Released: Nov 2018
Reviewed by: Benedict Roff-Marsh
URSA are on a small label called Blood-Music who are not open to demos from acts. I note that most of what I review is from small labels. I see two reasons. Labels hold acts to a higher standard then the acts tend to do for themselves. A Sad but true thing is that when a record interests me enough to dig deeper it is most likely backed by a label. True Indie acts rarely submit material, even if asked to! This is the scariest part of running a site to support Indie musicians. If I was asked to submit my music to any review site I would be in (except perhaps if it was Nazi propaganda) so why do Indie acts not?
URSA are being hailed as 70’s Progressive Metal meets early 80’s Doom. So that translates to early Black Sabbath. And the band adds Yes, Rush & Candlemass.
It was the latter in particular that got my interest as (despite the silly name) Candlemass “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” is one of my all-time favorite records. It is with much sadness then that I have to say there is no “Solitude” here. There isn’t much like Candlemass at all, let alone Yes or Rush in here. Probably a bit more like a lighter version of Cathedral circa “Forest of Equilibrium”.
It is not a bad record at all though and if you haven’t a lot of exposure to those names but are looking for a nice lump of Stoner Rock then “Abyss Between the Stars” is definitely worth a twirl or two. Even worth an own. Especially seeing the download is “Name your price”.
Initially it is easy to feel that Doom or Stoner based music is just a slow grind of noise. Honestly, it is is kinda meant to. If the band is poor than that is all it will ever be. However, if the band are good then you also have layers of subtle detail and stories delivered with passion & pathos. If needing an icebreaker or bridge, then by all means go listen to that Candlemass record above. Some of the elements are there in a record more accessible to a straight Rock audience.
While initially I was hoping for the lovely clear vocals of the first Candlemass record, and was put off by their not being here, over time the record has clarified for me.
“Abyss Between the Stars” is actually proving to be a grower on me. This is a good sign because music that increases in value as you listen to it is vastly better work than music that becomes less appealing over time. If this style of music is newer on you then please perhaps play it a few times over a few weeks and see if, on the third or fourth run, the details of melodies start to stand out.
If you go all-in, there is a good looking package with artwork & lyrics to be had with the CD. It definitely helps build the vibe of the whole package much better than music alone.
The oddity about the packaging is that the most accessible song, “The Mountain” is right at the end of the album. Maybe that is a really clever plan to let people leave with a tune on their lips. Or maybe it is silly as the in-built bridge is already there in the record. This song almost sounds like it belongs to a different band. Maybe even The Band after a heavy night.
As for what records I think “Abyss Between the Stars” sounds like from my collection. I liked Stoned Karma “The Dark Side of Destiny” and there is a synergy here in the Stoner sound. Cathedral “Forest Of Equilibrium” is not for the faint of heart but is worth a listen if you are just discovering this grey world. Yes “Relayer” is a different profile overall but does have the roots of what you hear in URSA even if the Yes sound is more delicate & detailed.
You may note my feelings have changed over the course of writing this review. I won’t go back and even out the conflict though as it charts my course with URSA “Abyss Between the Stars” rather well.