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Ulthar - Anthronomicon review


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Band: Ulthar
Album: Anthronomicon
Release date: February 2023

01. Cephalophore
02. Fractional Fortresses
03. Saccades
04. Flesh Propulsion
05. Astranumeral Octave Chants
06. Coagulation Of Forms
07. Larynx Plateau
08. Cultus Quadrivium

First The Ocean did it. Now comes Ulthar.

Ulthar (not to be mistaken for Ultha, a band I also praised; or for Ultar, a band I've yet to formally praise), is a band whose previous album, 2020's Providence, did quite a number on me with its off-kilter blackened death, and a general viciousness to the sound. But also a lot of the talent involved in Ulthar, a band that's merely a trio, is also recognizable through its shared membership with bands like Vastum, Tombs, Pale Chalice, Extremity, Mutilation Rites, Palace Of Worms, and Spirit Possession.

Those band connections are no longer really what hooks me into Ulthar's music, having already been hooked by Providence, so the prospect of two concomitant Ulthar albums was a pretty unconventional move, but an entire pandemic in between albums tends to do funny things to people's creativity, so it's not surprising to see more than one album's worth at a time. But a simultaneous release, especially when the albums mirror each other in cover arts and album titles does call for a certain interpretation that would be absent if these were just two consecutive albums by a band. These are sibling albums. You know the kind. These go together.

Out of the two, Anthronomicon is the one most closely aligned with Providence, partly because it is the more conventionally compartmentalized, being divided in eight tracks with runtimes between 3 and 7 minutes, but also because it follows in the previous album's stylistic footsteps as well. This does lead me to having to pretty much retread the praise I've given to that one, with how well it blended not only black metal and death metal, but different nuances of death metal within itself. Well, Anthronomicon is more than just Providence 2.

Not only is the cover art disappointingly less phallic this time around (but still incredibly eerie and grotesque), but the production itself also feels like it has an even stronger edge this time around. Those are the instantly notable, more the former than the latter. The sound feels even more dense, though because of the songwriting rather than due to the slight cavernous edge in the production, with the album's forty minutes runtime being filled with pummeling and overwhelming riffing, only occasionally broken through by some ominous interludes. For the most part, Anthronomicon is an intense listen, with the riffing having an off-kilter edge and a tendency not to stick to long on a single melody.

The technicality on display here can be quite overwhelming, stacking riffs upon riffs, and pushing further the tech-OSDM sound into something even more ever-changing without falling into ridiculous levels of brutality or chaos. Despite the apparent chaos, Anthronomicon reveals a very thoughtful intent to its compositions, deliberately enhancing the unhinged feel of the melodies without letting them out of their proverbial leash. Though the biggest complaint that I could raise it is still that this, alongside album's preference towards certain set paces and the lack of more breathers, does end up making the album feel too much like an endurance test. Which, for a 40 minutes album to feel as such, isn't necessarily flattering.

But there's plenty to praise in how it is deliberately this bewildering, and how it strides at the edge of discomfort. With all the frantic riffing, no riff feels thrown in just to fill space, and it's mostly those that defy the album's overwhelming nature to still invite and reward multiple listenings. The mix of the idiosyncratic but nonetheless punishing riffing, the vocals ranging from shrieks to growls, the oppressive atmosphere sprinkled with ominous interludes, all still create a pretty unique experience in Anthronomicon.

Though it may lack the very obvious ambition of Anthronomicon, there's a directness to Ulthar's application of power here that is more than compelling.

Written on 27.02.2023 by Doesn't matter that much to me if you agree with me, as long as you checked the album out.


Comments: 1   Visited by: 90 users
27.02.2023 - 14:49
Rating: 10

Although I do prefer Helionomicon... this one is mighty solid n functions well on its own - but also as a visceral palette-cleanser to the dual title-tracks.

...and thank you for squeezin this one in man! I know it's been a grind...
No one can fend off 100 multi-colored Draculas

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