By Dave Pehling

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Italian psychedelic doom merchants Ufomammut bring their mind-altering live show back to the Bay Area this Thursday as a U.S. tour marking the band’s 20th anniversary kicks off at the Oakland Metro Operahouse.

Refining their unique style of mind-altering heaviness since first coming together two decades ago, the trio of guitarist Poia, bassist Urlo and drummer Vita has explored its mix of droning riffs inspired by metal mavericks like Melvins and Boris with the echo-drenched, effects-heavy space rock of Pink Floyd and Hawkwind over the course of ten albums.

After making contributions to a number of compilations (most notably a stunning version of “Piece of Mind” for the 1999 Blue Cheer tribute Blue Explosion), the band issued its first full album Godlike Snake for the Beard of Stars imprint in 2000. The collection of head-nodding, down-tuned guitar workouts laced with heavily processed vocals and shimmering synthesizers revealed the singular and deliberate path the group would follow on its early releases.

While the band had already delved into extended songs on its debut, Ufomammut would dig deeper into the concept starting with the epic 27-minute track “Void/Elephantom” from the 2008 effort Idolum that slowly built from an echoing guitar figure to a massive lumbering riff that eventually dissolves into an extended synth drone. The idea was taken even further on Eve, essentially an atmospheric hour-long song broken up into five movements. In 2009, the band brought a brief West Coast tour to San Francisco, taking to the road with longtime collaborators Malleus, the rock art collective that makes album art and live video projections for the group in addition to concert posters.

In 2012, Ufomammut signed to like-minded metal experimentalists Neurosis’ Neurot Recordings label for the creation of the band’s most ambitious release yet. Split into two separate discs, ORO: Opus Primum and ORO: Opus Alter were both filled with disembodied voices and repetitive, minimalist riffs that pull the listener inexorably into a sonic vortex. Malleus also crafted full album-length video collages to provide an equally mesmerizing visual accompaniment for the two stunning records.

On the band’s 2015 Neurot Recordings album Ecate, Ufomammut delivered another stellar collection of songs that match crushing heaviness to ethereal ambient sounds. Its most recent effort for the label, 2017’s monolithic sludge feat 8 provided an even heavier dose of the group’s crushing sonic chemistry. The trio has scheduled its current 20th anniversary U.S. tour (only its third full-blown trip through the States ever) around an anticipated appearance at the Friday pre-party for the massive Psycho Smokeout on 4-20 at the Catch One nightclub in Los Angeles.

After a trio of California dates, the band will head out for a run of shows on the East Coast and in the South with like-minded heavy rock band Kings Destroy. This tour kickoff gig in Oakland co-presented by Bay Area metal promoter Lucifer’s Hammer and Nanotear Booking will feature local blackened doom heavyweights Larvae and throwback prog/hard rock outfit Owl.

Thursday, April 18, 8 p.m. $15-$18
Oakland Metro Operahouse