Ultha – “The Inextricable Wandering” (Century Media Records)
Despite being labelled black metallers, there’s a whole lot more to this German band as amply evidenced on this tantalising 3rd studio album. Very much centred around guitarist / vocalist Ralph Schmidt’s disposition – in this case adding to the already present sadness and hopelessness an overpowering sense of fear, it is this that Ultha draw upon to terrify their listeners rather than the usual 666 dial in offering. From the 6 lush offerings on show here, it’s pretty clear these epics – some of which are gargantuan and hit the 18 minute mark (!) – weren’t dished out in one deranged blood lust filled evening, but rather carefully formulated over the best part of the year to reach their perfection in capturing a real feeling of horror and as such, the true essence of evil. Essentially blackgaze with a dense guitar sound resonating elements of Primordial (in their pagan ferocity) and Thulcandra (in their intricate chiming guitar melodies), there’s also a powerful electronic presence from Andy Rosczyk, who also mixed and recorded the album, creating one of the most wondrous atmospheres that instantaneously capture and immerse the listener right from the start and throughout this mesmerising album! From the creepy intro of plucked guitar on ‘Cyanide Lips’ that’s sharply blasted by an intense wall of sound to a mixture of shrieks and wretched vocals only to give way to dark ambience with ghostly whispers and drawls, Manuel Schaub’s percussive brilliance adds both weight and even more presence to this already impressive soundscape. With Rosczyk’s synths creating a dungeon feel to ‘We Only speak In Darkness’, the coldness couldn’t be anymore evident when the icy guitar of Schmidt and deep bass of the aptly named Chris Noir join in on what is a suave trans goth masterpiece contrasted vividly by clean, almost spoken word vocals. At 10 1/2 minutes ‘With Knives to the Throat and Hell in Your Heart’ is one of the lengthier numbers and crashes upon you with frenetic guitar, relentless drumming and to a mixture of shrieks and roars, all graced by intricate, captivating guitar melodies and backed by Rosczyk’s haunting atmospheric synths, building intensely towards climax before echoing away blissfully. Impressive, highly impressive in fact, “The Inextricable Wandering” is the perfect embodiment of true beauty in darkness.