Oakland’s own Ulthar release their second album, the Lovecraftian enterprise Providence, and by doing so demonstrate their commitment to shattering your nerves.
Ulthar is a trio peopled by Shelby Lermo, Steve Peacock, and Justin Ennis; guitar, bass, and drums. The name of the band is a reference to some of the writing of H. P. Lovecraft, and you can easily imagine this music being created along the mythical Miskatonic River in a cellar off the beaten path in the dodgy part of Arkham. The Great Old Ones would definitely approve.
The band’s first album, Cosmovore, was released in 2018 and established a viable energy and engaged aggression that was legitimate and intense. This new album is even harsher than the first one, less melodious. It is more overall along the lines of “Entropy-Atrophy” from Cosmovore than, say, “Dunwich Whore” from that same album, which had significant doom metal elements to it, especially up front and at the end. There is more chaos in Providence, more mayhem and musical violence. There is still the occasional thundering doom pause here and there, but the black and death metal characteristics are fully brilliant throughout.
“Churn” opens the album with a two minute punch in the throat. It reminds me of “Denial of Life” from Death’s Scream Bloody Gore for its ferocity, but the vocals on “Churn” are harsher. This short song is a Welcome To Providence announcement, an invitation, a menu, maybe, of what lies ahead. Let’s see, what are some highlights: “Undying Spear,” “Through Downward Dynasties,” and “Cudgel.” As you listen your way through the shattering musical landscape Ulthar has created, the message of suffering is increasingly clear. By the time you take the last two steps, “Narcissus Drowning” and “Humanoid Knot,” there is no apparatus of denial left to grasp. The music is intriguing, engaging, and punishing all at once. With two superior albums in a row, I have growing admiration for this band. Recommended.
20 Buck Spin has many formats of Providence available, and you can also get a download at Bandcamp.
Band photo by Melissa Petisa.