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Ufomammut: Oro: Opus Primum

Italian three-piece Ufomammut are not an easy band to classify.

Their Last.fm wiki entry helpfully describes their music as "Psychedelic sludge", which sounds a bit too much like the consequence of a dodgy post-gig kebab rather than the name of a genre. Their own press release describes them as "Supernatural Doom Sorcerors". When combined with the song titles, I can imagine the whole thing as the soundtrack to some unspeakable blasphemous ritual.

Supernatural Doom Sorcerors

Whatever you make of such labels, their sixth album, Oro: Opus Primum, is an ambitious combination of elements of metal, electronica and post-rock. Although not entirely instrumental, there are no lyrics. At least, nothing recognisable, with voices used as purely as another instrument. Oro: Opus Primum is the first half of a two-part album, with the second part (titled Oro: Opus Alter) scheduled for release in the autumn.

The opener 'Emperium', clocking in at just short of fourteen minutes begins with layers of droning electronics, reminiscent of Tangerine Dream from their very early avant-garde soundscape era. It's a minute and a half before a repeated five-note synthesiser figure appears, soon joined by drums, and it's at least another couple of minutes before the heavily-distorted guitar comes in. The piece builds in intensity adding in more and more layers, including wordless chanted choral-style vocals, an impressive start to the album.

'Aureum' is not quite as effective. Lacking the depth and subtlety of the opener, the heavily-distorted guitar riff comes over sounding like a slowed-down instrumental version of Black Sabbath. There's a moment of excitement when the riff speeds up and wordless vocals come in, but at twelve and a half minutes the song doesn't quite work, and overstays its welcome. But it's the only marginally weak spot on the album.

overstays its welcome

The last three of the album's five songs effectively form a single extended piece. 'Infearnatural' repeats the distorted guitar and choral vocals, with the vocals giving way to swirling electronic effects around the half-way mark, accompanied by some spoken words which may be recorded backward, or may be in a language other than English; my headphones and ears aren't quite good enough to tell. 

Then the guitars drop out leaving just the fluttering electronic effects, over which a repetitive electronic motif similar to that of the opening number leads into 'Magickon', which builds with the guitar joining and eventually replacing the electronics, before dropping out, leaving the clattering percussion and electronic effects that herald album closer 'Mindomine'. 

Soon yet another grinding sludgy guitar riff bludgeons the listener into submission, building to a climax with the return of the chanted vocal, before everything drops away leaving just an electronic warble which fades away into nothing. And the album is over.

far more than the sum of its parts

This is a very powerful work, with a less-is-more simplicity in one respect with it's use of very simple repeating motifs; and complexity in the way it uses layers of distorted guitars, analogue synths and choral chanting to build something far more than the sum of its parts. An album which really needs to be listened to on headphones for full effect; there are a lot of subtleties that otherwise get lost beneath the monolithic guitar riffs.
 

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