Ultha – All That Has Never Been True [Things You Might Have Missed 2022]

By happenstance, I first listened to All That Has Never Been True while reading Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. It was a match made in Hell. I breathlessly followed Eleanor Vance into paranoid insanity in the presence of sounds without a source, inexplicable events, and a house whose angles aren’t quite right. Ultha grabbed me by the ears and led me on a similar journey. On paper, All That Has Never Been True is simple black metal, with a boatload of synths thrown in for effect. But this belies how unsettling it is. Ultha toys with every expectation you might have about what’s coming next. It’s as petrifying as it is spellbinding.

Nothing here is quite what it seems. On first listen, Ultha’s blend of raw blackness with loud synths resembles Darkspace, but that doesn’t do it justice. Despite the vastly different sound, All That Has Never Been True’s otherworldly atmosphere reminds me of Tiamat’s Wildhoney. Guitars enter and exit, twist and turn, sing and shriek in the oddest places. Melodies peek in briefly amidst chaos and draw your subconscious attention while eluding your conscious mind, leaving you with confusion and self-doubt when they eventually reappear (“Bathed in Lightning, Bathed in Heat”). Weird touches like the screeching sax in “Der Alte Feind (Jeder Tag Reißt Wunden)” and the hellish dancey introduction to “Haloes in Reverse” are icing on the cake. All That Has Never Been True’s layers are a terrifying joy to peel back over repeated listens.

As disquieting as it is, All That Has Never Been True is filled with earworms. The main riffs of “Dispel” and “Der Alte Feind” are at once haunting and punchy, and could hold their own against the most aggressive black metal around. In contrast, the major-key melody that recurs throughout “Carrion (To Walk among the Spiders)” is so jarring and disconcerting that it’s been lodged in my brain for eight months, crossing my mind whenever it so chooses. While I wish the production were less cluttered and gave more power to the muffled drums, Ultha’s music is shockingly catchy for what it is.

These descriptions might sound like a mishmash, but Ultha ties the pieces together masterfully. Album highlight “Haloes in Reverse” starts out as Satanic dance music, patiently transforms into raw black metal, builds to a frantic climax, and returns to a simple isolated bass line, without ever sounding forced. Just as impressive, the minimalist buildup of “Bathed in Lightning, Bathed in Heat” could stand toe to toe with soundscapers like Forlesen. Although the record stretches a bit too long in “Rats Gorged the Moon…and All Fell Silent,” Ultha’s attention to detail in constructing the album makes it feel like a harrowing journey rather than a collection of isolated ideas.

All That Has Never Been True is the auditory equivalent of horror, with one crucial caveat: you’re the main character. No matter how many times you’ve heard the album, Ultha is two steps ahead of you, dropping breadcrumbs that lead to the most frightening sounds of 2022. Listen at your own risk.

Tracks to Check Out: “Der Alte Feind (Jeder Tag Reißt Wunden),” “Bathed in Lightning, Bathed in Heat,” “Haloes in Reverse”

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