Review: Sxuperion – Omniscient Pulse
Rumbles and Groans From The Inky Black Beyond, Also Blast Beats.
The mission statement of Omniscient Pulse is in the title of the second track, “Death (Bussard Ramjet Malfunction)”. The parenthetical refers to a science-fictional space engine, capable of faster-than-light travel. The engine, having gone haywire, slips out of its magnetic field and drops you, the passenger, helplessly in the great sprawling black, as far from signs of life as any carbon-based organism has ever been, a space so vast it creates cacophony in your cranium just to comprehend it. And just at the edge of a faraway cloud of cosmic dust, inky silhouettes suggest something resembling life, but perhaps sparing you the agony of beholding them in full. This sort of pitch-black, sense-starved imagery is Sxuperion’s canvas, paint, and brush.
This is the Valdur drummer’s sixth full-length solo output, and it is nothing if not single-minded. Sonically, each song is a continued variation on a theme, or rather, steps on the same journey. The rhythm section is monochromatically black metal. The guitars are thrumming, consistent, and relentless, and certainly not overburdened by melody, accompanied by hammering drums that only ramp up the pressure, forming an engine that bores into your thoughts and rumbles your brain. On occasion the songs turn away from nonstop tremolo runs to settle into something recognizable as a riff (a noticeably more death metal riff at that), such as on the opening track “Owl”, or the churning “Planet Crusher – Defeating The Holy Emperor”. But the real purpose of the rhythm section is as a backdrop to the experimental atmospheric leads.
The most hypnotizing element of Omniscient Pulse is the seemingly unguided ripples of guitar whine that float in zero-gravity above the record’s crater-pocked surface. Sxuperion’s use of volume swells and droning elements calls up the twisted tones of a waterphone, but somehow even more shrill and alien. While the rhythm section can bury a space traveler in black noise, the dirge-like melodies bring emotional heft, even tension, like fleeting glimpses of a larger form shearing through the lightless aurora. It can be surprising how many different ways these drones are applied, evolving over the course of the record from seemingly random and shapeless into something purposeful and intelligent. The way these drifting leads evolve over the record until they start forming honest-to-no-god harmonies in the final track, “Myopian Frequency Release”, is like discovering the snaking cracks in an asteroid cave are actually maps of hidden realities written by an alien hand.
Between the dichotomy of the rhythm and lead sections, there is Sxuperion’s vocals. Linking the distant, formless whines and drones that form the album’s lead section, and the driving, unyielding rumble of the rhythm are raspy death metal growls, emerging from the lower bass bands of the mix and caked in reverb. The effects on the vocals come off as very distant, and when laid against the torrent of buzzing guitar and drums, sometimes their presence is only felt in echoes, like an errant signal from deep space searing through delicate sensors. They certainly aren’t the star of the show, but take their place quite well adding another flavor to the rhythm. Like all good cosmic horror writers, Sxuperion knows that he can add more fear to the album by suggesting things below the surface than displaying them up front.
In between hints at deeper form shifting behind the deafening blasts, there are also many soft, synth-tinged breaks to build atmosphere. The aforementioned waterphone guitar tones enter and leave as they please, keeping the disparate sounds of overpowering black metal and dark ambient woven together. On the penultimate track, “A New Universe Awaits (Burning The Cloth)”, the two styles finally overlap, with the guitar and drums finally spreading thinner, dialing back the intensity, and strengthening the ambient elements from beneath in preparation for the finale.
One less remarkable motif throughout the album is the use of samples from various science fiction films. They’re not exactly deep cuts (two different tracks feature lines from Blade Runner, and another from David Lynch’s Dune), and rarely seem to match up with the mood of the track they’re on, no matter where they’re deployed. The best that can be said is that they sink into the background enough that they don’t disrupt the pace or the mood, and don’t hang around long enough to drag you out of the experience.
This really is an art piece, made to draw you, weightlessly, into a journey through the deepest, coldest depths of space and the inhuman realms beyond sight and sound, chapter by chapter. Without an intent listener, it quickly starts feeling monotonous and thrown together. This is one to immerse yourself in. Cut yourself off from distractions, like an astronaut in an isolated capsule, and what was once repetitive becomes inescapable, and what was once unguided and random starts seeming eerily intentional.
Or, I don’t know, watch Event Horizon on mute and play this record over it. Could be rad.