Review by Alex Grindor on May 21, 2023.
Among the many branches of extreme metal, there lies a specific sub-genre of dissonant, jarring music that it is completely difficult to grasp at first. This style in particular demands constant attention, like a spoiled child making the most obnoxious of noises. Yet, after constant exposure to this kind of material, one begins to understand (as much as humanly possible) the different layers of cacophony that compose this material. From Gorguts' experimental masterpiece "Obscura" to Deathspell Omega's work post 2004 to Portal, Pyrrhon and all in between, the constant experimentation and desire to take the extreme branch of metal "one step further" has been done constantly for a very long time, with just a few great examples of success.
Ukakuja is an international project that features: Pan Merakli, Jared Moran, Ni Nthentropy, Taylor Belanger and Lori Bravo. These collective of musicians, accompanied by a small array of guest vocalists, have spawned forth a jewel of absolute melting madness in the form of Ōmukade. A 22-minute-travel in and out of mind. A swirling, abrasive wall of guitars, bass and drums toppled with the haunting, disturbing yet soothing vocal performance of Lori that constantly finds new ways to spew abominable sounds from the underworld. A constant vortex of jarring sounds that barely gives room to breathe, while Lori's angelic/tormenting voice lashes, wails, shouts and sings drenched in many an effect to properly distinguish the clarity of her words. Of course, the band is joined by other notorious vocalists as well, from bands such as Thecodontion, Feral Lord and Salqiu. Each of them contributes vocals and lyrics to their respective tracks and their presence enhances the experience of Ōmukade. Despite the instrumentation being a suffocating array of riffs and blast-beats, for brief moments it gives respite, as the drums may slow down at moments while the rest of the instruments continue in their own way. This jarring clash of varied styles and influences constantly shifts, even if some of the instrumentation prefers not to do so,
as the ambient landscape entwines with the inhuman vocal performances. Quite impressive still that, despite Lori's age, she can do such inhuman performance. Her operatic background is weaponized in a disturbing way that clashes yet complements the fellow guest vocals, with all of them delivering an unhinged performance.
The production for the album is well done, as it gives room to every instrument despite their constant frenzy. The bass, drums and guitars are perfectly audible, while relaying almost all kinds of delay and reverb to the many vocals layered in this record. If I had to compare this album, it would be almost impossible no to do so with "The Planet Cachexial" from Lori's former band "Nuclear Death", as her performance on Ōmukade resembles (but never equals) the many vocals, noises and shrieks recorded in that album. In many ways, I could consider Ōmukade its spiritual successor but, unlike ND's album, Ōmukade resembles more the dissonant cacophony of early ND material mixed with deafening riffage, noise experimentation and dark synths. My only issue would be that the drums constantly blast in the most ambient moments of the album, even though this contributes to how inaccessible the record is as a whole.
In just 22 minutes, Ukakuja manages to invoke an incessant, hopeless, ravaging lunacy that (maybe unconsciously) pays homage to Lori's former work, while carving a niche of its own among many other notorious dissonant extreme works. The vast influence of its many members is more than shown here and its payoff is grandiose, with minute issues. The release is limited to 35 copies and if the idea of an insane 22-minute trip interests you, Ōmukade will open its jaws for you to be devoured.
Rating: 9.6 out of 10790