Reviewed: [July 2020]
Released [2020 20 Buck Spin]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
With tracks like “Churn” and “Cudgel,” the Bay Area underground all-star team trio Ulthar paint a pretty accurate picture of the material on their second album. A leaner, meaner, more potent offering than 2018’s meandering Cosmovore – with its 13-plus minute finale “Dunwich Whore” – Providence gets right down to business with the 2:10 fury of “Churn” and never look back.
Though its mix of black, death and progressive metal elements does retain much of the complexity and ambition that was showcased on Cosmovore, Providence presents it in a tidier package – eight songs in 37 minutes as opposed to six songs in 38 minutes – that gives it greater impact and makes for a more compelling listen. Indeed, the finale here, “Humanoid Knot,” delivers 4:35 of chug and churn awesomeness that echoes Carcass’s transitional Necroticism – Descanting the Insalubrious in its execution – a mix of groove, grind and melody topped by tag-team vocals – which is certainly not a bad benchmark, and definitely more viscerally satisfying than a 13-minute excursion.
“Furnace Hibernation” and “Cudgel” wield a similar, if even groovier, approach that make for some of the album’s more thunderous moments even as it is contrasted by fleet, screechy black metally runs that have a certain vintage Emperor flare. Elsewhere, “Undying Spear” opens with Eastern-style acoustic guitar a la Nile before surging forward with the riffy fury of Immortal at their prime – and raspy Abbath-like vocals to boot – while “Through Downward Destinies” offers a more eerie, orchestral intro before veering off on an almost tech-deathy jaunt.
Given their range of experience, the band – guitarist/vocalist Shelby Lermo (Vastum, Extremity), bassist/vocalist Steve Peacock (Mastery, Pandiscordian Necrogenesis, Pale Chalice) and drummer Justin Ennis (Void Omnia, Vale, ex-Mutilation Rites) – are well schooled in all manner of extreme metal, and put that to more expert use here. Providence certainly shows Ulthar have learned a thing or two from the expanse of Cosmovore.
This time around, they have been able to mix and match the various styles and arrive at something that is not only coherent, but resonant. The band trimmed the fat and honed the edges, but not so much as to render their sound slick or simple. Indeed, it remains quite grand, adept and powerful, something that is bolstered by a bold, hefty mix that emphasizes heaviness, which is never a bad strategy.