Rings of Saturn - Ultu Ulla (Nuclear Blast)

Vai and Malmsteen on steroids and crack...
Release Date: 
27 Jul 2017 - 11:30pm

Arguably this is not music in the ordinary sense of the word, it's more like the sound of the universe folding in on itself. The band's fourth album is perhaps a tad less chaotic than their previous stuff but is still magnificently frenzied. Opener Servant of this Sentience is guitar tapping wizardry at its finest (I did hear a rumour that guitarists Lucas Mann and Miles Dimitri Baker don't actually have fingers but instead have a series of miniature Gandalfs in place of traditional digits hence their powerful guitar magick). The track is somehow widdly, slamming and technically brilliant all at once...alien death core what not, indeed...and the break-downs are Meshuggah-esque in their magnificence. How the hell do you follow that one up?

Why, with the almost groove-funk joy-times of Parallel Shift, that's how. Ian Bearer grunts and moans all over the shop while all manner of spacey synth and fat riff come at you from all angles - and there's that splendid finger tapping/popping joy! I take it back; Ultu Ulla is just as mad as its predecessors but perhaps the chaos is more focussed? Either way, this is insane stuff; I'm being sucked out into deep space and I like it. Now it's time to get all flamenco with Unhallowed, a beautiful instrumental that only goes for the briefest of moments before launching into the spastic riffage of Immemorial Essence. Now that's chaotic. I must nod sagely in drummer Aaron Stechauner's direction for his work on the kit throughout the album. It's incredible, especially when mixed in with the guitar work of Mann and Baker. Rather bizarrely The Relic (at least to my ear) has similarities with a lot of classic NWOBH tunes - that is until it goes all proper mental brutality with an almost black metal screechy bit. This kind of track really does show off the band's desire to expand and it arouses me terribly.

I was looking for a bit of a breather at this point in the album but Margidda said 'no' and bent my world with its heinous slams. My Word! I've gone into the future...Harvest is all spooky carnival clowns and glorious distortion (again, there's an almost black metal feel to the heavier guitar parts). The breathing space finally arrives (well, kind of) with The Macrocosm which starts mellow, goes mad, and then has some gorgeously proggy gentle points. Deep breaths...and relax...there's something so reassuringly familiar about this track; 70's prog, anyone? All semblance of calmness is thrown in the bin with Prognosis Confirmed while closer Inadequate is like a psychotic jazz-cat on a bad acid trip. A fine and fitting end to a well fruity album. Top marks, you space-cadets.