Ufomammut Oro: Opus Primum was by far my favourite LP of 2012. In fact I’m going to go for broke here and I’m not afraid to say this is one of my favourite Italian sludge, doom, psychedelic space rock LPs ever; no really. I was intrigued by a really short review which said something along the lines of this LP being (I paraphrase here) not a silver rocket ship, but a damaged, battle-scarred freighter returning with a dreadful cargo. Cool. What was even cooler was that this was only part one, of a two-part concept, about greed and gold and palindromes in Italian. SIGN-ME-UP !!
Forget all the labels above, the only one which really applies is HEAVY. I wouldn’t call this heavy metal exactly, because that carries an implication of certain types of song structure and an endearing silliness – Ufomammut aren’t here to conform. The intensity and the playing here is absolutely titanic*. I don’t know whether it is purely the power of a proper reviewer’s words, but listening to this all I can envisage is huge, dark industrial space freighters, 5 miles across, all technology corroding and failing – basically the first Alien film, crossed with Hardware, but with an astonishing soundtrack.
Opening with the quite brilliant ‘Empireum’ Oro: Opus Primum begins with a some whooshing space noises fading into 5 simple notes picked out on a keyboard, over and over. Like my other ludicrously heavy favourites ISIS, Ufomammut really know how to build to a climax. Rather cleverly this 5-note refrain crops up several times throughout the LP, most notably in the middle of ‘Magickon’, giving it an almost linear, narrative feel. This is not an LP to listen to on shuffle, it is a serious LP that demands to be listened to head on track-by-bloody-track; Ufomammut really aren’t prissing around here. ‘Empireum’ was one of my most played tracks last year by far. I also love the fact that on this LP there are vocal snippets, that sound like half heard transmissions on a ship’s PA system, fragments of overheard speech, avoiding the usual vocal pitfalls of music this heavy.
Listening to this again I find myself asking how only three men make so much noise?! The bit in ‘Aureum’ where the tempo shifts and the vocals kick in makes my knees buckle. Not only is ‘Aureum’ the heaviest track here, it is a stunning piece of music – I find the talking that’s going on behind the melody in the song really effective too. For my money it’s a close run thing whether ‘Aureum’ beats ‘Magickon’ to the heaviest track on this really, really heavy LP, the latter has an incredibly sinister bit where the sound just drops out to drum and bass and some far off wailing (you gotta dig far off wailing!) needless to say it builds up to an inevitable climax again.
This is not an LP your mum would probably like**, nor an LP to casually slip on during a promising one-on-one dinner date (unless it’s with me, or a member of Mastodon, probably) and definitely not an LP to soundtrack a barbecue. however it is an almost indecent amount of fun to listen to in a darkened room, or on a long drive, as loud as you can stand.
The vinyl is a beautiful object in its’ own right, featuring fantastic cover art by a collective known as Malleus, hell even on a superficial level this is a heavy-duty object. Inside the cover is a poem, sample line:
We saw clouds of blood, scarlet skies, red rain
And we all cried scared
I have bought Oro: Opus Alter (the follow-up) but I haven’t listened to it enough times to get into it yet, but I am sure I will. In the meantime though if you have any love for (really) heavy music get this. You won’t regret it.
103 Down (in the hold).
*see nifty, ‘doomed ship theme’ enlarged upon here. Surely this has to be Pullitzer prize winning stuff?
**have road tested this theory on my own mum. She didn’t like it. 1537, still rebelling at 41!