Review Summary: Much more than a successful step forward, Providence is the embodiment of a band that enters the new decade as an extreme metal force to be reckoned with.
We live in exciting times when it comes to extreme metal hybrids, I would even dare to say that nowadays it’s easier to find an interesting hybrid than a more conservative outcome restricted to tight borders. It’s an inevitability that is inherent to a genre that recently turned fifty. Extreme metal has become a creature thirsty to uncover new paths, new nuances, anything that can add some newness to a formula that has been explored incessantly for some decades now. Oakland's Ulthar are among those who swing between aesthetics, orbiting around death and black metal, trying to find a way to reach their own self-identity. I’m aware this is a common goal for most bands, but only a handful of predestined can reach the final destination. Nevertheless, we should not confuse identity with originality. On their terrific debut Cosmovore
Ulthar didn't exactly get an original formula, but rather a powerful exclamation of identity. Its consistency and superior quality managed to generate a wave of enthusiasm and strong expectations around the band.
These guys are the real deal.
The first thing that struck me in Providence
was its refined production and the more blackened approach than its predecessor, often signs of willingness to shift and evolve. I had a similar feeling when listening to Tomb Mold's Planetary Clairvoyance
. Here too, I felt a willingness to renew. I respect paths that avoid stagnation and creative loops, favoring steps forward, even if they're risky and reckless. Which is not the case in Providence
, since its aesthetic updates never question the band's DNA, being mostly metamorphosis aimed at creating new nuances. However, the stylistic distinction with its predecessor is all too evident. The Immortal-esque moment in 'Undying Spear' or the Mayhem-esque riff in 'Through Downward Dynasties' are just two samples that highlight this new approach. It seems clear Ulthar intends to explore new textures. The interesting acoustic introduction in 'Undying Spear' is another note worth mentioning as it provides the perfect interlude without being a pretentious display of virtuosity declined from a previous music lesson. The album flows magnificently, without any stagnant or unnecessary pit stops. The interplay between black and death metal is omnipresent and basilar, shining in songs such as the title track or 'Furnace Hibernation', the latter also featuring a noteworthy Bolt Thrower-esque segment. Although Providence
presents more blackened tonalities, songs like the straightforward opener 'Churn', 'Narcissus Drowning' or the colossal 'Humanoid Knot' continue to proudly echo the band's old-school death metal foundations, which range from vintage references such as Bolt Thrower, Incantation, Morbid Angel or Demilich to newer imprints like Horrendous, Tomb Mold or Krypts. The trio show unshakeable confidence in their skills by presenting stellar performances, either through their solid rhythmic section or through the riffing and vocals that avoid the standard monochromatic growling. 'Cudgel' is one of the moments where vocals exude greater drama and fluidity. It's hard to find any weak points in Providence
as the eight tracks interconnect in a perfect symbiosis, moving like a single organism towards a common goal. This consistency is proof that Ulthar is in full artistic maturity, with a very clear vision of what they are, and what they intend to do with their music.
Much more than a successful step forward, Providence
is the embodiment of a band that enters the new decade as an extreme metal force to be reckoned with.