“It’s a long way to the top, if you want to rock and roll” as the late great Bon Scott once said, and once you truly do get to the top, you have to work exponentially harder to keep yourself there.
Ufomammut will be no strangers to most people reading this review. Their Italian-branded, spacey post-doom obelisks have risen higher above the stratosphere established by countless bands the world over to become one of the leading lights in a new wave of global heaviness. Whether it be their dazzling Malleus-backed live shows; full of multilayered riffs, deafening percussion and cavernous vocal torment, or their epic voyages on records featuring delicate drum work, fermented guitar layers and hymns written for a future utopia, their position as one of the most important bands doing what they do today is already ensured. That’s not to say that they can afford to take the foot off the gas however. A new deal with Neurot Recordings, to produce new material alongside their homemade Supernatural Cat imprint needs to ensure the growth or at least consolation of the status and respect they’ve already gathered almost unanimously. And hence when it comes to their latest adventure, the first in a two-part ‘Oro’ record series, we must re-ascertain the band’s development.
There are many factors to consider. This is not the complete finished article, and it’s very difficult to review what’s clearly, although staggeringly vast in itself, still only half the adventure. Even so, the grandiose, yet imposing, doom leviathan that lays before us is far better suited to a full sitting, rather than flipping between its five chapters – in the same way that you don’t listen to ‘Jerusalem Pt.4’ or ‘Eve Pt.II’ without going via its earlier cousin tracks. When ‘Oro: Opus Alter’ lands in September, the two will bolt together to form one giant track. There’s an awful lot to absorb and yet, as ever, Ufomammut records remain more of an experience than an album. This performance feels very singular and unique despite the obvious amount of preparation which must surely have been undertaken and one must be conscious that only a full live workout will do justice to the vision, volume and imagination that’s been poured into the soul of this piece. That said it’s time to step out into those bright lights in the middle of the forest and take the golden audio voyage to the Ufo Dimension. Let transmission begin…
Our journey begins slowly, very slowly with ‘Empireum’. With no percussion at all for several minutes until Vita slowly brings his toms and cymbals through the mix at the pace of a tiptoe-ing snail, we’re first beamed up into the mammoth unidentified-flying-object’s mothership with chiming chords and Poia’s delicate battery of effects. A simple 5-note synth motif creeps under our skin to become our friendly travelling partner throughout the Opus Primum, guiding us like a homing beacon through the riff-fields, bass-filled laboratories and nightmare-haunting vocal experiments for a good fifty minutes. Second chapter ‘Aureum’ brings the heavy big-time as the might gods Neurosis and Om clash in the night sky in a deadly battle over Poia’s guitar and Urlo’s vocals which sound like they were born in a derelict monastery several centuries ago.
At a ‘mere’ seven minutes long, ‘Infearnatural’ is the baby track on Opus Primum, heading straight back into Urlo’s mantra, whilst his bass grooves us through glacier lakes of chugging riffs and drone-like space rhythms. Vita’s rolling kick-drum allows Poia room to expand, yet not explode as this mid-paced track is made to pull the hard-lumber before the airy foreboding of ‘Magickon’. As the fourth jigsaw piece clicks in, our five-note synth spirit returns to gracefully watch us pass through the portal to a more mythical, fantastical, psychedelic part of the Ufo experience; more King Crimson than Bongzilla in its playful skip to the beat. But wait, it’s a trap! Opus Primum closer ‘Mindomine’ is led into with more strident E-string aplomb and proceeds to bludgeon our sanity as the alien mammoths eventually discover us hiding amongst the mothership’s cargo-hold. The track’s ignition is a solemn game of hide-and-seek as the Ufomammuts tease us through the darkness and eventually Poia ramps the forgotten stowaway through black-holes of crushing leads backed by Vita’s venomous snare and Urlo’s deathly wail. Will we survive? Will the five-note synth chime come to our saviour? For now, we wait for Opus Alter to discover our fate. Ending transmission…
Ultimately ‘Oro: Opus Primum’ is a complex halfway milestone that whets the appetite for the imminent, cranium-challenging full Oro series. Yet it contains a more mysterious and unearthly brand of heaviness which sets it apart from previous output on ‘Eve’, ‘Lucifer’s Songs’ and ‘Snailking’. It feels like the Oro journey has only just begun and right now it’s already a pretty damn impressive trip.
Scribed by: Pete Green