Ufomammut – Fenice

Posted: 8 May 2022 in Albums
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Neurot Recordings – 6th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s something about Neurot: as a label, it certainly has a distinct ‘house style’, and if it does seem to be predominantly in the vein of Neurosis, then Ufomammut’s latest offering, Fenice,  is simultaneously definitive and a departure, in that it’s clearly metal in persuasion, and given to long, slow, and expansive workouts, with the majority of the album’s six pieces running (well) past the seven-minute mark. It’s delicately-paced, too: it’s not all a crawl, but the crescendos land a fair way apart and the build-ups are long and deliberate.

Opener ‘Duat’ is an absolute monster, clocking in past ten and a half minutes, and beginning with ominous dark ambience and slow to a crawl electronics, before a surging techno bass grind cuts through and pulses away. It’s three and a half minutes before the guitars pile in, and when they do, everything comes together to forge a piledriving industrial blast: for a moment, I’m reminded of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘March of the Pigs’, but then things switch again with a tempo change, slowing to a lumbering thud. It builds from there, and the final minute hits that sweet spot of pulverizing riffery that is pure joy. Ufomammut may be a ‘doom’ band by designation, but this is some of the most dynamic progressive metal you’ll hear.

Having set the bar so high so early, the challenge is, can they sustain it? ‘Kepherer’ is a dank, semi-ambient interlude that provides some much-needed breathing space. ‘Psychostasia’ starts off gently, but again, builds into a really slugger, the riff hard and repetitive, the vocals half-buried amidst overdrive and reverb, and it’s so, so exhilarating.

It takes an eternity of a slow, nagging cyclical motif, rich in chorus and reverb, before ‘Metamprphoenix’ breaks, and segues immediately into the throbbing behemoth that is ‘Pyramind’, where things do, finally, hit all-out doom grind with the heaviest, most crushing power chords. The bass goes so low that it practically burrows underground, while the guitars soar skyward. Closer ‘Empyros’ is the album’s shortest track, and it’s three minutes of punishing guitars that pick up precisely where ‘Pyramind’ leaves off and just drives and drives and drives, churning, hard, heavy.

If you’re seeking instant gratification, Fenice isn’t the album you want, but that doesn’t mean that it by any means feels drawn-out or like there’s much waiting involved: despite the lengthy songs, and the slow-builds, the textures and atmospheres are remarkable. I have a friend who loves his slow-burning metal and math-rock, but hates Amenra because he finds them insufferably tedious. Personally, I’m a fan, but I get the impatience, and it is largely around this kind of slow, earthy metal where time stalls and aeons pass between events, and the builds take several lifetimes to come to any kind of fruition – but this most certainly isn’t an issue for Ufomammut on Fenice. The compositions twist and turn and continue to not only hold the attention but to tug at the senses, keeping the listener on edge, poised, tense, expectant. And they always deliver on those expectations.

There is a clear and definitely trajectory here, too, building over the last three pieces to a point where the riffs are dominant – megalithic grinds that hit hard. Fenice makes you feel a broad range of things: boredom or disappointment aren’t among them. It does require some work, but it’s amply rewarded.

AA

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