In space no one can hear you scream: the colossal dark is crushing and suffocating, the low-end rumbles originating millions of light years away deafen and batter, and the cosmic prayer of illuminous nebulae hypnotise and possess what is left of the body. Drifting further into these pitch-black reaches of space brings isolation and madness; though we are all mad here, these depths are scream-inducing and hallucinatory – all you can do is await the inevitable and ride further into nothingness. Such is the effect of 8, the ninth album from Italy’s stalwart purveyors of sonic destruction Ufomammut, a bludgeoning spectacle of freakish psychedelia and gargantuan sludge grooves erupting like a coronal mass ejection yet as void as the untouched expanses of the universe.
Playing out as one destructive journey into the cosmic abyss 8 follows from 2015’s triumphantly intense offering Ecate, an album which saw the band reach unbridled levels of heaviness (similar to 2010’s monumental opus Eve), pushing their boundaries further and honing their already unique sonic craftsmanship. 8 continues on this heavens-bound trajectory and certainly offers a mind-bending voyage deeper into psych territory than ever before; in this bone-crushing expanse of the unexplored the synths lead the way warping the fabric of Urlo’s impenetrable walls of sound and Poia’s red shift-chasing riffs. The balance between these elements is met exquisitely from the hellish tripping of ‘Babel’ and the rhythmic slaughter of ‘Warsheep’ to the bloodcurdling haze of ‘Prismaze’ and the darkest reaches of ‘Core’, culminating in one dizzying swirling mass of cacophonic delights, tantalising the senses, and pulverising the human form into nothing.
The path Ufomammut had taken since jumping to Neurot Recordings is as clear as day however, pushing themselves further as musicians as well as sonic artisans. The level of detail we can see from both Oro albums and the aforementioned Ecate is staggeringly intricate. With 8, such detail seems to have been lost and at times comes across as being heavy for the sake of it. Whilst the chemistry between the chaos emanating from their rigs (and thus their minds) is tight and, essentially, driven, this certainly feels like the trio’s most straightforward album and this is where the frustration ensues: other than a few really solid grooves here and there, the hermitic vocals and the lengthy synth passages, very little clings to memory; it is as if 8’s sole purpose is total obliteration. We get this from previous albums the Italians have unleashed but with greater complexities.
That’s not to say 8 is a weak album – if anything it is one of their heaviest – but it lacks some of the substance prevalent in most of their back catalogue. Still, as far as cosmic devastation and suffocation goes, this is a solid effort from the masters of the craft. From the moment the record begins it sucks you further into the inescapable darkness; the supermassive Sleep-worship riffs of ‘Wombdemonium’ for one crush like a ten-ton hammer before the maniacal crescendos of ‘Psyrcle’ send the listener deeper into the madness only found through long periods of darkened isolation, the swirling riffs weakening the mortal flesh whilst the darkjazz fractures any shred of sanity from within. The whole album leaves you vulnerable and tormented once its unrelenting energy runs out and this, ladies and gentlemen, is where Ufomammut succeeds.