Label: 20 Buck Spin
Release Date: 12 June 2020
Format Reviewed: Digital Download
Casual listeners beware! You are now entering the realms of extreme metal. Sometimes cover art does a good job of informing the listener of what lies in store and with “Providence” Oakland, California’s ULTHAR have definitely hit the nail on the head with their gruesomely surreal, demonic tree of monsters, guts and cadavers. From the moment I first saw the cover of this album, before I’d even heard a second of the music, I knew it was going to be pretty intense.
And intensity ULTHAR have in spades. Following up their 2018 debut “Cosmovore”, theband continue to hone their mix of thrash, death, doom and black metal, fused together into some monstrous, Lovecraftian abomination of extremity. A combination of black metal screeching and death metal growling, absolutely pummelling drums that alternate between furious hammering speed and slower pounding tempo, and guitars that will remind you of the musical chops from time to time, but always be ready to bash you over the head with a hammer. This is the musical landscape of “Providence”.
While the intensity and musicianship can’t be questioned, the hooks may take a little longer to sink in. BEHEMOTH were successfully taking this blend of furious, hammering passages melded to stomping MORBID ANGEL style malevolence, and making it instantly memorable back in 2002 on “Zos Kia Cultus”, but the tracks on “Providence” sometimes seem to lack that final something that makes them really jump out. From the opening track “Churn”, there’s all the fury and energy you could want, alongside some cool headbanging breakdowns and no absence of absolutely pulverising riffing, that’s all pretty great while it lasts, but sometimes there’s just that lack of really memorable hooks to burn into your memory.
For sure there are some standout tracks though. “Undying Spear” brings a total change of pace with an ominous chant-like backing to a nimble acoustic guitar intro, before the track bursts into life with a breakneck pace and fluid, molten guitar riffing and the title track features some great riffs that have me involuntarily headbanging. The excellently titled “Furnace Hibernation” has one of the most memorable passages mid-way through the track with a great lumbering, dragging offbeat kickdrum driven rhythm. Best of all may be “Narcissus Drowning”, where the relentless pounding drums and guitar riffs give the impression that if anyone is drowning, it’s under a hail of molten lava. On this track the blend of fast hammering passages, slow doomy breaks and mid-tempo riffing is done brilliantly.
For the rest of the album, while there’s never a let-up in the intensity, I don’t always necessarily recall quite how I got the bruises. If you are looking for some nasty, brutally powerful extreme metal though ULTHAR are here to give you a damn good kicking, and you might just like it. 7.5/10 Tom Boatman
7.5/10 Victory is possible
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