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They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Applying that logic to this release [titled U.M.A.] I find myself agape and struggling to find the proper words to describe it. Symphonic and progressive black metal wrapped around concepts of space travel, technology, and exploration; gods, just thinking of that style just gives me goosebumps. And let me tell you, a thousand words is simply not enough to describe the epic awesomeness of this album.
It starts off so serene and symphonic, yet when I did some research on this band, I was eager to glean the treasures they had to offer. The first track, entitled "Progenie Terrestre Pura" leads in gently from the get-go, with some really smooth and layered synth samples, and before you get yourself lost in it, the guitars lash outward! The ambiance is a perfect opener, leading the listener on an epic journey through space to unknown, distant stars in search of ultimate truth. I think my favorite part of this track was the solo. It's just so . . . unique. It takes away nothing from the overall immersion and ambiance, but instead amplifies it like their spacecraft just hit warp and they're traveling through a goddamned wormhole or something! But again, I've always been something of a sci-fi / space tech nerd, so maybe it's just my own views on it.
The longest track on the album was "Sovrarobotizzazione", clocking in at 13 minutes exactly. Much like its predecessor, it too is hypnotically ambient, something I could see playing video games to, like Megaman or Mass Effect, some game with a space theme or tech theme at least! But, unlike the first track, Sovrarobotizzazione adds something new to the mix: ambient brutality. A contradictory term on first glance, I know, but that's the best way to describe it! The guitars go from hyper ambient to crunchy, and it isn't a bad thing. Granted, if you're not prepared for it, it'll blindside you and take some of the ambience away, but from my perspective, it adds a new and interesting "flavor" to this already good song.
I think my favorite track was the fourth one, called "Droni". Not to say that any of the other tracks were inferior, but this one was different in a way that isn't easy to describe. Where the others were hypnotic and entrancing, this one was stark and gritty. It also maintained the same overall style and flow of the others, but it just reminded me more of the grotesqueness of technology, whereas all the others reminded me of how powerful and elegant and streamlined technology is. This one reeked of rust, decay, ash, and grinding gears. The bowels of a spacecraft, if you will.
All in all, this album is powerhouse. It is something I could see me recommending even to the pickiest listener. I could recommend it to people who hate metal and see them coming around to loving it and metal overall, be it black metal, space metal progressive metal, or anything in between It's a pity these guys from Italy don't have much more to their discography, because I would hunt these albums down to the ends of this planet and others, should it allow me the privilege of owning more glorious masterpieces such as this.
Noteworthy Tracks: Progenie Terrestre Pura, La Terra Rossa Di Marte, Droni
Progenie Terrestre Pura are an Italian two-piece that take on a black metal framework and whose themes, like Swiss band Darkspace, take on a heavy science fiction concept.
As opposed to a lo-fi, cavernous aesthetic, PTP’s sound is a thoroughly polished and digital production that rare for its style succeeds in creating a desired atmosphere rather than quelling it. The black metal influence is often prevalent throughout and is often used as a narrative by which the vocals can find convenient space.
A Norse-style sense of technique is present at times in guitar playing, though it is often saccharine, and not unlike Agalloch pertains to post-rock, tremolo picked and shrouded in a vortex of metallic percussion that often helps to make the music appear more externally aggressive. Riffs occasionally rely on heavy punctuated, palm muted power chord strums amidst syncopated, mechanized drum machine. It’s hard not to think of the Norwegian band Red Harvest, albeit treading a less ‘dystopian’ ground.
Vocals are also of the black metal technique, well done, and suitable to the aesthetic uses a sufficient amount of echo, pitch-shifter and vocoder, the result being similar to tracks such as ‘Dead Inside’ from Beherit’s ‘Electric Doom Synthesis’ album.
There is a strong emphasis on electronics and synthesisers. Rather organic, the ethereal textures and soundscapes of Jean Michel Jarre are brought to mind. Interweaving the more aggressive sectors of each composition the more subtle areas of ‘U.M.A.’ are interspersed with textural guitar playing that is like 70′s Pink Floyd but sans the blues influence.
This combination of ideas makes for an interesting listen, but barely digs beneath the surface. Whilst there is no lack of atmosphere and immersion here, the meandering nature of songs leaves the album lacking in a sense of punch and counterpoint which one feels should be present. Those who aren’t overly contemplative of finding anything deeper beyond the stylistic and like something on the basis that it is different may enjoy this, but in terms of substance it falls short of what could otherwise be promising work.
Italy’s Progenie Terrestre Pura‘s promotional demo in 2011 displayed the band’s rather unique form of black metal, with a futuristic atmosphere fused with traditional black metal resulting in sound that instantly sucks the listener in.
Never mind that the band’s debut full length U.M.A. contained both the tracks that were in their 2011 demo, opening track Progenie Terrestre Pura quickly reminds those who have been out of touch with the band what made them so unique in the first place. For the first few minutes, one is thrown into a soothing soundscape, with the heavy ambient aspect of the music giving a nice, calming feel to the listener, allowing for one to be in a state of complete relaxation. Yet rather than the traditional ambient/atmospherics of bands like Burzum, Progenie Terrestre Pura has a more futuristic vibe, and this definitely helps in setting them apart from other atmospheric black metal bands.
Yet even as the first signs of metal come into view, things remain rather soothing with Nex’s whispered style of black metal vocals fitted right into the atmosphere that the band has created. But honestly the vocals aren’t really the focus here, with the band placing extremely heavy emphasis on the instrumental and atmospheric aspects of their music, like the 7-minute instrumental La Terra Rossa Di Marte. Even the more extreme moments are filled with melodies and heavy emotions, especially in the lead guitar lines that are littered throughout the album, and the ease with which the band goes from a completely soothing segment to one that is aggressive like on Sovrarobotizzazione. There are moments where it almost sounds like a more futuristic, sci-fi version of bands like Code with the avant-garde style of black metal.
If that isn’t enough to convince you to check out Progenie Terrestre Pura‘s music, then the awesome album artwork should at least rouse some interest in sci-fi freaks. If you enjoyed their demo in 2011, then U.M.A. will definitely make things all the more interesting, with three brand new tracks that further push the limits of the band in their musical expression, and in no time one would find himself completely mesmerised.