Album Review: Úlfúð — “Of Existential Distortion”

Over the past decade the Icelandic extreme metal scene has defined itself with a unique brand of chaotic, dissonant black metal very much inspired by Gorguts and Deathspell Omega. Enter Úlfúð (“ool-wooth”), who have decided to forge a different path from their peers in the local scene with their debut full-length Of Existential Distortion. Showcasing a healthy mix of dark melody and groove, this album is a solid slab of no-frills modern black/death metal.

While straying a bit more towards the blackened side of things with trem-picked chord walls and blast beats, Úlfúð’s core sound is a pretty straightforward combination of black and death metal that often stays in the mid-tempo range (albeit with machine gun double bass omnipresent) — yet where the band truly stands out is with chugging grooves that litter the album. These riffs certainly don’t wander into djent territory, but they’re an effective inclusion of a more up-to-date take on the death metal sound. Úlfúð’s melodic sensibilities are often limited to trem-picked single notes, but there’s some classic Gothenburg-style melodeath that comes through on “Tears of Terra.” More technical riffing reminiscent of Slugdge makes a appearance on “Mockery Theater,” but never does it venture into the wankery often associated with that kind of tech death.

As straightforward as Of Existential Distortion often is, Úlfúð is at their best when venturing a bit out of their comfort zone. “The Gods Left Us Behind” is much more atmospheric, and some brief clean choir vocals are a perfect addition. Almost every single song on the album hovers around the five minute mark save for the penultimate track, “An Elegy to a Paradise Out of Reach,” which just so happens to be the best the album has to offer. The extended 8 & 1/2 minute runtime really allows the riffs to breathe, and there’s some fantastic transitions from slower tempos to blast beats; complete with an epic guitar solo near the end of its runtime, this song nails that “closing track feeling” so well I’m legitimately surprised the album doesn’t end with it.

Úlfúð aren’t reinventing the wheel here, but nevertheless it’s understandable why they were picked up by a label with such pedigree in the world of death metal as Dark Descent. These songs were recorded in 2020 so hopefully the band has been able to work on honing their strengths in all that time since. This is only the first big step for a band that may yet prove to be one of Iceland’s brightest new stars.


Of Existential Distortion will be available March 17 on Dark Descent Records. For more information on Úlfúð, check out their Facebook and Instagram pages.

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