Although it’s certainly not an easy task, or one without its own idiosyncratic difficulties and various hurdles, reviewing an album is typically a fairly straightforward task: listen to the album several times, collect thoughts, put pen to paper (or, more accurately, fingers to computer keys), and push out a decent-length recollection of the experiences the album provides, as well as a somewhat-objective analysis. At the end of the day, an album review is a letter of recommendation, and it’s the job of the reviewer to elucidate whether or not it’s worthy of rotation, as well as how or why.
Albums like Ufonaut, the newest release from atmospheric-sludge-turned-death-metal band Entropia, really do their best to throw a wrench into this formula. Although on the surface, there’s nothing particularly extravagant to this album, besides the way it drips psychedelia in a genre where not many other bands skirt that territory, either sonically or visually, underneath it all lurks a decidedly bizarre nature that makes Ufonaut less of a solely auditory experience and more of an all-around voyage.
For starters, the production of this release is vivid and visceral: drums punch audibly and the bass rattles with a fury and intensity not much else can match. The guitars are searing, white-hot bolts of noise that flash intensely in front of the listener’s face before fading back into the mix only to strike again a moment later; the vocals, albeit rare, are huge and equal parts empowering and terrifying, shouts into the void that seem to simultaneously overcome it and be forever swallowed by it. Ufonaut is filled with an energy that seems immutable and forever-flowing in between graceful serenity and uncontrollable rage, at times bringing the two together in a way that feels perfectly right but strangely off-putting. The songwriting isn’t as atonal or rooted in fretboard wizardry as Gorguts or Ulcerate, nor is it as crazily heady and noisy as Gigan and Flourishing, but the album occupies a territory akin to all of these bands; its combination of sludge, black metal, and, primarily, death metal with sonic experiments like horns and synths placed far, far back in the mix feels as forward-focused and chaotically weird as these titans of avant-garde death metal.
However, the switch from sludge metal to death metal was not without a few snags along the way: the writing styles of the two genres are vastly different, and the room for repetition and introspection-forcing browbeating by way of suffocating riffs that is acceptable in sludge metal doesn’t translate particularly well into this new realm at times. These moments of drag aren’t common, and certainly don’t make up the bulk of the album, but when they come up, it can drag the music down to a glacial pace.
When Ufonaut is on, it’s fucking on. This is a forward-thinking, intelligent, speculative death metal album that still manages to knock out some pretty killer riffs on a regular basis, not sacrificing quality for the sake of psychedelic gimmickyness. Although it’s not quite the next Colored Sands in its atmospheric and heady nature, Entropia demonstrate here a knack for fantastic writing combined with a great sense of aesthetic, and, most importantly, how to combine the two into a properly enticing combination, and this is only one of the first of many conquerings in what we can only hope is a long and prosperous upward trajectory for this band. One of the best metal albums of the year? Maybe, maybe not. We have yet to see how the year plays out. But one of the most rewarding auditory experiences of 2016 for the way it masterfully blends artistic vision into the nitty-gritty of the writing process? Absolutely.