ULTRA SILVAM – The Sanctity of Death (2022)REVIEW

Obliteration of the ‘self’ achieved by sharpened blade of no-mind, a resonant blast of death-worship scattered from a spire of heightened ecstatic gnostic state, ‘The Sanctity of Death‘ is the unifying cull of the worm-filled masses, the thud of millions of eerily grinning corpses toppling in horrifying unison. Pillars crack, ceilings crumble, sewers burst, vermin scramble, and halls echo with the vampyric howling of victorious darkness. Our doorway, a thorn-scattered road of pumice and exploded flesh, twists and unbinds as Ultra Silvam opens with mortifying fanfare, their fraught psychic expulse intensifying to a reckless, mayhemic pitch. The Malmö, Sweden-borne black metal trio continue their decisive tirade through sharpest Scandinavian black metal classicism while making sure to trample any too-cloying nostalgic representation along the way. This second full-length finds the entity angling less harshly toward a certain destructive type of austerity, achieving a no-less callous bridge burning spell set to burst the old, over-worshipped skulls of the past with fresh blackened fire.

Born a flippant, thrashing beast circa 2015 and achieving some manner of primal birth on their first demo (‘Ultra Silvam‘, 2017) the bigger picture of Ultra Silvam doesn’t require any major patience to grasp as their 3-5 minute rips through The Black (Sweden) and/or Katharsis-sized energetic rippers and Sorhin-sharp cutting melodicism were largely developed even on those earliest releases, most else beyond that point has been a matter of sophisticating their reveal and expanding the impact of said melodicism. When their debut full-length (‘The Spearwound Salvation‘, 2019) released it was clear that the main actors involved were intending a violent confrontation with all, a raw (nearly bestial) yet surprisingly melodic affair which I’d compared with Shamaatae‘s early 90’s work in various groups suck as Arckanum and some of the ideas formed by groups like Sacramentum and given to chaotic ruin within earlier Watain. None of this perceived likeness or approximation on my part should suggest more than a certain level of sophistication delivered with a hateful, confrontational rawness of spirit, though. As I’d stated in 2019: “Ultra Silvam‘s phrasing is their own thing, modern and stoic in its exploration of atmosphere and physical force.” and from my point of view this is still the most compelling reason to follow the band unto ‘The Sanctity of Death‘.

It’d be fair to consider this sophomore release from the band a follow-up, iteration upon the same central idea and modus of the first album rather than any sort of paradigm shift or differently stylistic weave yet there are a few key differences worth examining at face value. First, the production values here are impressive between Endarker Studio‘s engineering and a mix/master from The Forge, present and entirely readable without needing to emulate the dry compression of the early 90’s thanks to excellent sub-floor drum placement and shoulder level riffing which allows the harsh centrally-spraying presence of the vocals to equal their assault. The only note I’d had early on was the double-bass drumming isn’t as defined as I’d personally wanted it to be but I’m sure the emphasis was intentionally set upon the guitars and the wooden socking of the snare due to greater emphasis on melodic black metal forms. This had a sort of ‘Darkside‘-era Necrophobic feeling to it to start, albeit more bombastic in terms of performance.

At just four minutes longer than their debut Ultra Silvam‘s second full-length is unmercifully dense in statement and presents a tangled, moderately memorable string of melodies throughout which, again, echo the best of a certain era of truest Swedish black metal. Some of these touch directly upon the early-to-mid 90’s in stature, others reach towards the more ruthless edge of records like Marduk‘s ‘Nightwing‘ and the newest edges of the trio’s sound seem to pull in additional nods from a more current global underground black metal standard. “Dies Irae” compresses all of these observable traits within one grand opening, complete with group chanted chorus, clanging distorted basslines, and already lightning hot use of lead guitars as both melodic phrasing and rhythmic shaping. An intentionally abrupt salvo to set the basal momentum of the album but also several new ideas packed into a bold introduction. The very brief “Ye Entrancemperium”-esque riff within the delayed intro to “Sodom vises himlafärd” probably isn’t even intentional but it’d been just enough of a reference in mind to start taking a closer listen to Ultra Silvam‘s guitar work, most of which shows some great appreciation for a less naïve, less intentionally nascent crowd of black metal interest in the late 90’s, at least what existed apart from the goofy opportunism abounding.

The important note to make at this point is that these pieces indicate a certain history and personal taste which is not exclusive to this band but is inarguably voiced with more tactful engagement than most. Picking up a 2022 record that reminds me of ten much better records from 1995 doesn’t compare to one which elaborates upon those ideas without bowing to them like a servant to old, bloated kings. “Förintelsens andeväsen del II: Den deicidala transsubstantiationens mysterium” is where I’d personally felt this was the case, a frantic and almost baroque feeling lead guitar performance swaying between coldest classicist rhythms and bolts of shredded-out barbarism. This’d been where I’d felt there was some real witness to escalation beyond ‘The Spearwound Salvation‘ just as the the trash beat ~2:58 minutes into the song provides the biggest “riff” moment on the album, fading into a chilling keyboard outro. This piece set beside the nigh neoclassic stateliness of “Black Soil Fornication” constitutes the peaking ecstasy of the listening experience for my own taste, an almost indulgent apex tightly fit into just over seven minutes of space and time.

Each of the two pieces beyond have their own equally big moments — “Incarnation Reverse” deconstructs one of the better melodic breaks on ‘Far Away From the Sun‘ and “Of Molded Bread and Rotten Wine” seems to reach for another world, a Franco-Finnish sluice of sentimental yet austere melody that provides some extra justification for my insistence that Ultra Silvam are in fact a modern black metal band still conscious of the old spirit of black metal… Point being that every moment counts for something within these 32 minutes and though it all blazes past without assumption some repeated listening should reveal substantive work here beyond typical ‘old school’ referential treatments. Par for the course if you were already enraptured with ‘The Spearwound Salvation‘ in some sense but now with some fresh-infused, nigh stoic madness in hand on this next stage set. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
TITLE:The Sanctity of Death
LABEL(S):Shadow Records
RELEASE DATE:February 25th, 2022

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