Since their inception nearly two decades ago, Italian space sludge squadron Ufomammut have carved out a singular niche for themselves in the doom community. Unlike many groups who manage to get by on brute strength alone, Ufomammut’s pulverizing yet hypnotizing sound tends to crush with pressure rather than weight; it’s a black hole, massive, swirling, and distorting, that sucks listeners in and rips them apart on a molecular level, as opposed to just beating them over the head with a great big hammer. 8, the trio’s latest offering, is an intergalactic machine of almost infinite force, a riff-hewn monolith perched on the edge of the universe.
The eight tracks contained on 8 are intricate webs that flow into one another seamlessly, keeping in line with the album’s themes of infinity; from the combination of primal drumming, droning, undulating riffs, and synthesizer bleats that mark album opener “Babel”, to the intergalactic call-to-arms chorale of the near-ten minute “Zodiac,” Ufomammut leaves very little time for listeners to gather their thoughts or catch their breath before zooming off to the next movement. “Prismaze” finds the band in full space rock flight, splitting the skies like the heaviest destroyer in the fleet, while the Sabbath-on-hallucinogens riffing of “Fatum” and “Wombdemonium” amply demonstrate this seasoned unit’s firepower. Another standout track is “Core,” with its mini-symphony of roiling riffs and turnarounds bookended by Hawkwind-style psychedlic freakouts at its beginning and end. And “Warsheep,” put simply, is as good a heavy rock song as I’ve heard this year, with aggression and brutality to spare, but with hooks that in more courageous times would have found the song a home on the playlist of some brave radio programmer.
For the first time in their history, Ufomammut eschewed their standard practices, opting to record a large portion of 8’s backing tracks live in the studio and enlisting longtime live sound engineer Ciccio to man the production board. The result is an album that grooves like nothing else in their catalog; it has a warmth and a buoyance that may have been stripped away in a more sterile recording environment, and a fullness of soul that comes from the organic performance of a band at the peak of its powers. Eighteen years on, Ufomammut’s original lineup is still intact, and the familiarity between Urlo, Poia, and Vita is obvious in the grooves of 8; the three move as one instinctually, almost telepathically, toward their common purpose.
Ferocious yet cerebral, hard-hitting but never plodding, 8 builds on the band’s previous releases and delivers a mind-warping wallop. Ufomammut are longtime veterans of the psychic, sonic wars, and 8 is a vessel more than capable of transporting supernauts, space lords and all other worshipers of the almighty riff to infinity and beyond.