Okay so we had space 1972-style yesterday, let’s give it some space in a 2015-stylee right now* with my all-time favourite Italian doom space rockers, Ufomammut Ecate. Released back in March on Supernatural Cat Records, with as always great artwork by Malleus, this is possibly my fave new LP this year so far. Space is a damn sight more intense than it used to be.
Ufomammut don’t stray too far from the territory they marked out with their linked 2012 sci-fi doom classics Oro: Opus Primum and Oro: Opus Alter here and that’s a very good thing indeed, but they have added a soupcon of extra ingredients into the soup. If you haven’t heard them before then its through no fault of mine, I’ve long championed their crushing riffage and atmospherics package – it isn’t an original thought of mine but they really do sound like the soundtrack Alien should have had. Spin Ecate opener ‘Somnium’ as a case in point and just try not to envisage an abandoned mining vessel, stricken in a remote corner of the galaxy, an unspeakable, unnameable evil lurking within during its 10 minute span.
‘Somnium’ begins with vintage-sounding synths creating an immediate and foreboding sense of space, then after a while you become aware of the distant sound of drums and vocals, gradually riding up over the horizon, followed by a deep, dark noise that could either be bass or guitar and then … a real, persistent distorted riff that doesn’t seem to go anywhere, it just adds pressure. It builds and builds and then drops out totally around the 6 minute mark, giving you a brief respite, time to crawl behind a bulkhead, before that sawing riff starts to search for you again, its only then that it starts to get REALLY heavy. The vocals are so far below you in the crushing din, they’re just another noise, another texture.
Just when you feel you can breathe again, ‘Plouton’ crashes in, probably the most traditionally shaped track here and easily one of the heaviest tracks I own, period. Vito just smashes those drums to pieces and again the individual instruments are difficult to make out – this really sounds like an industrial accident on Mars, but in a good way. Next track ‘Chaosecret’ starts out low-key, feedback, a crawling bass line, what sounds like distant radio broadcasts before a song rears its head in the middle, roaring and fighting. Ufomammut are very clever in the way that they incorporate elements of post-rock drone in their sonic palette, not what you’d normally associate with doom metal at all, but they’ve always been adept at playing with light and dark, dark, dark shade.
Hell, ‘Temple’ even has audible vocals! What will those crazy Italian (supernatural) cats think of next? okay so it’s wrapped around the most pulverizing track on the LP. Following this with the ambient, synth wash of ‘Revelation’ is a clever move, giving us some much-needed head space and its no placeholder either, the ‘Mammut boys produce a track that wouldn’t sound out-of-place on a Tangerine Dream album here. You enjoy it even more, because you know that surely as night follows day and mysterious evil, follows exploring the crashed alien vessel, that this is just the calm before the 10-minute firestorm finale, ‘Daemons’. This does indeed sound like a sojourn in the darkest depths of Hades, more buried-deep-within vocals and some great instrumental touches too, lead us to a monumental climax and then a couple of minutes of music that sound more like Goblin than anyone else.
Ecate is about as heavy as I can take and I just absolutely love the way there isn’t a single high-pitched note on the whole LP, no screams, no wild soloing, just pure doomonomics. Just as in their previous work, a lot of thought has gone into these sounds. As it has on their presentation, I was too slow to get hold of the super-duper fancy pants package but Ecate comes with another great Malleus sleeve and a generous LP-sized booklet with an illustration for each track.
Cue it up, strap yourself down in your captain’s chair and spin it again. The cold oblivious stars don’t care about your fate, earthling.
PS – the band include the following helpful advice on their website:
The entire word “UFOMAMMUT” should be pronounced in the italian way and it sounds something like “oofomammoot”…
*do I sound all hip and happening there? positive feedback only please.