Review: Unearthly Trance, Ouroboros (Throne, 2014)

Following on the heels of the Noothgrush release is another great collection from Spanish label Throne Records, this time from now defunct doombringers Unearthly Trance. The two-hour Ouroboros compiles all of the band's vinyl-only releases—including two early 7"s from 2001 and 2003; The Axis is Shifting and Eleven are the Voices 10"s (2007); split 10"s with Suma (2008) and Ramesses (2009); split 7"s with Aldebaran (2009), Minsk (2009), and Wooden Wand (2010); and the split 12" with The Endless Blockade (2010)—as well as a small handful of previously unreleased recordings.

For whatever reason, and despite numerous recommendations, I never found the time to explore much of the Unearthly Trance discography beyond The Trident. Spanning their entire 12-year run from 2000 - 2012, Ouroboros is a nice reminder that I probably fucked up on that one. The wide-ranging two-disc set spans from the circular throb of shorter cuts like "Obscene Truth," to the 15-and-a-half-minute journey of "Blind Driving Through the Ghost Mountains"—which even injects some hardcore/punk-paced tempos into the band's sludge-based foundation at one point.

"Sabbath of Spirals" is a strong opener, representing a little of everything that you'll find within: slow, crushing rhythms and winding midpaced runs accented with eerie, atmospheric dissonance; some grating texture; scathing vocal snarls; and about two minutes of ambient/industrial noisescapes to close out. There are also somewhat straightforward bruisers like the hypnotically pulsing "Oceans Expand" or "Phoenix Undead" (the latter of which is one of the more typically structured cuts in its use of textbook sludge riffs and fiery lead bursts).

You'll find some surprises, too. For example, the crudely stripped down and Darkthrone-like vibe of "Frost Walk With Me," or the gradual build and distantly buried vocals of the punishing "Pyre"—which awesomely (and unexpectedly) turns towards an almost "stoner rock" type of direction towards the end. And then there are the earliest tracks from 2001, occasionally exhibiting a guttural vocal style and even a few riffs that nod to the charging energy and tone of classic Swedish death metal (especially "Lord Humanless Awakens").

The cover songs range from Black Flag, Born Against, and His Hero is Gone, to Roky Erickson and Charles Manson, and they don't change things up a ton. Born Against's "The Nail That Sticks Up Gets Hammered Down" is still a succinct, 21-second burst; as opposed to visceral snarls, a slightly aggressive form of singing is utilized for Erickson's "Night of the Vampire"; and the fittingly crude recording of Manson's "People Say I'm No Good" features only acoustic guitar with haunting singing.

The tracks must be arranged for flow, because they're not presented in any type of chronological order, and the only "informational" component to the sequencing seems to have been grouping all of the cover songs together. That said, it flows quite nicely, and the variances between the different recording sessions are a non-issue. Some of the mixes were tweaked by bassist Jay Newman, and they've all been remastered by guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lipynsky, so everything sounds perfectly suitable: some sessions are a little more fluid and clear, while others have a hint more of a dry grit/raw intensity, but all are oppressively heavy and pounding—to varying degrees of sonic density.

Huge respect to UG from Throne Records for still sending out physical copies, which is rare these days. Ouroboros arrives in a three-panel, double-CD digipack with an eight-page booklet—all following a strict black, gray, and gold color scheme. The digipack itself presents an introductory overview by Ryan Lipynsky, while the booklet contains all of the lyrics (sans the cover songs)—and their oft-cryptic, cosmic darkness can speak for itself:

Eyes of the skeletal dimension
Ritual in the humanless woods
Sounds of the black hole
Voice of the howling wind
Seeds of the meteor
The soul and the shadow as one
The seers call it singularity

Limited to just 460 copies, Ouroboros seems as good a place as any for the uninitiated to dive into the realm of Unearthly Trance—as well as a perfect solution for longtime fans looking to score some vinyl rarities on disc. Nicely done.

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  1. I originally found out about Unearthly Trance when you posted about The Trident on aversionline years ago. And as sick as the tracks I heard were, I never got around to picking up any of their material and actually getting into it, though I always meant to at some point. Listening to the tracks from this collection that they have streaming, it does seem like I probably have been fucking up.

    2.10.2015 | By Marcus

  2. So I’m not alone, then! Ha, ha…

    2.11.2015 | By Andrew Aversionline