No, there hasn’t been a glitch somewhere in the Heavy Blog matrix. This is a review of a Rings of Saturn album in the year of our egg, 2017. The sci-fi loving deathcore darlings (ahem) release another blast of widdly diddly death metal full of sweeps, synths and other worldly references too obscure for this writer to care about looking up. Look, if they are going to be lazy enough to record each note at a time then you won’t catch me doing the hard work either. In the few short years since Lugal Ki En was released, the world of technically leaning death metal has spawned some outrageously talented acts; Archspire and Inanimate Existence are the golden boys of tech-death, leaving breakdowns and breeing behind. Do Rings of Saturn still belong in a world that belongs to bands like this? Can they save the world from the alien invasion of tech-death newcomers?
No. They massively don’t and no, they definitely can’t. Ultu Ulla should very well be the last nail in the coffin for this often shit on act. The jig is up. No one wants deathcore with F-Zero X synths interrupting chopped up chugs and digitally punched in sweeps and leads. The old methods are redundant and need put out to pasture; Javier Bardem is ready with his captive bolt pistol for this nonsense and he doesn’t appreciate sci-fi one bit. For a moment, some might have hoped that Rings of Saturn would have jumped onto the trend and tried their hand at the world of modern tech-death. That might have produced something cohesive, something palatable. But no, instead 2017 is given a nonsensical, stammering identity crisis of a record.
Previous entries in the much maligned Rings of Saturn discography have had some sort of identity at the very least. Ultu Ulla does not. This is forty minutes of barely thought out ideas smashed together into bite size chunks of inedible deathcore. It barely even registers as deathcore anymore to be honest. Sure there are typically melodeath riffs sliding into stuttering, snail paced breakdowns but they have no kick or attack. When even the breakdowns and chugs don’t carry any weight, there’s little to no hope for the rest of the material. There are power metal passages fighting with At The Gates riffs (“The Relic” – no future Lara Croft will be raiding Best Buy tombs for this one), viking metal cum Dream Theater leads (the obtusely self indulgent instrumental “The Microcosm”) and more than enough classical guitar breaks, including the wholly unnecessary interlude “Unhallowed”. Monkeys throwing instruments at walls could structure songs better than this.
OK, there is one track that doesn’t totally blow. “Harvest” has a demented circus waltz motif that actually works in the context of the mess of death metal riffs and synths that surround it. It’s by no means a carefully composed epic but it exists on a completely different plane of existence than the rest of the material on this record; it’s not even that good though. Ultu Ulla is a fantastic record for anyone looking to score video game speed runs for their YouTube channel. There. That’s as close to a compliment as it deserves. For anyone saying deathcore is dead then yeah, Rings of Saturn have definitely helped clarify that point of view. They could have tried to cling onto relevance by attempting to jump in with the new hyper tech bands but instead will leave even their most dedicated of fans scratching their heads. The gradual decline in quality offered by this act has hastened and only a sharp change of direction will save them.
Ultu Ulla is available 7/28 via Nuclear Blast and can be pre-ordered here.