Oro: Opus Alter
I struggled with the scoring of this album more than I can remember doing so for any other record in quite some time. I attribute this mostly to the fact that I felt it might be necessary for this (sometimes seemingly arbitrary) number to not only reflect the quality of the music offered, but also the entire concept behind the ORO endeavor: Opus Alter and its weighty counterpart released in April of this same year, Opus Primum. Based purely on its musical merits, Opus Alter is a real belter, as it contains some of the band's most heavycracking moments within its 43 minutes. But it took me a while to settle into this thing, and honestly, my first couple times around the block left me wondering why the band didn't just pare some material down so we could get the full picture in a single offering. But a week's worth of more focused return trips have revealed that part 2 does indeed carry a very different overall vibe compared to its companion. There's still a blanketing theme and repeated elements left over from round 1, but the overall stance this time around is decidedly (and surprisingly) more aggressive.
Of course, complaining about an expansive 94 minutes of new Ufomammut material probably seems downright loopy to the typical fan, but I don't think anyone today is ashamed to admit that extra thought most assuredly goes into parting with the (at least) $30 price tag from distro-to-doorstep that it'll cost to have the band's complete ORO vision delivered. And to be completely honest, the packaging represented from part 1 looks pretty, but it's also fairly sparse, as is rather typical of Ufomammut CDs, so don't expect part 2 to go above and beyond and offer up extra artwork, a snazzy patch, or some bomb-ass ringtones, yo.
But enough of all that. I've made it crystal clear that I am not a fan of double albums delivered in this manner. I was hoping a band with Ufomammut's vision would pioneer something to crack the code and cure me of my bias, but they didn't. Not fully, anyway. But pushing my grumbles aside, I will confirm that the most important factor -- the music behind Opus Alter -- is really pretty tremendous. The trademark psychedelic bloops and bleeps (patterned very similarly to Opus Primum) paint the corners once again, and the weird little alien babble we were exposed to back in April also makes repeated commentary. Apart from that, however, the overall tone of Opus Alter feels much more direct and flat-out flattening compared to its companion; it's a real headcracker. Less time is spent swirling around in psychedelics with a clear focus on pummeling your bones into dust like some Looney Tunes bulldog delivering the ass-kicking of a lifetime to some poor, cow-eyed cat.
Opener "Oroborus" comes out of the gate like the space ship you'd expect, but it quickly switches over to giving your head a full work-over once the full weight drops at 2:45. And it's a heavy groove, a full leaden strut. And just when you think the quick pause two additional minutes down the line is about to take you on one of those trademark trippy drifts, things actually turn noisier instead. Rumbling. Walloping. Beating you into the dirt until that mammoth groove eventually re-lands on your head for the close. And really, that's the general motif of most everything that follows as well. "Luxon" slows the pace down, but sacrifices nothing in terms of heft; "Sulphurdew," the longest cut at 12:19, ends up challenging the opener in terms of swelling, bruising bedlam; and closer "Deityrant" stands as one of the most ponderously heavy strikes I can recall ever closing an album.
So, yeah, it's quite possible that this half of the ORO experience will end up eclipsing its cousin. It's just so… decimating. And it's the Ufomammut riff-enthusiasts' dream because each tune pretty much stands on its own and delivers a slightly different flavor of ruinous heft. Also particularly interesting is the fact that the more I've listened to this record -- even as I type these words and continue retreading segments for the sake of research -- I find my displeasure for the whole 'two albums delivered five months apart' dissipating with each additional spin. Do I suddenly no longer care if the packaging will be similar and equally sparse compared to part 1? What the hell is an extra $15 in the grand scheme of things? And would I really want any of these tunes (or any of those tunes) cut in favor of trimming the whole affair? The bottom line is this: Opus Alter is a huge album -- heavy even by Ufomammat standards. So if you're a fan of the band and you find yourself hesitant, or similarly on the fence for any number of cranky reasons, just do yourself a favor and tell your brain to shut up and put the damned thing in your handy little heavy metal basket. You'll be happy you did. And obviously I decided against my initial gut instinct and chose to score based solely on this record and it's musical merits.
That being said, I do hope the idea of Ufomammut delivering double albums in this manner is finished. It was something different, and I know it wasn't done with some sort of KISS or Manowar marketing scheme behind it (please dear LORD, don't let us see Ufomerlot any time soon), but it's just not the kind of move that ends up fully paying off without some sort of extras, or at least a package deal thrown in the mix.