Dense, rich, and intoxicating
It’s practically an injustice that Italy’s spacey, psychedelic doom power trio Ufomammut aren’t bigger than they are, because there are few that deserve to be as much as they do. The thing is though that while they have definitely been revered in some doom circles for quite some time, the truth is that their particular take on the genre isn’t for everybody and their lack of recognition owes as much to this as it does their life up until this point on their own small label, Supernatural Cat. While nothing can (or should) be done about the former, perhaps moving to Neurot Recordings might do something about the latter.
In any event, Oro: Opus Primum serves not only as Ufomammut’s sixth full length release since their formation in 1999 (not including 2007’s collaborative album, Supernaturals Record One), but also as the first album in a two part series which will be concluded with Oro: Opus Alter in September. It’s an ambitious undertaking whose difficulty cannot be overstated but if there is a band out there that has the vision to pull something like this off, then I can think of no one better suited than Ufomammut.
Spacey, drawn-out atmosphere has always been a key fixture of Ufomammut’s sound (in whatever guise they choose to display it) and I would say that it plays an even larger role this time around with Opus Primum featuring longer, more pronounced sections of build-up and psychedelic ambience. Even the first song, for example, with its near 15 minute running time features roughly eight minutes of scene setting before it launches into anything that could reasonably be referred to as a traditional “song” while Magickon, as another example, features a lengthy keyboard driven section at its beginning that could arguably be described as “go nowhere” unless, of course, you’re in the right headspace to accept it. This has always been the secret that exists within Ufomammut’s music – that the narrative depth of the music is right there for anybody to see, provided they enter into a listening session and allow the music take them where it wants to without fighting it. It’s not always an easy thing to do though and, while I count Ufomammut as one of my favourite more recent discoveries, I freely acknowledge that they are not the kind of band that can be played at a whim.
As is standard Ufomammut fare, the band knows how to balance their heavier moments (and man, are they HEAVY this time around) with the extended atmospheric wanderings to bring additional heft to the former and chilled out, introspective and hazy floating to the latter. It could be said that Opus Primum perhaps tends to err more on the sprawling sonicscape side of the equation this time around but the application is consistent and it feels natural and even mysterious in its own way, serving more as a large, five part movement, than five individual songs which perhaps hints at what might be in store for the concluding part of the set, though what it will entail is still very much anyone’s guess at this point.
I’ve only had my hands on Opus Primum for about a week now and have spun close to a dozen times but, even with all of this listening, I’m still yet to truly scratch the surface and really take in everything it has to offer. This is an album that is less immediate than Snailking or Idolum (the only other Ufomammut albums that I’m familiar with) and, from what I can gather, is a continuation of the sound the band favoured on their 2010 album, Eve. What this means is that you end up with an album that is somewhat less riff driven and more focussed on delivering a consistent and enveloping atmosphere. The band has undoubtedly succeeded in this but it does require more effort on the part of the listener to be receptive to what they’re hearing.
I’m not sure if I can say that Opus Primum surpasses Snailking or Idolum for me at this stage because it is oriented in a slightly different direction than those two albums but what I can say is that I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy the hell out of it and that’s all that really matters. The question that is now burning on my mind (and the minds of many others, no doubt) is what the band are going to bring us in September and if these two parts will not only stand on their own but will also be able to slot together to present us with the complete picture of the band’s vision. I can’t wait to find out.