Last year a group of European labels released the debut album of a German black metal band named Ultha, bearing the title Pain Cleanses Every Doubt. I somehow managed to miss it, even after seeing a comment about Ultha on a post I wrote last August about the final recording of the tremendous German band Planks — a comment which disclosed that Planks‘ Ralph Schmidt was a member of Ultha. That was a stupid error on my part, but thankfully one I’ve had a chance to rectify.
What put Ultha on my radar screen after that previous oversight was the news that the excellent U.S. label Translation Loss will be re-releasing Pain Cleanses Every Doubt on April 29, which I suspect will give Ultha the attention they deserve among North American listeners who might have missed their remarkable debut last year, as I did.
There are some interesting stories behind the origins and music of Ultha, as I learned when I reached out to the band with a series of e-mailed interview questions. One of those interesting stories concerns the reasons why Ultha chose the musical path reflected in this album — because it sounds almost nothing like what you would think of as German black metal (or even, more broadly, traditional Northern European black metal). While many North American black metal bands continue to reach east across the Atlantic for their inspiration, Ultha have gone in the other direction, resisting the stagnation they sense in much of the black metal coming out of their homeland and drawing inspiration from such U.S. innovators as Leviathan, Xasthur, Ash Borer, Fell Voices, Wolves In The Throne Room, and Weakling/Dispirit. Continue reading »