Progenie Terrestre Pura – U.M.A.
Progenie Terrestre Pura (PTP) is a two-man Italian outfit whose debut record is not only one of the best records this year, but one that has literally materialized out of no where. Band members Eon and Nex began their space journey in 2009, when they set out to meld Kubrick space opera ambiance with terrestrial post black metal. There efforts ultimately resulted in 2011’s self-released and self-titled promo, Progenie Terrestre Pura which resulted in their signing to label Avantegarde Music. Last month, they released their first full length LP entitled U.M.A. or Uomini, Macchine, Anime (Men, Machine, Souls).
There is a delicate balancing act at play here. On one hand, you have this industrial, ambient, even electronica based soundscape that provides a captivating yet stark foundation to each of these five glorious tracks. Yet on the other hand, you have these intense episodes of black metal orthodoxy that perfectly cuts through all the aural science-fiction and adds a bit of much needed ferocity. What’s also fascinating is that this aural dichotomy has a deeper, more symbolic relationship behind it as well. The project’s main concept is the interaction between humanity and technology, both its positive and negative impacts on society. The electronic and melodic sounding passages represent the way technology brings comfort and enrichment to our lives, while the black represents the alienation and destruction that technology can cause if left unchecked. Either way, it makes for some fantastic metal.
Opener “Progenie Terrestre Pura” immediately embraces you with new age ambiance in the form of sythns and chime effects. If it wasn’t for the faint tremolo picking that suddenly appears in the background, this could easily be the soundtrack to your next early morning meditation session. But gradually guitars make their way to the fore and are immediately followed by a barrage of blast beats and Nex’s raspy vocals. The song then picks up some industrial steam before settling down for more atmospheric beeps and boops. What really makes all of this compelling is the way in which the band masterfully incorporates electronic and industrial elements in each song without loosing any sense of it’s “metalness.” Just when you think the band is about to meander into electronica or industrial territory for too long, they reel themselves in, and immediately bring back the black. And it’s simply fantastic.
The second and longest track, “Sovrarobotizzazione,” is a twelve minute epic that is mainly rooted in industrial with some black metal flare. This track also exhibits PTP’s penchant for post, as the song unravels itself slowly through repetition of a simple keyboard melody amid more digital generated ambiance. Around the 2:30 mark, the band shifts out of impulse power and enters warp speed with some classic black metal riffing and interstellar blast beat fun. In fact, the rhythm and melody here are repeated again and again but are juxtaposed against different industrial and electronic elements giving it a fresh feel every time the song comes full circle.
“La Terra Rossa di Marte” provides a cosmic jazzy sounding intermezzo which also serves as an extended introduction to to the fourth track, “Droni.” It is here where bass guitar finally wakes up from its cryogenic slumber and joins in on the fun. The transitions on this track are stellar, as the initial bass line evolves and becomes the foundation for an all out onslaught of chaotic riffing and blast beat galore before returning once again to more calmer cosmic pastures. The final track, “Sinapsi Divelte,” is the second longest, and another post driven space ride. The album’s finale really embodies that sense of wonderment we all experience when we first learn about the incomprehensible vastness of space – a fitting ending to a spectacular journey.
U.M.A. was mastered by Kolektiv 322 Production Studio who actually mention the Loudness War on their mastering services information page. After reading their mission statement, they seem to take the stand that a modern sounding record must use copious amounts of dynamic range compression to sound modern. I quote, “..and we’ll get the task of emphasizing the compression, the frequency spectrum, the stereo image, the ambiance and finally the loudness of your music.” So the score below should come as no surprise to you given their mission statement. First, the bad news: Vocals have been compressed into smithereens in an effort to give Nex a sort of quasi-alien sound to them. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Drums sound awful. For instance, the beginning of “Sovrarobotizzazione” contains a few early cymbal crashes that sound very sibilant. Now the good news: The rest of the mix is quite good making metal and machine noises play nice. The digital fills are wonderfully incorporated and the industrial transitions never feel contrived or half-baked. Unfortunately, as it stands right now, there are no plans for a vinyl release but I am hoping that will change as more and more metal heads discover this beauty.
Progenie Terrestre Pura have written a glorious debut record in U.M.A. that will no doubt make some year end lists. Please do yourself a favor and jump to their Bandcamp page now where it can be streamed in its entirety. Highly recommended.