I still remember the first time I saw Universe217 playing live in Athens, back in 2008. They were the supporting act for Scott Kelly of Neurosis and I found myself thinking that this band definitely is on the right path in terms of what they are doing with their music. Considering they had just released their debut self-titled album at the time I was really intrigued to hear more from them. So fast-forwarding through the years and after one EP, one split album with Lucky Funeral and their sophomore full-length Familiar Places, now their latest album, Never, has arrived.
The band’s sound is quite unique, and the most accurate descriptions such as down tempo rock and experimental doom, are still unable to fully define Universe217’s music. The band is constantly experimenting sonically with their heavy, rich background, and on Never these guys really outdo themselves. From the very opening song of the album, “Mouth,” you get Tanya’s great voice overwhelming you with a short a-capella part. The heavy drums pin down your attention all the way through, while the effects that the band is implementing are sending you to sonic journeys far away from this earthly plane.
“Enter” builds up tension in a horrifying manner while the vocals seem to be echoing through the edges of eternity, and with the track sifting and turning so unexpectedly and in such an unpredictable way, you are just stunned by the depth that this band can travel to. Of course the band is incorporating a more minimalistic approach in some instances, “Stay” for example is a much more stripped down track with the droning melodies crafting towering soundscapes all around the listener while the screaming vocals are unleashing waves of destruction and sorrow.
On the other hand, Universe217 can pick up the pace when they want to get your attention. “Mark My Word” is the perfect example of that, and even though the track is quite short in length it contains an insane amount of intensity. Of course the band does not need a faster tempo to attract your attention. That is something that they can do with their weight alone. “Electrified” utilizes its heavy guitars splendidly to become much more menacing and direct compared to the band’s more laid back tracks. The catastrophic nature of the track reaches almost epic proportions near the end when it seems as if the guitar is spiraling completely out of control. On a more controlled manner, “Harm” is building an absorbing and imposing sonic structure while the ethereal vocals and the mesmerizing tempo are forcing you to leave reality behind.
Then there are times when Universe217 take on a more melodic and pleasant incarnation, as is the case with “Gravity” and its almost post-rocky progression while the music is cunningly dragging you deep within the depths of Never. But it is not until you have listened to the two longest tracks of the album that you truly get a glimpse to Universe217’s greatness. “She” starts with the use of ingenious effects while the vocals soon join in to give another breathtaking performance. The track is completely inescapable, once you start listening to it pressing the “stop” button is not an option, you will have to carry on through its ten minutes while the band is unfolding all of their ideas in front of you and you will have to endure the almost heartbreaking ending part. And then hit “repeat.” On the other hand, “Never” is the opposite of “She” in a way. Universe217 come in with full force, unleashing some of their most heavy doom riffs. The minimalistic outlook of the band is still present and the drumming is sounding through the track as if it was the pulse of the world itself. In the last three minutes of the song Universe217 decide to let loose all of their paranoia and aggression, picking up the pace and encircling you with their otherworldly nature.
This band is still improving. Just when you think that you have heard all there is that they can give you, they go on and come up with an album such as Never. For fans of heavy and experimental music, this is an album that you will need to listen to as soon as possible. A true gem.
8.5 / 10
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