Under Saturn Retrograde is the 6th studio album for these Italians that manage to defy exact classification and avoid surrendering to confinement within a style that tends to hinder creativity. The phrase being used to promote this release, “Nihilistic Black Rock Unlimited”, which fits, but it’s surely more metal than rock, definitely black overall but not avantgarde/post/whatever stuff, but there’s also sludge,death metal, doom layers in here that’ll throw the most discerning listener off a bit. In all honesty, I don’t give two shits about what it is as long as it’s heavy, aggressive, and solid, which this one certainly is. At first listen you expect one thing and keep getting another, equally impressive, slap across your face with each new track.

My standout track is the opener “Reject Existence”, with it’s melodic fusion of modern black metal aggression, hardcore/post hardcore metal riffing and rhythms, and something that really gets under you skin and stains your brain to “repeat…play…repeat…”. This track has the whole “dark melodic anthem that gets caught in your head and rips your ass open” all at once.

“Shutter” brings in some doom metal/sludge elements that is essential in my book, as those are two styles that really lay close to my heart, but they still tend to keep things oozing forth a bit more rapidly to give us a tar-pit brawl on speed, cutting through swamp moss with a nuclear powered chainsaw. “Downlift” returns to the melodic upheaval of “Reject Existence”, but with a bit of the iconic death metal guitar squeal and more moody and brooding atmosphere.

Who can miss the cover of “I Wanna Be Your Dog”? A personal favorite of mine, and a great cover keeping the ugly punk rock spirit of the Stooges alive while managing to add a bit more power to it…blackening your eye with a coal crusted iron fist. The two part “Under Saturn Retrograde” showcases more of a polished and unique modern black metal style, but never losing it enough into too much shine and not enough steel toe stomping to bruise it up. Some things, especially metal, were not meant to be pretty, after all.

Overall this release is solid and promising, uncompromising, unique, and still maintains its metallic roots. I’d be very hard-pressed to call it black metal, as I tend to be with much these days, rock (generally meaning too whimpy to be metal), or anything specific. I guess I’d think of it as a band similar to Nachtmystium, where they just keep evolving into something dark, melodic, and unique, but never losing their intensity.