Ultu Ulla - Rings of Saturn
Artist: Rings of Saturn
Album: Ultu Ulla
Genre: Extreme Metal
Review by Steve Jenkins
Rings of Saturn have been a pretty polarizing band throughout their early career. The group began as one of those dreaded internet phenomenon, with a single song that spread virally and landed them a record contract within months, and they’re probably as notorious for a speed-doctoring controversy as they are for their hyper take on deathcore. Of course, there was never any substantial evidence that Rings of Saturn cheated by recording their debut at half-tempo, and their live performances have dispelled the notion that they can’t play it anyway. Now on their fourth album, Rings of Saturn are starting to find a comfortable niche between mainstream death metal and the experimental stylings of bands such as Obscura and Between the Buried and Me. While their brand of “aliencore” isn’t totally novel – Wormed, for one, have landed their spaceship here a few times – it’s also curious enough to deserve a few listens from the adventurous metal head.
The first thing you’ll notice upon spinning Ultu Ulla is that every member of Rings of Saturn has some insane technical chops. The bucket-of-knives tempo changes in “Unhallowed” and stop-start rhythms of opener “Servant of This Sentience” are in the class of bands like Deathspell Omega and Gorguts (despite some genre disparities) which is awesome so long as you can make coherent songs out of such brittle textures. Guitarists Lucas Mann and newest addition, Miles Dimitri Baker, alternate between seismic low-end riffing, spastic mid-range runs, and deedly-doo effects, with one or the other usually holding down the fort via distorted power chords. Some of the melodic pieces here are jaw-dropping, such as the waterfall textures of “Harvest” in which rapidly-descending sweeps are panned right and left between each note to delightfully dizzying effect. Drummer, Aaron Stechauner spends his time blasting away behind the assault of guitars, pausing at seemingly random intervals that somehow line up with whatever the heck the rest of the instruments happen to be doing at that time.
Standout track "Immemorial Existence" breaks into some more relatively normal scattershot riffing as Ian Bearer growls and squeals his way into the mix, with an infectious groove and severe brutality. There's also more to Rings Of Saturn than just machine-gun riffing and blast beats, this album shows that they can actually add melody and traditional death metal song structure to their sound. With a dash of speed metal and a sprinkle of power metal influence, it makes for a refreshing change of pace compared to the deathcore characteristics and brutal slams we hear quite too often. This slight change of style from Rings of Saturn is something that we could look forward to on the next album with a very high chance of growth and new direction, with perhaps even more experimentation.
The production is top-notch and the album stands strong with 10 solid tracks of extreme metal. I feel like die hard fans of the band will appreciate the progress with the new direction but also be satisfied with their chaotic and frenzied song structure from previous albums. Ultu Ulla does not push the boundaries necessarily but it is a step forward in the right direction if Rings of Saturn want to evolve and move away from that stagnant deathcore label. Whilst their songwriting is still otherworldly, the band have shown that they are more than just a crazy and disarranged technical deathcore act that revolves around alien worship. A big thumbs up go to Rings of Saturn for trying something different despite their rabid internet fan base more than likely having something to say about that. The end result is a more accessible, melodic and rhythmic record that serves its purpose and should see them go onto bigger and better things.
7.5 out of 10 stars.
Ultu Ulla is out July 28th via Nuclear Blast Records.