Nothing like lovecraftian black metal.
Fans of renowned American horror author H.P. Lovecraft's work may be somewhat familiar with Ulthar, the mythical town from The Cats of Ulthar where an old couple enjoy capturing and killing the townspeople's cats. Those who pursue unsettling horror and heavy music will be pleased to know that ULTHAR is also Oakland's own menacing black metal trio.
The band, consisting of guitarist/vocalist Shelby Lermo, bassist/vocalist Steve Peacock, and drummer Justin Ennis, is an absolute force that delivers supernatural horror and Rudimentary Peni mysticism through multilayered compositions consisting of malicious riffs and unsettling atmosphere. They recently unleashed their acclaimed debut Cosmovore on 20 Buck Spin and will be playing it in its entirety at an LA show with PRIMITIVE MAN. ULTHAR is also planning a Spring 2019 tour, so keep your eyes peeled.
We talk to Shelby Lermo about the band's daunting debut record, their upcoming show with PRIMITIVE MAN, and what we can expect from the trio in months to come.
It’s been 2 years since your demo release and you just unleashed your debut record Cosmovore. How does it feel to see the hours of writing and recording finally in the hands of fans across the globe?
It’s like eating a really big meal, and then holding in a huge dump for 2 years, and then releasing said dump. It feels great.
Cosmovore has been pretty well received, popping up in several year-end lists throughout and an “Album of the Month” title over at Gimme Radio a couple months back. How great is it for you as a band to receive these accolades on your debut record?
It feels good, but I personally try not to pay too much attention. Believing your own hype will give you a big head and turn you into an idiot. “Metal journalism” is a bizarre world that I try to avoid as much as possible. Besides this interview, of course.
Ulthar take on the cosmology of American horror author H.P. Lovecraft but in a uniquely aggressive and layered manner. Is there a particular reason you wanted to take on the lyrical themes of Lovecraft?
I blame Rudimentary Peni’s Cacophony, specifically.
Speaking about the Lovecraft influence, a huge draw for the record is the ‘At The Mountains of Madness’ painting by Ian Miller at the forefront. With so many psychedelically good pieces of Lovecraft-inspired art to choose from, why go with ‘At The Mountains of Madness?'
I contacted Ian through his website during the recording process, as we all felt his psychedelic/schizophrenic take on Lovecraft was the perfect accompaniment to the music we were creating. I was beyond excited when he wrote back right away, and even more excited when he sent a whole folder of unused pieces for us to choose from. There were at least a half dozen others that would’ve been perfect, but we all agreed the bizarre orange palette of Mountains 3 was the exact vibe we wanted. I’ve stayed in touch with Ian since, he’s a great guy and a pleasure to work with.
Aside from the devious lyrical themes present throughout the record, the musical aspect of Cosmovore is just as venomous, blending elements from black, thrash, and death metal. Are there any bands or experiences overall that you could cite as influences to your sound?
I think the confluence of modern weird black metal and early 90’s proto-technical death metal is what makes Ulthar tick.
You incorporate the use of eerie sound effects on each track, adding to the atmospheric component of the record and making you feel as if you were walking into the world depicted on Miller’s painting. Musically, how do you achieve such a seamless blend of elements while remaining true to the Lovecraftian themes present in the record?
It’s all just a natural outcropping of who we are as musicians. We’re not consciously trying to blend elements, we just write riffs, write lyrics, and arrange them in a way that makes sense (or doesn’t, depending on the desired effect).
The album closes with Dunwich Whore, a 13-minute epic that culminates our horrific journey through Cosmovore while telling the story of Lavinia Whateley. Was the goal to end the record with your longest, most ambitious track? Or did it just happen to work out that way?
The song is not about Lavinia Whateley at all. I read that in a review somewhere and was like, “what?”. People invent their own explanations, I guess. “Dunwich Whore” is actually a reworking of a song off of our demo, that we added a long intro to, changed some riffs, and replaced the lyrics of. I’m not sure we ever even debated whether or not it would be the last track on the album. It just seemed like the right thing, to close out with the epic. I can’t imagine it otherwise.
Does it motivate you in any way to be on 20 Buck Spin, who has such an exceptional catalog of artists and releases under their belt?
We recorded Cosmovore without knowing who would release it, but Dave at 20 Buck was our first choice. He was also the first person we asked. I actually flew out to Pittsburgh with a rough mix of the album and put it in his hand, on my birthday. I told him it would be a real dick move NOT to put it out, after all that. But yes, he wrote me a couple days later, saying he wanted to do it. Of course we were stoked. He does a great job, and he’s great to work with.
You just wrapped up a short string of shows with in Oregon, Washington, and California. How has fan response been to the new tracks?
It was really good. I think we only played 4 or 5 shows as a band before this trip up the coast, so it was good to get out on the road and get the feel of things.
How do you translate the complex new Cosmovore tracks onto the live show?
Most of the album is exactly how we play it live--just one bass, one guitar, drums, and two vocals. There are a couple guitar harmonies mixed in but not much deviation from how we sound live. The synths and samples between songs we have on a sampler, although we’ve toyed around with the idea of bringing out some synthesizers and recreating the intros and outros live as well.
You’ll be playing in LA in what’s expected to be an explosive night with doom titans Primitive Man. What tracks can fans expect you to rip through?
We’ll be playing the album in its entirety, give or take a song.
Now that the debut record is out, are there any interesting tours or projects in the works?
We’ll be touring the US in March and April, continuing work on our next full-length as well.
If you want to experience ULTHAR's supernatural black metal on display, join Heaviest of Art for a night full of head banging devastation at the Catch One in Los Angeles as they head out with PRIMITIVE MAN to terrorize the city, courtesy of Psycho Entertainment. If sci-fi heaviness is what you're into, this is where you want to be. Grab your tickets here.
ULTHAR's bludgeoning debut record Cosmovore is available now via 20 Buck Spin and you can stream the tormenting title track Cosmovore below and the album in its entirety on Bandcamp. Do not miss this by any circumstances.