Much could be written (and has been written) about Ungoliant, the dark spider queen “from before the world” who played a role in J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Silmarillion and was mentioned in The Lord of the Rings. Also known as Gloomweaver (because she was capable of generating impenetrable darkness), she gave birth to a race of giant spiders, and her own unremitting hunger was so great that she consumed herself.
With that bit of background, it becomes apparent from the music of the Ukrainian symphonic black metal band Ungoliantha why they based their name on that giant dark spider. One might find other clues to the music from the spooky cover art of their new EP, The Howl in the Waste — a collage of black cats, skulls, and Gothic spires. There is indeed an atmosphere of supernatural horror and terrible grandeur that pervades the EP, manifested in different ways across its five tracks — all of which we’re streaming today in this exclusive premiere.
The origins of Ungoliantha themselves date almost to before the world — 1996, to be precise — though their first public release didn’t happen until a live album in 1999. The band seemed to disappear until original guitarist and vocalist Lord Sinned revived Ungoliantha with new members, releasing a demo in 2006 and a debut album in 2015.
The new EP works (and works well) on multiple levels. It creates a palpable sense of atmosphere and kindles the imagination, creating the feeling that we have left the world behind and been drawn into an unearthly realm where black magic has replaced the laws of physics and where dark, terrorizing powers reign supreme.
The waves of symphonic melody reveal ghastly wonders, soaring and shining with unnatural light, but they also create moods that are ominous and malevolent, shrouded in gloom and fraught with misery. They build tension and fear, and reach a fever pitch of lunacy when all the performers in the band cut loose in extravagant bonfires of audio violence.
The music benefits from the well-timed appearances of a shrill, flickering guitar and from other keyboard accents — threads of swaying, exotic Arabian melody, bewitching ethereal sounds; darting electronic tones; and an almost spritely piano arpeggio in “Ghost Wanderer” (which is the most multi-faceted and most fully realized achievement of the band’s ambitions — and the track you should listen to first if you just want to sample what the EP has to offer before diving all the way in).
While the synthesizer and keyboard elements are vital to the changing atmosphere of Ungoliantha’s music, they’re not the only things that stand out and make the EP so good. The vocals are remarkably intense and unhinged. The dominant vocals are blistering shrieks that frequently reach heights of eye-popping viciousness, but even more frightening are the hoarse, distorted roars (which gave me goosebumps every time I heard them).
Finally, the rhythm section on the EP are exceptionally good. While the drummer and the bassist are capable of pyrotechnic displays, both are keenly attuned to what else is happening in the music, changing their patterns and pacings in ways that are interesting to listen to all by themselves. This is also a black metal album in which blasting is infrequent, and the interesting juxtaposition of rocking beats with chilling, sorcerous melodies is another aspect of its appeal.
The EP includes three original songs, a great cover of Lord Belial‘s “Hymn of the Ancient Spirit of the Forest”, and a 27-second outro which serves as a final reminder that this band are indeed the spawn of Ungolianth. All together, it makes for an extremely enjoyable experience from start to finish.
The Howl in the Waste will be released through a variety of digital platforms on May 13th, and it’s available for pre-order now.