A singular, lens-void observatory in the deepest reaches of the Sierra Nevada mountains persists its gloom-attuned peering into the sparkling and unpolluted void. Documenting decades of alien strength-driven blasting, blackened and woefully deep-space atmospheric death metal riffs, and heady lo-fi science fiction themed works since the late 90’s. Perhaps better known for his black metal centric trio Valdur and their own fine string of albums, Sxuperion is the longest running solo project from musician Matthew S. who carries with him Garden of Hesperides, Sxap, Weverin and the Bloody Mountain Records imprint. Context isn’t entirely integral to understanding the appeal of Sxuperion‘s cursed brutality where masterfully raw and ‘real’-beaten drums and a fully do-it-yourself process from performance to packaging make for a thrilling ride whether you are checking out this fifth album or following the story starting with the first demo. The search for greater understanding and true enrichment demands holistic consideration but, if you’re no cosmonaut, it’d suffice to say that if you enjoyed the previous album (‘Endless Spiritual Embodiment‘, 2019) then ‘Omniscient Pulse’ will satisfy and thrill just a small leap beyond and feel entirely relevant to the greater Sxuperion timeline.
Based out of the beautiful natural wonderland between the mountains, forest and at least a three hour drive south of Reno, Nevada on the California side, without question one cannot consider the immense natural beauty that surrounds Sxuperion at all times the subject or theme of his music. Far from naturalistic black metal and focused on finding the rhythms envisioned for this ugly, bellowing cosmic blackened death metal sound took quite some time as Valdur and other projects pulled focus away from Sxuperion. Skittering and jagged rushes of high-speed riffing, early Mithras-esque effects-soaked and spaced-out leads first began to catch ears with some serious but still in development mastery on his debut, ‘Through Cosmic Corridors‘ (2014) where one can still hear echoes of early demos (‘Third War‘, 2003) within the evolved modus ten years later. All major defining traits of the project are readily available on any given early release, such as the carefully selected voice samples lifted from science fiction movies as well as a developing sensibility for creation of sci-fi synth/ambiance as interlude and flourish. The core experience is yet blasting blackened death metal, and I mean blackened for its dark atmosphere and tremolo-surged riffing which frequently breaks out into atmospheric fits that land on the ear somewhere between Cosmic Void Ritual‘s gruff belching and the harrowing storms of Abyssal, yet I’d have to suggest Sxuperion is less technical than either band and leans towards fluid and often less repetitious work than any comparably themed or phrased riffing. All of the right pieces were there in 2014 yet the sparking momentum within all of the musician’s projects really began to catch afire soon after.
‘Cosmic Void‘ (2016) was the splaying of the lotus, the rippling effect of and exploding star, and a startling leap in fission that would serve as the most quintessential rendering of the project, truly deserving notice at that point. To this day I’d say that second album is most approachable and thematically informative place to start due to some brilliant use of melody on a few tracks (“Irreligious Cosmic Void”) and the generally strict use of rhythms that are key within Sxuperion‘s oeuvre. To be fair the typical war metal worm will be squirming that I’d praised that war-like record or, at least the one that goes the hardest in that direction — Surely the aforementioned ‘Endless Spiritual Embodiment‘ pushed away from that arena into Sxuperion‘s own headspace when it released last year. Though I’d written a small blurb about it no doubt it’d been one of those records that doubled in weight after returning to it several times. The two years in between albums had not only coincided with a burst of energy from Valdur but saw a meaningful leap beyond ‘Cosmic Void’ both in terms of claustrophobic brutality, more precise performances and deeper experimentation into atmospheric realms. Each release had achieved some remarkable progression since the last yet it’d still felt somewhat like a side-project at the end of the day. ‘Endless Spiritual Embodiment’ was the step beyond and now, what could ‘Omniscient Pulse’ possibly be?
At high volume, in a state of trance and openness it is a million tendrils writhing through a portal above and a breathe of darkness that’d erase the blue from the very light in the sky. “Owl” is a harrowing invasion observed and engulfed, growled from gigantic thunder-depth mouth and swung wide in full arc as a brutal hammer of atmospheric-yet-stoic death metal that makes its core statement, transitions into a second main riff and then fades away into sampled speech and sci-fi ambiance. For a six minute opener it feels like a post-rock vignette when considered as a piece of music yet in motion it is harrowing brutality enough to shatter cartilage from the listener’s ear. High volume is almost necessary for immersion at this point where brutal blasts arrive as if pulled from the most exciting moments of Molested‘s ‘Blod-Draum‘ and showered with a deathly sci-fi ambiance by way of reverb and very present drumming. The triumphant weave of the rhythm guitars on ‘Endless Spiritual Embodiment’ receive the biggest update on ‘Omniscient Pulse’ where cleaner sections haunt and deeper complexity reigns when certain songs call for a storm of riffs rather than Sxuperion‘s trademark hand-shattering tremolo gusts. “Planet Crusher – Defeating the Holy Emperor” best clarifies some of these changes while providing an exemplar look at improvements in rhythmic tightness, increased layering for guitar performances and use of a wider variety of tones. It is otherwise the least adorned track of the lot, not featuring any of the inspired cosmic horror synth and sound collage transitions that offer a great point of distinction for ‘Omniscient Pulse’, calling back to some of the project’s earlier days where samples were use more heavily for certain songs.
There is an exciting trip to be found within this album but do not expect a preened, cleaned-up, or glossy render packed with trendy ‘old school’ pandering. Sxuperion is an underground and outsider experimental death metal project fully committed to independence and as a result the render is not going to sound like the latest whatever album to hit larger labels. It is, however, impressive and beyond atmospheric to the nth degree. For the underground death metal fanatic who can see past the 90’s underground, has some taste in early Mithras and garage-blasted death metal noise in general, the insurgency of ‘Omniscient Pulse’ will impress. The only thing that I’ve never been a fan of is the frequent use of sample voice from movies and tv programs, though I recognize that it does often add to the experience I’d be just as happy of use of foreboding phrasing and curious, mind-bending lines came from the vocals rather than samples. It is not a huge gripe, though I find myself avoiding albums with spoken word samples more and more over time when they’re shelved, that’ll be a personal preference and likely something few will take to heart until you’re countless listens into the experience and any potential rumination upon it. For my own taste Sxuperion continue to be a band to celebrate rather than merely ‘watch’ and ‘Omniscient Pulse’ is the finest reason to date to delve into their long history of increasingly honed cosmic dismay. A high recommendation.
High recommendation. 4.0/5.0
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