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Ursa - Abyss Between the Stars Award winner

Ursa
Abyss Between the Stars
by Justin "Witty City' Wittenmeier at 31 December 2018, 4:33 AM

URSA is a three piece Doom Metal band from California, formed a few years ago in 2016.  Interesting enough, “Abyss Between The Stars,” is their first full length but they have already released two live albums, in addition to a couple of demos.  All three of the members are also part of the progressive Black Metal band CORMORANT.

URSA have crafted an album that has a rough, dirty feel to it but also such a huge wall of sound that encompasses the listener.  The riffs have a lot of fuzz to them like ELECTRIC WIZARD or SLEEP but you can still hear every little detail in the riffs and especially the blazing solos, such as the one on the opening track “Wizard’s Path.”  That main riff is so goddamn menacing sounding, catchy, thick, and heavy all into one tour de force.   However, they don’t pick one riff and just stick with, beating the listener to death with some drone elements;  the music across these six expansive tracks have a variety of riffs, giving the band some very slight progressive elements to their archaic, fantasy themed Doom.  It works well for them because it allows their sound to still be hugely enjoyable even though there are many bands doing this style.  Basically, they have a deep 70’s vibe to them but it has a modern style to it as well.

Matt Solis' vocals are clean but contain an appropriate amount of venom when needed and his screams/shouts are rather caustic.  His bass is thunderous and provides the band with the bulk of their heaviness.  Brennan Kunkel and his drums provide the rest of the foundation and I found him to be quite energetic with a powerful hunger for playing this style.  Even when a song is a slower, more rumbling tempo, such as the first quarter of “Dragon’s Beard,”  he keeps the song filled with a controlled abandon. “Serengeti Yeti,” starts out appropriately tribal before Nick Cohon crashes through with another gut busting riff—this guy is a riff generator if I’ve ever heard one.  He is also the only guitar player on the album so he must be praised for being such a big part of the band’s presence and for being the sole provider of all these tasty riffs and tight, often times melodic and soulful, guitar solos.  I love how he follows up these solos with such crushing riffs.  “Serengeti Yeti,” has one of those soulful, almost mournful solos but then, like a dam bursting and sweeping away everything in the path, a monstrous wall of riffs just break your neck.  I love it.

The fourth track, “Thirteen Witches,” throws in a bit more melody but it is a very slight approach so nothing is taken away from their heaviness.  The track is solid but it is probably my least favorite on the album because of the weird echo put on Matt's vocals.  It might work in small doses but it is very annoying for a prolonged experience. “Cave Of The Spider King,” gets the album back on track and does so with a song over ten minutes in length and features a banjo as well.  It says a lot about Nick's playing and the band’s song writing skills to incorporate such an instrument into a metal band and make it work as well as it does. Not surprisingly, the song’s beginning moments has a sort of “back woods” country twang to it before the electric fire comes roaring back in.  Brennan's drums are especially smothering here and Matt's vocals are exuberant, as is his bass.   The song throws a lot in but my favorite part has to be at the 7:43 part where Matt yells about the “spider king” and the whole band just busts into a jam session, each member rocking out like it is the last time they ever will.  Much of the album comes off with this jam feel, and you can feel how much the three love playing together and that they really feel their music.

The final track, “The Mountain,” opens with a melodic and soaring guitar solo that throws a bit of sorrow into their Doom; the whole song is definitely more somber than the tracks that came before.  But the vocal patterns are rather catchy, as are the rumbling and rolling drums.  I thought it sounded nothing like the previous tracks and upon further investigation I discovered it is a STEVE EARLE song.  I’m honestly blown away they can take a country song and turn it into a Doom Metal anthem. Despite how well they write their songs, their song isn’t totally original and many Doom fans have heard this style before but URSA do it so well it is more than worth it to hear it again.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Wizard’s Path
2. Dragon’s Beard
3. Serengeti Yeti
4. Thirteen Witches
5. Cave of the Spider King
6. The Mountain
Lineup:
Matt Solis – Vocals, Bass, Organ
Brennan Kunkel – Drums, Percussion
Nick Cohon – Guitars, Banjo
Record Label: Blood Music
     


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