There may be no shortage of sludge metal, or doom, or heavy psych, or space rock, but no one can do quite what Italy’s Ufomammut does, which is present a slightly different flavor of their cosmic doom sludge, and nail it every damn time. They may get a little silly and pretentious (8 flipped sideways is – ∞ – man, whoa), but their concepts are fun, and set to their music and visuals, truly expansive. And in a world completely gone to shit, they’re also cathartic. Like Ecate (2015), 8 drills down on more concise song structures as opposed to Eve (2010) and Oro (2012), which were both conceptualized as long, singular song suites. That may seem like they’re ponderous symphonic prog, but mostly, they are brutal. And trippy. And kind of funny. But also really pissed off, and probably both liquored up and high. Or is that just me?
Ufomammut won’t appeal to everyone, not even all fans of heavy music. You definitely need to be in a receptive mood for it. It’s possible that some people can be a bit too well adjusted for this music. For example, I was in a relatively good, happy place when Ecate came out and the band finally toured North America. I was excited for both the album and show, but I may not have fully appreciated it at the time. Things are a little different this year, and this album is totally satisfying. For example, take “Core,” with the sinister synths, something that sounds like a siren, pummeling percussion and screams in the background. To me it sounds like aliens are running amok in a spaceship, slaughtering people left and right, the ship’s strobe lights flashing emergency blood-red. I’m rooting for the aliens. Oh, the humans couldn’t take care of their own planet so now they’re trying to find another one to shit all over. Fuck you humans, go back and die with your consequences! Yeah, I’m in a dark place, and this is a good soundtrack to it.
The band’s vision may not be quite so violent, but in general if you’re looking for rough ‘n’ ready stoner doom, Godlike Snake (2000), Snailking (2004) and Idolum (2008) will do the trick. For more slowly unfolding, orchestrated cosmic mysticism, the middle period Eve and Oro are highly recommended. But for focused but slightly hallucinogenic rage, you can’t beat their newest. The space rocking “Babel” quickly heats from simmer to boil. “Warsheep” sounds like it could be a vague nod towards Killing Joke’s “Wardance,” but with the nasty, claustrophobic paranoia of Chrome. This is a great, concise summary of the experiments with post-punk and industrial textures on Ecate. It leads into the album’s longest (9:26) track, “Zodiac,” a prime example of a repetitive use of a fine riff to propel through cinematic imagery of battle cries to a tribe or galactic army to get marching. “Fatum” is the sound of planets colliding, or perhaps a transdimensional beast nonchalantly crunching on skulls like cereal, while a voice narrates the proceedings filtered through watery effects like a combination of Hawkwind and Sleep. . . until the screaming returns. So good.
The bludgeons-in-space of “Prismaze” and “Wombdemonium” maintain their high standards, while the album ends on another potential career highlight, the “Psyrcle.” What at first I thought sounded like a Middle-Eastern reed instrument turned out to be ghostly female vocals, and alone at night with my headphones it sounded like a real person right behind me, and startled the shit out of me. Such is Ufomammut’s unmatched mastery of dynamics in service of foreboding moods.
18 years into their career, the band is taking stock and looking back at where they’ve been, a process that started with their Magickal Mastery Tour in 2013/14, released the XV concert DVD and documentary, and now even have a coffee table style art book, The Art Of Ufomammut, which will be out October 23. The book collects all the album, t-shirt and tour poster art produced by the members as the Malleus art collective. I need that.