Omukade: a strange and wondrous journey through free-form death metal / jazz / grindcore

Ukakuja, Omukade, United Kingdom, Centipede Abyss, limited edition CD (2023)

If the front cover artwork doesn’t put you off, you are in for a strange and wondrous ride with this quintet playing experimental death metal / jazz / grindcore. “Omukade” is the first album from Ukakuja whose members include vocalist Lori Bravo, former vocalist / bassist with death metal band Nuclear Death (1985 – 1990) and who now performs solo with backing band Raped; and drummer Jared Moran, a prolific musician who has worked in a huge number of bands since at least 2009. By the time you read this review and looked up the Encyclopaedia Metallum link to Moran’s past and present groups, that link will be in sore need of another update to accommodate yet another act. The other three members (one American, two British) have backgrounds in black metal, death metal, free jazz, noise and various combinations of these genres. With such a distinguished combined pedigree, Ukakuja can be expected to deliver truly manic music from start to finish. Just in case though, the five roped in four manic guest musicians to help out with vocals and lyrics, and of these four, the one I’m most familiar with is Portuguese / Brazilian Nuno Lourenço (of 0-NUN and various other solo and collaboration projects) who adds his own special brand of blackened death metal madness to one track.

And so off we go on a crazed journey of insane nuclear-powered drumming, shrill demented guitars and synthesisers, and above all Lori Bravo’s rantings and ravings, howls and wails, and groaning and moaning in a world somewhere in outer space, a strange dimension all her own. Most of the nine tracks are very short, with only two exceeding the three-minute mark, and the entire album is barely over 20 minutes long so it’s best treated – if you really feel you can stand the cacophony and Bravo’s weird and wonderful warbling – as one continuous work to be heard in one sitting. Individual tracks can pass in a noisy grind death-jazz blur that sometimes features additional monstrous vocals, as if Bravo’s vocalising weren’t already deranged enough.

Fun and scary, angry and demented, “Omukade” is sheer madness all the way through., taking place in a universe at once familiar (in an old B-grade science fiction flick sort of way) and yet truly weird, freaky and more than just a bit unsettling. However it crazed it becomes, the album is very clear and spacious in its sound and production, with every instrument audible and Bravo’s soprano voice, benefiting from her operatic background, floating at impossibly high sustained notes above the music. With repeated spins, “Omukade” reveals quite a bit of subtlety in its range of sounds and their volume levels, and the album quickly becomes your next best friend, able to sort out the phonies and the truly devoted among your social set.