Wednesday 2 January 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: Ultha, "The Inextricable Wandering"

By: Elliot Paisley

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 05/10/2018
Label: Century Media Records

On “The Inextricable Wandering”, Ultha have shown both potential for the future and a mastery of what they have already achieved.

“The Inextricable Wandering” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. The Avarist (Eyes Of A Tragedy)
2. With Knives To The Throat And Hell In Your Heart
3. There Is No Love, High Up In The Gallows
4. Cyanide Lips
5. We Only Speak In Darkness
6. I’m Afraid To Follow You There

The Review: 

While having a well-renowned pedigree for producing exceptional heavy metal, Germany has scarcely produced a black metal outfit who can compete with their Scandinavian and North American competition. It’s a curious blemish; thrash metal, power metal, classic heavy metal and even death metal all have Teutonic titans. Yet, there isn’t a German black metal band who can be held in the same regard as Wolves In The Throne Room or Altar Of Plagues, much less Burzum, Bathory and Emperor. However, while Ultha are still in what is, comparably, the embryonic of their career (having only formed in 2014), the potential displayed on their 3rd studio effort “The Inextricable Wandering” more than makes them worthy of attention.

It is vocally where the album stands out in its more defiant form. The stereotypical vocal employed in black-metal has, over the decades, developed into a fairly limiting art form. With seemingly either a banshee-wail or a demonic rasp being the two options one can employ, it is wildly refreshing when bands strive into unexplored territory. The vocals present on this album, while sparse, provide a more guttural, avant-garde counterpart to the chilling instrumentation. With a duelling vocal dynamic that owes more to both Douglas Pearce and Nick Holmes than to Ihsahn and Cronos, the band explore peculiar frontiers, and makes for a welcome, refreshing listen. Black metal, to those who care less for it, is often described as a limiting art form. While it is true that there are key tropes commonly adopted by countless black metal outfits, this can also be part of the charm. Like fans of slasher films, those who worship this style of music often enjoy the rules and boundaries, seeing them as guidance rather than restrictions. While there is something to be said about tunnel-vision allegiance to the rules of a bygone era, it is far more refreshing to hear deviation, especially of such a high standard.

Musically, admittedly, there isn’t a great deal to report; Ultha play atmospheric black metal, a genre which has suffered from overpopulation, but it is performed to a standard of brilliance. While the genre has indeed grown saturated and many dedicated black-metal fans have accused it of expiration, it is performed with quality and conviction that it is impossible to resist. It provides a stark, monochrome backdrop to the superb vocal performances, and allows the songs to breathe in the way they warrant.

The production job on this album is also something to behold. In the last decade, it has become more acceptable for black metal artists to opt for more professional production. Both major-label players like Dimmu Borgir or Cradle of Filth as well as cult icons such as Forteresse and Agalloch have encouraged the presence of clean, lavish instrumentation, and that effect can be felt on this album. “The Inextricable Wandering” would not be half the album it is if the material was quashed with a sub-par production, and this is the finest Ultha have sounded so far. On past albums, they’ve shown ambition in this regard but failed to do justice to their capabilities but now, perhaps with the backing of Century Media, they have the tools available and the know-how needed to improve their art and it’s made all the more tremendous for it.

Ultha are still new to the world; they’ve not even been a band for five years. Yet, on “The Inextricable Wandering”, they have shown both potential for the future and a mastery of what they have already achieved. With three albums now under their belt, it is clear that they have progressed at an extraordinary rate, and they’ve finally released an album that justifies their talents. It’s exciting to ponder at where this band may go next. All we know for sure is that we can trust them.

“The Inextricable Wandering” is available HERE


Band info: facebook