Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Universe 217 - Change (2016)

Greek band Universe 217 have flown largely under the radar since they emerged around 2005, but they deserve praise from a much larger audience, for their sound is as unique as it is engrossing.

The most notable aspect of the band is the vocalist, Tania, whose voice is truly different. It has a twang and an androgynous timbre to it that is both haunting and rousing. Tania climbs the highs, clambering over the deep riffs, and scours the lows, mingling with sparse chords and jangling harmonies.

The band's sound mixes a rich history of rock experimentalism (think of Nirvana's In Utero mixed with 80s goth) and traditional doom, though they rarely embrace anything resembling pure metal. Instead, the songs meander through a haze of sludgy downtuned amplifier worship, accentuated with fabulous brass instrumentation that hints at the symphonic, Lovecraftian feel of the best funeral doom bands, without every going over the top.

Their 2013 album, Never, was a tour de force of bleak doom that I honestly thought they could never top, but the intervening years have not been wasted, and, after some flirtation with songs of a more gentle nature, Universe 217 have returned with a bang with Change.

There are slow, massive riffs galore, and Tania's vocals are more haunting than ever. Liberal use of reverb takes us into a despairing world of melancholy. The album opens with a headbanging, old school track, Undone, that has an absolutely massive sound. This is very well produced.

Counting Hours tricked me into thinking I would be hearing some sort of stomping grunge track, thanks to the groovy bass intro, but in reality it's a classic Universe 217 track, with massive bursts of ringing minor chords. Tania's voice is particularly clear, as it lazily scythes through your auditory system.

The album's closer and title track, Change, is 12 minutes of doom that take us through Tania's anguish via massive riffs and echoing, disturbing breakdowns. The track actually goes silent for a while before gradually building up to a bleak finish.

The album is packed with the bleakness of the best doom, and is highly recommended. I'm off press play again. One listen just isn't enough. Available from https://universe217.bandcamp.com/album/change.

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