ArticlesMusic ReviewsA Tale of Two Albums: Ulthar’s Anthronomicon & Helionomicon (20 Buck Spin)

Darren LewisMarch 6, 2023

Imagine, if you will, in a remote area, coming across an unmanned alien spacecraft full of terrible technological secrets, inhuman, futuristic marvels that could transform Earth for the better…or turn it into a wasteland.

Now imagine if there were two.

Gift or curse? Are they each one and the same?

Ulthar, invokers of Lovecraftian horror they’ve been since 2014, have struck twice, damning us with dual masterstroke albums released simultaneously, merely utilizing a black/death metal hybrid as a vessel to spread the gospel of eternal dark throughout universes unknown, each starship headed in its own direction.

Anthronomicon is the more conventional album. Spanning 40 minutes and 8 tracks,  its tank treads plow over desolate landscapes created by untold clashes between Windir and Bolt Thrower, laying waste to all once more. Somehow its insanely ingenious riffs manage to breath amidst the dense technicality, songs such as “Cephalophore” and “Larynx Plateau” seeming to act as lasers cutting through thick, animated vegetation on a planet hostile to human life, the latter perhaps serving as a victory march considering drummer Shelby Lermo’s recent bout with throat cancer. Anthronomicon is yet another step in the same path carved by Ulthar’s previous two albums, Cosmovore and Providence from 2018 and 2020 respectively. This album alone is a triumph and is an early, end-of-year list-topping contender. But Ulthar isn’t through with you yet…

Helionomicon, merely consists of two lengthy epics: the title track and “Anthronomicon.” Are you confused yet? I got the feeling that was the intent, both compositions exuding tension, bleeding existential, convoluted malignance and mirror-world nightmares. Like its equally sinister sister album, Helionomicon is a relentless exercise in phantasmagoria, that is until its eerily last few minutes of murmuring, galactic noise manage to haunt the listener even more than anything else on the record, no heavy guitars or blast beats required. It’s as though you’re listening to tentacled, extraterrestrial beings discuss your abduction and ensuing vivisection, guinea pig that you are at the moment, paralyzed, helpless as machines beyond the comprehension of Earthlings whirr and blip…

Ulthar are to be commended not only for their brilliantly arcane lyrics, unbound creativity, and virtuoso musicianship, but also their prolific ethic and generosity. Yes, we could have just been granted a double album, and maybe that’s how these twin titans of terror will be reissued in the coming years, but there is something too special and perfect about each record. They operate on separate wavelengths or parallel worlds, both of them hellish yet intriguing, begging the repeated listens that reveal the differences and similarities between them as well as sounds unheard and dimensions undiscovered, places from which you may never return,,. or want to return. Take Ulthar and their dread tendrils into your minds at your own risk for you may never listen to death or black metal the same way again.

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