Second Circle: Anthronomicon and Helionomicon

In Dante’s Inferno, the second circle begins the proper punishment of Hell, a place where “no thing gleams.” It is reserved for those overcome with Lust, where carnal appetites hold sway over reason. In Nine Circles, it’s where we do shorter reviews of new (ish) albums that share a common theme.

You know I couldn’t just pick one of these to review.  Ulthar are certainly about to unleash some of the most anticipated music in their career, and as if that wasn’t good enough, they’re gracing us with not one, but two full, 40-minute albums of new material, their first since 2020’s Providence.  The wait might have been long, but Anthronomicon and Helionomicon both make up for it in quantity and quality.

Fans of Ulthar know that they have a singular style about them; one that can unquestioningly be referred to as “all gas, no brakes.”  Anthronomicon sees the band further refine their characteristic blend of technical prowess, angular and dissonant riffing, and black metal aggression, all wrapped up in an almost surreal package.  Anthronomicon sees the band blaze full steam ahead with furious intensity, all buzzsaw riffs, sickeningly off-kilter melodies and frenetic blast beats.  It is the culmination of a lot of work from the band in refining their style down to the very last detail, and it works so incredibly well.

Anthronomicon is what we expect from Ulthar in terms of style, but the quality is way up.  This is dark, spooky, sickening, and outright righteous in its aggression.  There are a ton of awesome headbanging moments on here, especially in the first two tracks, “Cephalophore” and “Fractional Fortress.”  While the riffs might be what immediately grabs attention, I think where Anthronomicon really shines is the band’s angular use of melody.  There’s an effortless dance between beauty and horror that only Ulthar can efficiently perform, and it’s what really sets this band apart from their peers.  That, and the absolutely filthy-nasty riffs.

Anthronomicon will be available February 17 on 20 Buck Spin.  For more information on Ulthar, visit their Facebook page.

Where Anthronomicon sees the band’s signature bravado on full display, its sister piece Helionomicon goes in a much more avant-garde direction.  Instead of eight more short-ish tracks as before, Helionomicon features two gigantic twenty-plus minute tracks that show more of the technical and progressive side of the band.  The focus on melody is stronger here than on Anthronomicon, however, there is still plenty of frantic energy to be found.  The energy this time is more based around shifts in dynamics and structure than chugging or tremolo riffs.

Honestly, there’s a little bit more of the technical side of the band on display here.  Riffs that start at the bottom of the fretboard suddenly leap down the frets and across the strings.  The synchronized tapping sections of the first of two behemoth tracks (appropriately titled “Helionomicon”) is something that I really wasn’t expecting but that sticks with me for a while after the album stops spinning.  To say that this is where Ulthar gets weird with it might be an understatement, but fans of the band won’t be too put off by what they hear.  The overall sound still retains the core qualities of what it means to be Ulthar.  It just really shows a band that is growing, evolving and trying to stretch what it means to play heavy metal to the furthest possible reaches it can go.

Helionomicon will also be available February 17, also on 20 Buck Spin.  For even more information on Ulthar, check out their Instagram page.

There is an awful lot to enjoy here, so make sure to take it all in.  If you’re feeling brave, you can definitely Austin Lunn this and treat them both as being two halves of the same album, or you can pick one that fits your mood.  That’s the beauty of it.  However you choose to listen, make sure you do it, and soon.


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