With 2008’s Idolum, Italian psychedelic drone metallers Ufomammut confirmed their superiority over their individual sound, their genre of residence and, most importantly, our ears. Now unleashing the one-song opus Eve (split into five tracks) through their own Supernatural Cat imprint, Ufomammut surpasses any and all of their past work. I usually try not to let myself get taken up by this kind of excitement in a review, but I’ll be plain: this is the best album Ufomammut have ever done, and there’s a good chance doom might not be the same again.
The trio — Poia on guitars/synth, Urlo on bass/synth/vocals and Vita on drums — are earth-shatteringly heavy, and with Eve, they take the experimental bent that made their earlier offerings like Godlike Snake and Snailking so exciting and blend it with the self-made tonal crush that typified their last release. There’s no way to listen to Eve without understanding you are taking part in an event. The album feels as though it’s standing on an altar of its own making, proclaiming itself immortal and challenging the gods themselves to come and bear witness.
The gods, incidentally, don’t show up. Not that they’re too busy screwing and stabbing each other or just don’t feel like making the trip, but Ufomammut is actually just so fucking heavy they’re too intimidated to leave the house. And who could blame them?
Within 20 seconds of opening track, “I” (14:02), you want headphones. And I’d advise them. The first hits of Eve are sparse and rumbling; thunderous in the truest sense, and even as the album gets truly underway, there is a prevailing sense of the ominous and foreboding that pushes through thanks largely to the extensive use of samples and noise that fleshes out the tracks and makes them even more huge-sounding than they otherwise would. At about 1:25, the guitar line that will come to define “I” comes on, and the grand build begins. Synths, cymbal washes, more layers of guitar are piled on, and though the song is still in its ambient, nascent stage, it manages an undeniably heavy atmosphere. Chant vocals come in at around five minutes, sounding like Om broadcast from the sky, and, and when the drums launch the song into its next movement at 6:30, you hardly realize the jump that’s just been made — though obviously you feel the change in the palpability of the groove. The build is not over, continuing with rich layers of guitar, bass and vocals until just before the 11-minute mark, the original guitar line is transposed onto heavy distortion, and Ufomammut makes powder out of post-metal’s claim to “the heavy.”
There is no silence between the tracks of Eve. Since the album is essentially one grand work, the five disparate parts flow immediately one to the next, usually via noise, feedback, synths, or all of the above. “II” (9:45) introduces a creepy, repeated run of notes that will later close the record. They come on like something out of a horror film score, topping drones and organ lines playing out a doomed progression. This is one of Eve’s most celestial moments, but the guitars come back after several minutes to re-ground the song and our listening experience. Ufomammut work best with repetition, and that plays out over the course of Eve, but what really makes “II” stand out is the deftness and timing with which the trio handles the changes. The vocals throughout are entirely clean, no shouting, and drowning in reverb and echo. Heavy riffing starts at around six minutes, with the noise and sonic swirl continuing underneath, but it’s another two minutes before the true breadth of the song is revealed in a repeated riff that moves the track into its heaviest section and provides a feedback build on which “III” is quick to capitalize.
At 3:04, “III” is the shortest of the chapters on Eve, but is no less satisfying than anything before or after it. It is all riff, no build. It’s like they cut out eight minutes of the song and just took the climax, and as such, is Eve’s most outwardly heavy segment, and though it takes a faster pace and sees quick snare hits from Vita that are unquestionably the most active on all the record, the drone feel is still maintained in the thickness of the bass tone and the structure of the song, since it’s based more or less around one riff. When it runs up against its first change, it ends and continues onto “IV” (4:06), which puts the same riff on the bass and tops it with guitar feedback before morphing into a movement with heavily-panned clean vocals weaving into and out of the left and right channels, circling around the head of the listener. About halfway through, a guitar solo kicks in with the same riff underneath, then the vocals come back, leading into the noise that will introduce the closing part of Eve.
You get a much-needed moment to breathe as “V” (13:45) starts, the guitar riff strummed with noise underneath bled over from “IV.” As on “I,” this is heavier than it actually sounds. The repetition and gradual build has begun anew, and for a few minutes it seems as though “V” will work within a frame similar to the first two cuts of Eve, but a break just before five minutes leads to the song resuming with gargantuan crashes and low end rumble before introducing a new movement entirely. The riff, toying with chugga chugga stoner convention and working it into Ufomammut’s terrifyingly heavy context, picks up the pace of the song and lets loose vocal samples that bring Eve to its apex. Suddenly, the course is charted for the album’s finale. “V” gets progressively heavier (and heavier progressively) and more noise-laden until the guitar cuts out at 11 minutes and an interlude of Echoplex noise, samples and feedback reintroduces the notes from “II,” which then grow in volume and menace until Eve is over and 20 seconds of silence leave you to think about what you’ve just experienced.
And about that: few records offer the kind of sonic transportation you get from Eve. With confidence and an assured sense of positioning, Ufomammut puts you exactly where they want you to be at every moment of the record, and yet there’s nothing contrived or overdone about it. To say it’s one of the best albums you’ll hear this year is an understatement. Eve is an album with the power to grant Ufomammut recognition they’ve long deserved, and a forward-looking statement that although many in the myriad subgenres of doom are content to rehash what’s already been done, there are still fresh avenues to pursue. The band’s will toward exploration and experimentation is at the forefront, but they never lose sight of the heaviness that remains at their core, and as such, Eve is a crowning achievement. You can expect to hear a lot of acts come down the pike in the next couple years who sound an awful lot like this, but however many imitators crop up here and there, I doubt very much if any of them will be able to match Ufomammut’s presence, creative drive, or tonal weight. Consider yourself lucky to be alive while something like this is being released.
Tags: Italy, Supernatural Cat, Ufomammut