Italian psych-doom outfit Ufomammut turned many heads, including this reviewer’s with 2010’s long-form experimental suite Eve. For their first Neurot release, the band goes even further into keyboard-based texturalism, using it as both contrast to the heavy riffing and as aural glue knitting together the different parts of this new suite. Indeed, the opening minutes of “Empireum” might just fool you into thinking ORO: Opus Primum is inspired far more by Ummagumma-era Pink Floyd than by anything associated with doom metal. Over the course of an hour, Ufomammut patiently extrapolate their basic materials with increasing weight and purpose.
Throughout, they pay close attention to thematic development, as has been a hallmark of their work. Amidst the swirl of the opener, a tinny clavichord refrain announces its intentions and it becomes the leitmotif of ORO: Opus Primum, reappearing at regular intervals in the thick of feedback swells, layers of sampled voices, flanged and pitch-shifted effects. Of course, Ufomammut still delivers the regular payoff after its long, slow building passages erupt at length into distortion and heavy drums (garlanded by mostly smothered vocals that recall Celestial-era Isis). Ever since the maturation of label heads Neurosis in the mid-1990s, it’s been fairly common for metal bands to explore a roughly similar range of influences. And indeed, the overwhelming sound of “Aureum” – with martial drums, distorted signals, and samples, – certainly recalls Neurosis for a bit. But just as regularly, Ufomammut can also lurch into a stomp whose riff qualities seem equally indebted to Gojira, Mouth of the Architect, or Rwake. This combination of feels give ORO: Opus Primum a considerable textural, thematic, and rhythmic range.
While the basic compositional materials are often simple, the band has the sense and instinct to give them a ton of different treatments and arrangements. For example, while motifs resurface in familiar fashion, the latter minutes of “Aureum” are potent and supercharged, dense with noise and pummel. After the grinding minimalism of “Infearnatural,” the keyboard theme returns amidst a tight, warm, analogue feedback drone and the sound of snorting swine. The closing “Mindomine” opens with some air and room for movement, before ushering in what is almost a choral effect and subsequently the album’s heaviest psychedelic dirge. There are lots of bands trading in this general idiom but Ufomammut has a compositional focus and restraint that frames the sonic elements well. An excellent continuation of their recent work.