Umbah - Trilobeth
I, Voidhanger Records
Industrial Metal, Avant-Garde
13 songs (57:49)
Release year: 2010
Umbah, I, Voidhanger Records
Reviewed by Goat
Surprise of the month

How's this for obscure? Umbah have been slaving away in the British underground for years, self-releasing twelve full lengths since 1996 without a bit of recognition from the metal media, and it's only now that I've received a promo copy of this reissue of 2007's Trilobeth that I've even heard of them. Pretty much a one-man band, Cal Scott (of the extremely cult Death Metallers Necrosanct) performs all instruments, and it's clearly a labour of love from a look at the band's website, where all of the albums are available to download free of charge. As with many artists that do this, it's great stuff, and more than worthy of hitting the donate button to support. I'll admit to not familiarising myself with all twelve full-lengths, but from Trilobeth it's easy to hear the genius. Heavily Industrial and electronic, guitars range from Death Metal chugs to ambient weirdness, and the sheer variety is at once the album's biggest strength and biggest weakness.

This is quite a trip, melding the chaotic bludgeoning of Meshuggah with the Industrial soundscapes of Skinny Puppy, but anyone who has heard examples of Industrial Black Metal will find familiar sounds too, Umbah having shades of Wolok and Blut Aus Nord. The focus is Death rather than Black, however, and more like the Ulcerates and Gorguts of the scene than the Deicides. Each and every track is different, making for a difficult album to get to grips with - some songs will have elements of one aspect of the band's sound, others go in a completely different direction. It's well-played and very cleverly composed, however, and if you're willing to give the music the time it needs, this is a rewarding album. Take opener The Fall Of Modern Thought as an example, weirdly psychedelic guitar tones zooming from ear to ear before the (extremely well-programmed) drums kick in, almost breakbeats beneath the spidery guitars and twisted vocals. It briefly launches into blastbeats and torrential riffage, but is never happy when the listener isn't off-balance and reeling at the strange sounds invading, as they soon do in strangely Tech-Death fashion.

The closest comparison I can make is Dødheimsgard after an overdose of psychedelics, allowing their sound to sprawl in all directions rather than point in one. Horon Vakel spends time following electronic threads to their natural conclusions with sudden bursts of soloing, Beehive is driven more or less fully by electronics, clean vocals making for a Goth-induced track that is surprisingly catchy, and Beryllium Crisis' meandering twangs and dread-filled distorted vocals build up the tension until the song just suddenly stops, leaving you hanging. The heavier, almost Grinding Sheep Of Sad Fate brings The Berzerker to mind, but it's a very different sound to the Aussies, and you'll forget all about it when the following A Happy Story turns to pastures more commonly associated with old Mudvayne. Of course, it's better than anything from the thankfully forgotten LD.50, but the comparison will probably be enough to put some people off. Rest assured, this is far from Nu Metal, sitting firmly in metal territory as melodies flow over each other and rhythmic surges pound and pulse.

Pleasingly, the album gets weirder the deeper into it you get, from the out-there time signatures and Goregrind vomiting of A Little Uneasy to throwing classical elements into the mix on Mesoria A Larkara. It's really one of those peculiar records than only fans of a certain style will bother hunting down and checking out, and it's a shame, as any open-minded metalhead who enjoys his music with a hefty dollop of mental on the top will find much to appreciate here. The finest accolade I can ultimately give Umbah is that the band will still be playing its unique style in ten years' time, whether you check it out or not - driven wholly and purely by love of the music, Cal Scott is a hero of the underground, and deserves all the attention and praise that he's survived so long without.

MP3 page of official website (don't forget the donate button!)
Killing Songs :
The Fall Of Modern Thought, Beehive, Sheep Of Sad Fate, A Happy Story, A Little Uneasy, Mesoria A Larkara
Goat quoted 82 / 100
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