Italy’s premier sludge metal band, Ufomammut, have been one of the most prolific artists in the genre ever since they first came onto the scene in 1999. It’s hard to imagine that the band is actually about to release their ninth full-length album, yet here we are already. Following up their ambitious 2012 double album, Oro: Opus Primum and Oro: Opus Alter, band members Urlo, Vita and Poia have returned with a modest six-song, 46 minute outing that pummels just as much as it soars through the cosmos. Ecate, a name possibly derived from the Greek goddess of the underworld and witchcraft Hecate, is just as much a psychedelic journey as it is an auditory beating.
Right off the bat, it makes complete sense why the band is releasing their material on Neurot Recordings, which is home to the godfathers of post-metal, Neurosis. The album’s droning opener, “Somnium,” gets things going with an immensely slow build-up with a healthy dose of floor toms that harken back to the glory days of Through Silver in Blood. This track is a perfect summary of the entirety of Ecate; trippy and soaring synthesizers permeate the barrage of suffocating fuzz and heavily-distorted screams. Most riffs on the album unshockingly move at a trudging pace and will definitely draw comparisons to bands like Electric Wizard and older Isis, but Ufomammut also occasionally introduce a strong sense of swing and groove in the mix. Vita’s tight and understated drum performances always help drive the tunes, and tracks like “Temple” and “Plouton” certainly show a strong Bill Ward influence.
While the band certainly sounds comfortable as an insanely heavy sludge act, Ufomammut is at their most intriguing and exciting when they’re exploring the more psychedelic elements of their sound. “Chaosecret,” the best track on Ecate, takes almost six minutes of the song’s 11-minute runtime to explore plenty of spacey textures and experiment with various feedback loops and terrifying ambience. By the time the song explodes into insanely heavy territory, the dense synth work always helps open up the band’s purposefully repetitive riffs and add a greater sense of dynamism to the song. Without the band’s intense attention to detail and love of Pink Floyd‘s aesthetic of rich, analog synthesizers, Ecate wouldn’t be nearly as exciting of an album.
Ufomammut haven’t ever had a single member change in their 16 years as a band, and it couldn’t be more apparent with this latest release. With only three members, the band have clearly shown that they’ve carved out a style of their own within the now well-respected circle of sludge and doom metal and have never really dipped in quality despite constantly working on new material as well as their forays into graphic design and visual performances at shows. Ecate isn’t exactly a game-changer in the scene, but it’s the most consistent and enjoyable album for the genre in 2015 right now.
Ufomammut’s Ecate gets…