Intentionally robotic but steeped in a groove-centric conceptualism that can’t help but bring to mind the riff-heavy sounds of the first Queens of the Stone Age record, Ultra Major’s “Disaster” initially feels like a slab of rock n’ roll from another era in history, but as it unfolds, it starts to sound unmistakably modern in every way that actually counts. A lyrically brooding number that alludes to emotionality a lot of hard rock bands stay away from these days, this track and its companion video are enjoyable for the audiophile and the pop poet fan the same.
The heaviness of the guitars creates a savage sonic depression on the vocals, and from where I sit, this effect can be credited with singlehandedly intensifying the passion in the lyrics in a way nothing else could have. It’s only through the thick grind of the distortion, as melodic as the strings may be, that we’re able to appreciate the punch of the narrative in this single, and by putting as much oomph into the instrumentation as they did, Ultra Major prove to have a truly gifted vocalist in addition to a smart approach to making intellectually-stimulating alternative rock in 2020.
There’s definitely a Ween-esque experimental quality to the structure of the verses here that Ultra Major should explore in the future, and I like that they’re able to balance this fringe element in their sound with something that is undeniably radio-ready in the style of the mix. The instrumental components give us a familiar, almost classic rock vibe atop which the band colorizes a confession-style set of verses that sound personal and unforced, and even if this sounds like a notion other groups have had in the past, I would ask you to try and find another rock n’ roll band out at the moment that has the combination of aesthetical prowess and aural thunder this indie crew does.
While I can’t say for sure when I’m going to have the opportunity to do so (as is the case for all of us this autumn), I’m really looking forward to seeing Ultra Major take the stage with material like “Disaster” in the near future. Theirs is a sound that was made to blossom before a crowd of people, and although this is a standard studio recording much like any other, it bears a certain weightiness that tells me future tours for this group are going to be must-see events.