Italian power trio Ufomammut, now with eight (or nine if you count collabs) studio releases under their belt, return to form once again playing their signature alloy of psychedelic space doom, sludge, and stoner…. Actually, we don’t really need a formal and formulaic intro when we’ve got an album of this magnitude at hand. To put it shortly and bluntly, Ecate is a masterpiece.
This is the kind of record that grips your head with burning claws and doesn’t let go until you’re completely immersed into its occult, enigmatical world. One listen, just one listen… that’s all it takes. You quickly fathom, during the first few minutes of “Somnium” and the ferocious transition from meditation to devastation, how immense and monumental this music is. And it’s got it all. The usual elements that make up great doom or sludge, meaning absurdly powerful riffs that threaten to suffocate you, or the vile, devilish bass and drums that hit so deep they reach Earth’s core, can be found in abundance here. But Ecate goes beyond that by bringing a droning experimental edge that reflects upon and pokes holes in the confines of sludge. This results in a diversity that’s almost stupefying in the context of the genre. Yet, there’s never a moment where the tracks feel overwrought or thinned by superfluous repetitions. It’s a wondrous sensation while the band is slowly marching towards a peak, with synths and chants that roam the sonic soundscape, inducing complete exhilaration when they finally crest the zenith and erupt. Ecate is a primer on how to build atmosphere based on excellent song progressions, and without smothering and boring the listener.
Over 45 shattering, demolishing minutes Ufomammut take us on a trip during which synth and drum driven sections lay the path for the incredibly destructive force of guitar riffs, only for the chaos to placate and slow down, and ominous humming to restart the circle again, while displaced chanting gives everything an ethereal note. As if a possessed Al Cisneros emerged to pay tribute to this compelling expression of doom. Skin will crawl and breaths will be taken away after grokking that an ancient creature made of molten lava that cannot and will not be stopped is standing before us. The tension in the sound is ever-present, from the first minute right until the Halloween/John Carpenter-themed ending of the absolutely filthy and cathartic “Daemons,” a tune that’s otherwise imbued with Acid Mothers Temple’s bouts of psychedelia. Even cuts like “Chaosecret” or the meditative “Revelation,” which have almost no riffage at all, instead relying on distortion, noise, and mantras, still don’t lose an ounce of intensity. To top it all off, the dynamics and momentum that the band demonstrates on hitters like “Plouton” and after kicking into higher gear on “Temple” dissolve any remaining, remote chance of boredom.
Conceptually and lyrically, Ecate is devoted to the eponymous Greek goddess, and this inspiration or homage can be clearly heard in the mysticism and mood surrounding the music. While this orientation towards ambience hurt both the OROs that ventured a bit too far into mellow, progressive territory, on Ecate we witness the birth of a perfect monster through a marriage of Ufomammut’s recent exploratory tendencies and the earlier, straight doom crushiness. The pulverizing heaviness is easily felt, like on Idolum or Eve, but this time momentary respite is provided, reaching a balanced sound, and placing the listener in the eye of the storm. If you recover and hold on to your senses long enough, you might just notice that the technicalities are top-notch too. The mastery of the musicians, Urlo, Poia, and Vita, has been touted so many times before and is again demonstrated and backed by great, crunchy yet clean production with good dynamics.
Ecate’s cosmic reach made me write a hyperbole-ridden review. It is that good. Anyone who has previously encountered Ufomammut knows the power and might contained in their music and will want to listen to this ASAP. Everyone else should give it a spin right away as well because I can’t imagine a better sludge/doom related album releasing this year.