ULTHAR “Anthronomicon”

By ArnoldPlaysGuitar

Wow, that cover art hits you even before the music does. Sometimes you can't help but feel a certain way about an album's artwork and the ability to draw you in and give you any inkling of what waits in store for your listening therein. That said, right out of the gate that first riff in "Cephalophore" leaves absolutely nothing to wonder about. It's such a perfect first riff that immediately lets you know exactly what you are in for with this record. You get hit with something that sounds equal parts Christ-ripping, blackened thrash and churning, cosmic death metal, with an uneasy harmony and 6/8-blastbeat over a marching tempo. We're off to battle right away against the Lovecraftian hordes!

Further peeling back the layers reveals more than a fair amount of influences from across many points of the extreme metal spectrum, and oftentimes within the same song! Taking "Astranumeral Octrave Chants" as an example, we've got trill-heavy death/thrash as a basis for much of the song, going back-and-forth between blastbeats and skank beat patterns. Then comes this lumbering and churning headbanger of a middle section that sets up a perfect return to the pit-ready riffs at the song's onset, before launching into arguably one of the most second-wave of black metal riffs on the whole record at 3:15 into the track. And then after this comes one of only a couple of moments where synth interjects just to break up any sort of monotony before launching into next track "Coagulation of Forms," another track that like the title suggests melds many forms of extreme metal into one cohesion. It's a very common theme on this record. The band is not afraid to get a little bit tech, such as when the bass solo leading into that riff at 1:48 of the aforementioned "Coagulation..." tune, nor are they afraid to create unresolved tension with dissonant chords and arpeggios like they do all over "Larynx Plateau." They have two very talented vocalists in the band that are creating an awesome back-and-forth as well, presumably guitarist Shelby hitting all the death grunts and bassist Steve killing all the blackened shrieks. Two very different worlds colliding to a great listening effect, just like the music they are belting over.

Boasting members from many killer American black and death metal bands of a certain ilk, it's no surprise that the music contained herein has a careful amount of grime and rawness to it. It sounds organic, warm, and like the kind of thing you'd see collectors fawning over limited cassette copies of. The Kevin Bernstein recording does the music a powerful amount of justice with boomy, roomy drums, and guitars that have just as much high-gain snarl as they do articulation - no modern metal, full-spectrum tones here. Flubby overdriven bass is present adding tons of punky depth, and ambiance-drenched vocals just haunt the ears. There is a minimum of jarring studio trickery so as to preserve the performance and the rough-around-the-edges feel and that's honestly something to be expected when you consider this is the same guy who records and mixes bands like FULL OF HELL, INTEGRITY, NOISEM, and many others.

If there is anything at all to find fault with this record - if you can call it a fault, even - is that it is pretty much Go! Go! Go! from start to finish. Similar tempos, similar vibes, somewhat similar riffage from song-to-song through creates an incredibly cohesive listening experience. Almost too cohesive, because if you are looking for peaks and valleys, there's just not really any to be found on this record and the 2-song epic "Helionomicon" record that was released concurrently has far more of that on those two ridiculously long tracks. No, this record is go-for-the-throat from beginning to end. Not a bad thing at all, but just if you are expecting some stuff to lumber and some stuff to blast and all manner of in-between, it never really breaks off to change up the formula much. If that is your jam, then this is a killer extreme metal record running the gamut and it is very worth your time!