Barcelona’s ULTRA finally found time to record their LP in between forced exiles, mountain retreats and relentless touring. Leaving behind a whole lotto touring and two EPs filled to the rim with short burst of hardcore punk energy, they managed to stay still long enough to compose and record their debut LP. This time around you can see they have had space, maybe even mental space, to put together an extremely well balanced and produced record. The wild riffing is still there so is the seamless rhythm section backing one of the most energetic voices in current hardcore punk. Perhaps the most noticeable changes are the delay vocals and the electronic segments and intros joining the 11 tracks together. Don’t worry, ULTRA is still an anti-authoritarian riff powerhouse but this time they are proving that you can keep one foot firmly pressed in the political hardcore scene while breaking free of music expectations.
Released to coincide with ULTRA’s first Japanese/Seoul tour, Alta Montaña comes housed in a 350 gsm board sleeve, designed by the band using location pictures by bass player David G. and singer Ian. Laid out by grumpy extraordinary Daniel Frutos who doubled as studio engineer during the recording at La Cova Studio in Barcelona. Finally, it was mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege.
Our take: After two earlier 7”s we get the debut 12” from Barcelona’s Ultra, and it’s a big step up from those earlier EPs. Like a lot of bands from Barcelona, Ultra have a progressive sound with lots of twists, turns, and intricacies in the songwriting. That’s not to say they don’t rage; like Osservati Dall'Inganno-era Indigesti (or that record’s obvious inspiration, the Bad Brains), the intricacies increase the power rather than provide a break from it. If you like lightning-fast, stop on a dime hardcore you’ll love the tight playing and clear and powerful recording, but my favorite parts are when the band spreads out. The guitar solos are a treat, with the title track’s wild, whammy bar-heavy lead reminding me of a weird, progressive thrash band like Nocturnus. I also love the Sunn-esque droning intro to “Estado Vital,” and the two electronic pieces on the record are also a pleasant breather. If you’re into the noisy and progressive hardcore that’s been coming out of Barcelona for the past decade, it’s hard to imagine you wouldn’t love Alta Montaña.