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Into the Unknown: Siberian Black Metallers Ultar Unleash “Beyond the Wall of Sleep”

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What’s scarier than the anticipation of fear? It’s a question that has been posed in most modern horror films using the tool of absolute quiet to get viewers quaking as outstretched hands grasp blindly at pitch darkness. Black metal quintet Ultar retains this principle but sheds the cheap trick of deafening silence, choosing instead to offer a soundtrack for the raw anxiety stemming from uncertainty about what might be lurking around the cosmos, or even just around the corner. In addition to Lovecraft, Ultar takes hefty inspiration from their hometown of Krasnoyarsk, Russia, a catalyst for playing a strain of black metal that is uniquely Siberian — while the American perspective is distorted by whispers of North Korean outposts and lingering Cold War fear-mongering, life in an insular tundra oscillating between bucolic bliss and desolate devastation captures the anxiety found in the inherent uncertainty of human existence.

Together, these concepts live on in Ultar’s harrowing instrumentals and depressive-style vocals, which take a particularly bleak turn in their upcoming release Pantheon MMXIX, out next Friday. Here’s another taste with an exclusive stream of the album’s penultimate track “Beyond the Wall of Sleep” below.

Ultar’s last full-length contribution came in 2016 as Kadath; presumably, the name is inspired by the city that is the subject of Lovecraft’s novella The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. Such a quest through enchanted woods and black galleys are mirrored in Kadath’s sinuous path marked by soaring guitar work coupled with more ominous passages. The captivating presence of the album ends on a high note as crashing waves of hope found in the post-rock drenched riffage and drumming patterns fill the heart. While this journey ultimately yields a pleasant destination, Pantheon MMXIX takes on a markedly more haunting tone, perhaps serving as a representation of land overtaken once more by nature’s icy grips.

Starting off with windswept wonder, Pantheon MMXIX opener “Father Dragon” subtly bewitches the listener with an instrumental introduction of soft symphony. Yet, as the track grows, the main melody teeters on the brink of sinister until Ultar breaks full-force through the cracks that had been gradually forming. The howling third track “Yog-Sothoth” demands a top-of-the-lung vocal performance from frontman Gleb Sysoev, yet his more depressive-style screeches are well-placed, alternating with methods more reminiscent of second-wave black metal. These overwrought touches manage to pack a particular punch that remains unspoiled.

And as the world of Pantheon MMXIX is continually built, “Beyond the Wall of Sleep” marks an epic final measure. A display of Ultar’s vast talents, the face-melting blast beats serve as bookends for a mystical interlude in an age-old battle between darkness and light. Closing the chapter on a chilling note, the mystery of Pantheon MMXIX is sucked back into the cellar of a distant cabin where it waits to be released once more in the next installment of Ultar’s universe.

Pantheon MMXIX releases on March 29th via Temple of Torturous. Follow Ultar on Facebook.

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