3/27/2009 - Review by: Etiam
While most sludge metal fans will instantly recognize--and generally extol--the names of Electric Wizard and Boris, relatively few will have much experience with UFOmammut. Joining the headbanging groove of the Wizard with Boris's fetish for high-gain drone, this Italian group has been decimating the sludge underground since the late 90s. Their fifth LP, entitled 'Idolum', continues the traditions of neck-snapping grooves, esoteric imagery (a bit like Alex Gray on LSD), and a sense of aloof mystery around the members that others in the genre (SunnO))), ahem) might do well to emulate.
UFOmammut also surpass some of their peers in composition, as theirs is an intelligent kind of psychadelia, more textured and organized than the interminable droning and washed-out bong hits on which some others rely. Starting with a wickedly thick guitar fuzz and a deep-boost bass that will slay car speakers the world over, 'Idolum' layers in eerily distant howls with mid-to-high frequency effects such as heavy phasers and ring mods. Human voices are present, so 'Idolum' technically isn't an instrumental album, but these vocals certainly aren't here to deliver singable lyrics, and instead are relegated to distant howls. Indeed, the music itself is less lyrical than some previous works. It often seems as if UFOmammut extrapolated the monstrous weight of sludge breakdowns over an entire album's length, which makes the breakdown that actually does occur at the album's end seem all the more cataclysmic. 'Idolum' is far from tedious, however, and is full of engaging grooves. It's just that these grooves move like mastodons through tarpits, and 7-minute strophes pass by like a shimmering, apocalyptic daydream.
'Idolum' also manages to sidestep monotony, which threatens all sludge music and cripples Electric Wizard more often than one would like to admit. This is partly due to the band's production--ungodly heavy, but relatively spacious compared to Electric Wizard's wall of screaming glass--and also the use of FX, samples, and wild guitar wails. These fill out the arrangements and provide an agitated counterpoint to bludgeoning straight rhythms that are typically no smaller than eighth notes and rarely ascend beyond E2 (the lowest pitch of a guitar in standard tuning). No single track on 'Idolum' stands out as absolutely mandatory--a trait of the band's that puts them a step behind the genre forerunners--but an overarching atmosphere is immediately established and well maintained throughout.
Aside from the somewhat superfluous 'Nero', the album's only clear misstep is the arrangement of the 27-minute last track, 'Void ...Elephantom'. After about eight minutes characteristically mind-warping sludge, from 9:00 to 21:41 the song consists of a droning, slowly phased pitch before the instruments return for a six-minute grinding finale that is worth the wait--the first time around. Otherwise, even for sludge audiences that will put on 'Idolum' while catatonic or chemically disabled, this interlude of static drone adds nothing of merit and renders as skippable an otherwise monolithic closer. (It's worth noting that, earlier in the song, a very similar droning pitch is sustained for 30 seconds and works in context.)
These 1.5 tracks aside, 'Idolum' is as heavy as it comes and awfully entertaining for those not faint of eardrum. Fans of YOB's relentless rhythms, the aforementioned bellwethers, and those who crave even more balls-tripping extremes will find much to love in UFOmammut and 'Idolum' in particular.
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