RINGS OF SATURN are well known for their unique brand of slightly humorous but very technical metal, as evidenced throughout their career in the niche world of ‘aliencore’. Aliencore might be a term that’s relatively unknown to many, as arguably RINGS OF SATURN are the only band in the genre. Since their debut Embryonic Anomaly in 2010, their popularity, especially online, has skyrocketed – resulting in two more full-length albums, Dingir in 2010 and Lugal Ki En in 2014. Since then they have toured the world in support of deathcore heavyweights such as THY ART IS MURDER and AVERSIONS CROWN across the world. In 2017, they signed to Nuclear Blast Records, leaving their past with Unique Leader Records behind in favour of one that allowed them “100% artistic creativity”. What resulted is July’s release – Ultu Ulla.
Immediately, it’s obvious to anyone with experience of the band that there’s something slightly different about Ultu Ulla. The opening track, Servant of this Sentience, is much more rhythmic and coherently structured than the usual fare from RINGS OF SATURN, and almost certainly will appeal to a wider audience than their previous material. The whole album definitely has a different sound to it than traditional RINGS OF SATURN, with a heavy emphasis on cosmic sound effects, synth, and melodic lead guitar – with less reliance on dissonant breakdowns and insanely low tunings than Lugal Ki En, and less of the adrenaline-pumping speed of some of the songs on Dingir.
However, as one progresses through the record, certain older sounds start to shine through, a reassuring fact for fans of the band’s older material. Immemorial Essence and Margidda both have the classic RINGS OF SATURN groove to them as well as the punishingly fast blast beats and Lucas Mann’s trademark shreds. Overall, there isn’t much variation or progression in the sounds that the band produce over the 10-track span of the record, apart from the Spanish guitar instrumental Unhallowed, which somehow manages to not be particularly out of place. The lack of variation isn’t necessarily much of a criticism of the record however, RINGS OF SATURN have a trademark sound, and to move away from that into more progressive territory would (ironically) alienate much of their fanbase.
Most audible in terms of changes to their sound on Ultu Ulla, however, is the addition of a ton of synth. In a press release for the album, Mann said: “This writing process was similar across the album in that we wanted to add a new layer of sound via synth that we haven’t done before. Our inspiration is always experimentation, furthering our own sound and not sounding like anyone else.” In terms of this experimentation, the band have pulled it off spectacularly. Adding in a new layer of sound to their already chaotic and technical writing, and ending up with a more coherent sound than they’ve ever produced before, is no mean feat.
There is no doubt, however, that RINGS OF SATURN are aiming higher than ever before with Ultu Ulla. With songs like Parallel Shift sounding almost like a cosmic CARNIFEX, and the new addition of synth to their sound, the band have crafted a much more advanced and refined sonic identity than they’ve achieved before. The coming year will almost certainly see the aliencore misfits reach new heights with their reputation and influence.
Ultu Ulla is out now via Nuclear Blast Records.
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