I’m guessing that to regular readers of The Sleeping Shaman, fans of doom metal, and/or underground heavy rock in general, Ufomammut (mammoth UFO in Italian) need no introduction. Going back twenty years now, the legendary Italian power trio, now comprised of bassist, synthesizers, sound effects and vocalist Urlo, guitarist, synthesizers, and sound effects Poia along with new drummer Levre, who replaced longtime drummer Vita in early 2020, have proffered a very specific, crushing, cosmic, psychedelic doom, filled with all sorts of swirling, trippy, lunacy.
They’ve dwelled in the same dimensions as Neurosis, (their label mates/label bosses at Neurot Recordings) and ISIS, but are very much their own band, sounding nothing like anyone but themselves. They’ve also been at the vanguard of Italy’s thriving, potent, underground rock scene, serving as one of the forebearers and godfathers for two decades. Ufomammut, who at that time of Vita’s departure, had just celebrated twenty years as a band, and then had gone on hiatus. At some point, Vita left, Urlo and Poia decided to resurrect Ufomammut, recruiting new drummer Levre, and embarking on a new chapter of the band.
Having not released a proper full length since 2017s 8, and losing their longtime drummer, Ufomammut chose to title their new record Fenice, phoenix in Italian, signifying a rebirth as a band. As I understand it, Fenice was conceived as a single song, before the band decided to split it into individual tracks. Fenice opens with the instrumental Duat as a cacophony of trippy sounds and effects slowly build as Poia’s bouncy, driving riff enters the fray, as does Urlo’s fuzzed-out bass. New drummer Levre instantly makes his presence felt, propelling the song, and locking in hard with his new bandmates. This song has multiple layers to it, but Poia’s main riff, and Levre’s rhythmic approach remind me of early ISIS just a bit.
Duat segues directly into Kepherer which is a track of dark soundscapes and effects. In fact, the listener doesn’t even hear Urlo’s voice until about a minute-and-a-half into the third track Psychotasia, a trippy, slow build that features plenty of cosmic effects as Urlo’s voice floats dream-like above the music. The slow build pays off as Poia’s massive riffage hits the listener like a tidal wave, as Ufomammut absolutely crush the proceedings. Towards the end of Psychotasia, Urlo’s vocal delivery, as it has on previous records, reminds me slightly of Kylesa distant, far-off, distorted vocal cadence.
huge riffs, swirling cosmic effects, Urlo’s distant vocals, all served up in their heavy hypnotic approach…
Metamorphoenix, apt title for this track as it most certainly undergoes a metamorphosis throughout, starts off as another mega-trippy, soundscape track, before very slowly building, towards its climax, but the payoff this time isn’t the massive riffage, it’s an almost hypnotic, trance-like rhythmic attack, as Poia’s guitar accentuates Urlo’s effects, bass, and distant vocals to say nothing of Levre’s drums.
However, lest we think Ufomammut have gone completely to outer space, Poia brings the aforementioned, trademark, crushing, swirling, Ufomammut riffage around again with the massive Pyramid. This track has everything Ufomammut has been known for; huge riffs, swirling cosmic effects, Urlo’s distant vocals, all served up in their heavy hypnotic approach. Pyramid has many layers, Ufomammut riding the groove mid-track, as Poia’s riffs are replaced with some trippy, volume manipulation, and note-bending. Urlo’s massive bass signals the bands barrel towards the end of the track, as Pyramid most certainly is a centerpiece of Fenice.
Fenice comes to a close with Empyros, the shortest track, and its most direct and lethal, Ufomammut, going full-cosmic-crush-fest as they leave the listener in their afterburn on their way back to the cosmos. Fucking Heavy. For context, I went back and listened to 8 and Ecate, which was awesome, as it had been a little while since I spun those records, to see if new drummer Levre’spresence, coupled with the title, and the overall feeling of rebirth, had altered Ufomammut’s sound or approach at all.
While there’s some obvious differences, as this band doesn’t really repeat themselves, Ufomammut still sounds like Ufomammut. Fenice is a, forgive me, mammoth record, that expands on all the sounds Ufomammut have explored previously, but takes them into new directions, resulting in yet another creative triumph. I swear at this point if there’s an actual sonic definition of ‘crushing, psychedelic, cosmic doom’ Ufomammut are most certainly it. Highly recommended.
Scribed by: Martin Williams