Label: 20 Buck Spin
Genre: Black Metal, Death Metal
Country: United States
Release Date: November 9, 2018
If you’re unfamiliar with the label 20 Buck Spin and their incredible roster of bands, then it’s time for you to learn. Just this year they have released records from: Deadbird, Khemmis, Mournful Congregation, Tomb Mold and many more. After such an incredibly paced relay race, the unappealing anchor position is left to Ulthar with their debut LP Cosmovore. Ulthar is a three-piece band from the bay area in California, sharing members with Extremity, Vastum, and Void Omnia (the first of which put out a record on 20 Buck Spin earlier this year!). Calling Ulthar “blackened death metal” wouldn’t do them justice. Ulthar plays black metal in the strange style of Absu with the intensity of Morbid Angel in their prime, toss in some hardcore/crustpunk influence in the drumming and here we are. The baton has been passed on to Ulthar to close out the year in a strong fashion, and 20 Buck Spin’s anchor is hoping not to fall flat on their face.
The band and record draw a lot of inspiration from the lovecraftian universe. The name Ulthar may not be as ubiquitous as Cthulu is, but it is a town created by H.P. Lovecraft where cats are sacred (just like the internet). I was not provided any lyrics with the album, but considering the band’s name and the album artwork done by Ian Miller I think it’s safe to assume that it takes place in the Lovecraft universe.
The title track Cosmovore kicks the album off in a ferocious fashion. If you like to be eased in with an intro or instrumental track, you’re in for a rude awakening. Immediately you’re met with fast blackened vocals in the ilk of Demonaz from Immortal’s Northern Chaos Gods. Bassist Steve Peacock shrieks over a crustpunk style D-beat and we are off into the Cosmovore. Halfway through the track the band changes gears and gets slower and heavier. During this period the guitarist Shelby Lermo bellows his death metal growls over the spacey riffs. The song ends how it began with fast guitar riffs, but Justin Ennis switches it up with some blast beats to keep the ending fresh. Cosmovore is quickly becoming one of my favorite songs released in 2018.
The vocal duties are split between Steve and Shelby for the black and death styled vocals respectively, the album is more black metal leaning but both voices are well-represented throughout. Personally I preferred the black metal shrieks of Steve Peacock, but do loathe when he expands into DSBM territory in Solitarian and Dunwich Whore. Justin Ennis has the ability of four drummers, seamlessly transitioning from different genre sounds in a single song. The guitar work really drives a lot of the songs on Cosmovore. On the track Infinite Cold Distance Shelby Lermo uses his playing to dictate the pace and is the highlight throughout the song. The basswork is incredible on this record, but as usual, I wish it was a little more upfront in the mix. On the song Assymetric Warfare there is a sweeping bass scale section that is one of my favorite moments on the entire album. Steve and Shelby also contribute Synths and samples throughout (the) Cosmovore. On several tracks like Cosmovore, Entropy-Atrophy and Dunwich Whore: John Carpenter inspired synths can be heard at the beginning and end of the tracks. They aren’t quite incorporated into the music like The Lion’s Daughter have done, but they definitely add to the atmosphere of the record that Ulthar is creating. There are some dark sounding samples as well, presumably from older horror flicks but I can’t be sure.
Ulthar being a three-piece was a really exciting aspect of the band for me. Many metal/rock trios such as: Sleep, Rush and Them Crooked Vultures tend to understand the importance of each instrument and incorporate them perfectly in their songwriting. Ulthar are no different in their approach. These songwriting chops are no more noticeable than they are on Dunwich Whore. It begins (and ends) with an eerie analog synth sound that feels like you’re walking into the world shown on the cover. The song then evolves into a cohesive mix of sludge, doom, black, death & crust pushing Ulthar into the “progressive” territory. This is pure extreme metal madness and is an excellent way to finish off the album (Minus the DSBM vocals near the end of the track).
Ulthar are, as expected from their cover art, enigmatic and intense but if you take the time to take in the scope of the are you’ll see the whole picture is awe inspiring. The songwriting is dense without becoming convoluted and that is a tough task to accomplish. I’m not sure this was 20 Buck Spin’s best of the year, but they were already so far ahead that all Ulthar had to do was not trip over their own feet. And still without a doubt Cosmovore is one of the strongest offerings of the year from a band that is just finding its legs. Ulthar have unleashed the Cosmovore unto our speakers and I, for one, welcome our new alien overlords.
3. Infinite Cold Distance
4. Entropy – Atrophy
5. Assymetric Warfare
6. Dunwich Whore
Total Playing Time: 38:23