By Dr. Abner Mality
Time to get all EXPERIMENTAL here at Wormwood and we shall do it with the help of California tech-death band ULTHAR, who have been rather quiet the last couple of years. Their silence has ended with a cosmic bang, as they have returned with not one but two new full-lengths to be released simultaneously. They are "Anthronomicon" and "Helionomicon", with the former being a somewhat more traditional album composed of 8 separate tracks while the latter is comprised of two monstrous epics of around 20 minutes in length.
We're going to try something different with these. I will be reviewing "Helionomicon" while the esteemed guitar freak ARNOLDPLAYSGUITAR f.k.a Thrash-head has drawn "Anthronomicon". Neither of us will be listening to the other's record and our reviews will be totally independent of each other. If there is some grand lyrical concept uniting the two, I'm not aware of it, but there might be.
ULTHAR are unabashedly and proudly tech-death in the original sense of the word. They draw influence from the masters of the form such as ATHEIST, PESTILENCE and early MORBID ANGEL rather than the later iterations like OBSCURA and NECROPHAGIST, although fans of those acts will also find much to like here. The first and longest track is "Helionomicon" and you better pack a lunch for this one. The ferocious speed is evident from the beginning and there are many arpeggios and curling, twisting riffs in the style of ATHEIST and PESTILENCE right away, with a pleasing old school roughness to the sound. The headbanging quotient on this long cut is admirably high, although it is admittedly exhausting to listen to. At the 6:50 mark, there's a great change to a super groovy and rubbery kind of riffing that just oozes all over the place. It's truly Lovecraftian music. Around the 12:30 mark, there's a little relief as a jazzy, CYNICal bass workout pops up. That ends with the noisiest, most dissonant blast yet, which continues until the song ends with weird, spacy analog synth at 17:30, which eventually melts into the blowing of cosmic winds. Yes, this track is exhausting but brilliant and it keeps your attention for almost the entire 20 minute plus length.
As for the slightly shorter "Anthronomicon", it blasts right from the get-go with a very angry sound that has just a bit more black metal influence, especially in the extra crispy vocals. Not much mercy from this one until about the 10 minute mark, where we get a weird ambient break with a lot of backwards vocals. Then it picks up angrier and more angular than before. This song seems a bit looser and not as technical. Some power packed slower riffs rear their ugly head and then at about the 15:30, the song dissolves into sound effects like croaking frogs. More ambient synth strangeness carries us to the conclusion. While this cut has some strong points (especially those crushing mid-paced riffs), I just don't like it as much as "Helionomicon", which was a tech-death masterpiece.
Anxiously awaiting Arnold's take on the "Anthronomicon" album!