more powerful with every listen. I’ve been through it a ton of times and cannot stop.
“Oroborus” immediately sets the tone for this record, as noise flickers, the bassline slinks around, and a gritty, doom-infested melody breaks out, with guitars acting like sledgehammers. There are some vocals buried in the mix, sounding like the message of someone being swept away, and it ends with sludgy, fiery guitar work I never knew these guys had in their systems. “Luxon” is cosmic from the start before it turns eerie, and from that comes another crushing mass of power, harsh screaming in the background, hazey chants, and punishing servings of sludge.
“Sulphuerdew” is the record’s centerpiece and longest song on the collection. It also happens to be one of the most impressive songs in the band’s catalog, with its cold, dark chugging, Kraut rock tendencies, and outright heaviness. Vocals are wailed, though they’re ambushed by the avalanche of sound, and ultra chunky guitar work is folded in for good measure, in case you didn’t already have two black eyes. “Sublime” also has intergalactic moments, most at the front end, and a lot of the track is built on chirpy keyboards and repetitive guitar lines that cause you to stare and drool. This is your breather, basically. It all ends with “Deityrant,” a title that doesn’t take a whole lot of introspection to understand (clever as it is), and it added a couple tons of extra cement on top of the thing, with guitars making their final mud-baked salvo, robotic noises reaching in from another dimension, and the rest of the statement sizzling away in a pocket of fog. It’s a gigantic exclamation point at the end of a steamroller of a record.
Ufomammut’s imagination has gone haywire in the best possible way. Not only is “Opus Alter” a fantastic record, perhaps the best of their career, but it shines a new light on “Opus Primum,” an album I already liked a hell of a lot to begin with. We all knew these guys could make your head feel all woozy with their weird trappings, so it’s quite refreshing to know they also can bludgeon you with their power. I can only imagine the intensity if they made a singular album that combined both forces. Maybe that’s in their future.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.ufomammut.com/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.bluecollardistro.com/neurotrecordings/product_info.php?products_id=7406&cPath=1030_1032&store=1
For more on the label, go here: http://www.neurotrecordings.com/