Some metal albums contain atmosphere elements. Some metal albums ARE atmosphere. I’m thinking about releases like Spectral Voice’s thrilling debut full-length, or Darkspace’s four part ambient black metal opus. These kinds of records are not designed with a piecemeal atmospheric aesthetic in mind, but are instead composed and performed with atmosphere being the primary and most essential element to their experience. Atmospheric black metal is a subgenre that spawned almost entirely on this concept, with acts like Alcest, Akhlys, and The Ruins of Beverast delivering records positively dripping with atmosphere as a primary function of their construction and execution.
Enter Sxuperion, the one-man blackened death metal project that transcends time and space. Working a particularly murky kind of cosmic magic that follows the recent trend of galactic punishment championed by Blood Incantation and Tomb Mold while diverging considerably from these more popular iterations of this sound, Sxuperion has released five full-length records containing more full-on dread than a baker’s dozen of its contemporaries. The project’s latest offering, Omniscient Pulse, is a record that any fan of death metal’s furthest and darkest reaches should consume immediately and with relish.
The Darkspace namedrop above is particularly relevant as a point of comparison. While leaning much more heavily into death metal territory, the two projects share a very similar aesthetic. Bloody, uncompromisingly raw riffs are encased in a shell of cavernous ambient atmosphere that is as relentless as the brutal songwriting it shrouds. Omniscient Pulse is nothing if not singular, delivering its fearsome guitar-based insanity with enough filthy tones to rival Mylingar. This, quite honestly, will be the make or break aspect of this record for most. While the album contains undercurrents of diversity and variance, the track list is uniform in its penchant for total cosmic annihilation.
Each track thrums and pulses with a manic level of aggression, with opener “Owl” setting the tone with a lonely, menacing, reverb-soaked sequence of notes that lets listeners know exactly where this record is going. It feels reminiscent of the opening notes of Spectral Voice’s above-mentioned debut, eventually building into a supernova of riffs that feel inspired by the first pounding sequence in Our Place of Worship Is Silence’s “Artificial Purgatory”… if it was simultaneously being catapulted into space, that is. It’s a fitting introduction to the madness in store throughout the rest of the record, and gives listeners a firm glimpse of what Omniscient Pulse will continually and mercilessly offer. If you’re hooked from track one, prepare your body. From this point on, the riffs just don’t stop coming.
Omniscient Pulse is without question a fundamentally guitar-based record, with riffs blasting forth in a bloody flood at break-neck speed. There isn’t a single track that I could write about here that wouldn’t include descriptors like “punishing” and “overwhelming”, and this is mainly due to the non-stop deluge of unfiltered riffage. It’s a veritable assault on the senses through and through. The album’s second track, “Death (Bussard Ramjet Malfunction)”, builds on the elements established by “Owl” while adding a particularly dissonant edge, with horn-like chords intermingling with a battering ram of a riff that is as crushing as one can expect to hear this year. Which, as alluded to previously, is honestly a theme throughout the remainder of the record. Even shorter compositions like the album’s title track and “Betrothed Catacombs” contain enough riff-heavy blasting to fill up many a lesser record, while never losing their distinct sense of overwhelming atmosphere.
But that doesn’t mean that Omniscient Pulse is devoid of melody. Album closers “A New Universe Awaits (Burning the Cloth)” and “Myopian Frequency Release” bring atmosphere, heaviness, and distinct and eerie melodies together in a finale that perfectly encapsulates the crushing work that came before it, combining all of the elements of the album’s previous tracks into a gargantuan, 11-minute titan that is one of the album’s most diverse and thoroughly interesting sequences.
From the production to the songwriting and instrumentation, Omniscient Pulse is an uncompromising stunning record, full stop. It knows exactly what it is, what it wants to accomplish, and how to complete that mission with relentless, brutal efficiency. It’s a record built on a foundation of riffs and atmosphere that are unassailable, culminating in a collection of tracks that are both memorable and punishing. It’s a swirling kaleidoscope of cosmic punishment that on repeat listens only gets more dense and profoundly interesting. If you enjoy the atmospheric gyrations of Darkspace, Sxuperion will provide you with ample material to become enamored with. Uncompromising to a fault, Omniscient Pulse is one of the most rewarding listens I’ve had in this space in a long time. Don’t hesitate. Give this thing a go immediately.
Omniscient Pulse is out now via Blood Mountain Records.