Ulthar - Helionomicon review
|Release date:||February 2023|
It seems that every decade or so, a metal band must come with a pair of sibling albums prefixed with "Helio-" and "Anthro-". Ulthar were not really the band I've have expected to take that mantle. Thought their somewhat of a supergroup status did about as much to impress me as their off-kilter tech blackened death on 2020's Providence, I'd have expected just the usual follow-up treatment from them. Instead I was met by the prospect of two concomitant Ulthar albums, sibling ones clearly meant to mirror one another. While Anthronomicon was the more directly pummeling and more conventionally divided album, something that felt closer to being Providence's direct follow-up, Helionomicon takes the more unusual approach of having roughly the same runtime but divided in two twenty-minutes-ish tracks. Not only that, but it leads to a situation where the "Anthronomicon" track isn't actually on the Anthronomicon record, a realization that infuriated me to no end. That out of the way, Helionomicon is still quite an intimidating listen even without necessarily matching the manic intensity of its sibling, and it does so with more than just the sheer size of its two tracks. There are things about Ulthar's sound that can only now be properly elongated and explored. The ominous atmospheric moments, mere interludes on Anthronomicon get a bit more of an elaborate presence on the ends of both tracks. The black metal side of the sound, reduced to mere touches and the presence of shrieks of Anthronomicon, feels like it rises to match the presence of death metal here, ending up not only the most black metal centric of the two, but of Ulthar's entire discography.
With such colossal tracks, there's a lot more that needed to be worked into making the album flow as well as it does, and there's something about the ever-changing riff-fest nature of it that does lead to the transitions between moments still feeling organic regardless of their place within each track. But even as frantic as the sound still is, it feels more confident exploring paces more slow and generally varied and atmospheres less tense than its complementary album, leading to a sound more focused on the progressive and groovy rather than overwhelming with the amount of huge heavy riffs. The longer-form is also more repetition-friendly this time around, leaving the amazing riffing to settle in without the necessity of much relistening, though invite for relistening Helionomicon still does. There's a fine line between allowing a long song to breathe and artificially elongating it, and here Ulthar never feel in danger of sounding like the latter, creating a more inviting listening experience. And when Helionomicon and Anthronomicon come together, it reveals a band that's unafraid and able to master both the longer forms and the more direct chaos in the blackened death sound.
||Written on 27.02.2023 by|
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