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Superterrestrial formed in 2017 in the UK with the objective of writing space themed black metal that incorporated a heavy dose of ambient and other cosmic sounding instrumentation. Over the course of three albums now they’ve been working on refining their approach and the interplay between the shimmering synths and colder black metal. Their latest effort The Fathomless Decay continues this transformation with some tweaks to the production and may be the most seamless they’ve fused the atmospheric with the abrasive to date, giving listeners plenty to get lost in.
The Fathomless Decay falls somewhere between second wave black metal and atmospheric black metal, sometimes coming through like a mixture of early Wolves at the Throne Room and Darkthrone when the songwriting is oriented towards waves of blasting and colder tonality. But there’s actually a bit of variation to the material that keeps Superterrestrial from falling too closely into either of these camps, as there are often moves into slower, almost doomier territory that flows well with the faster moments. The songs tend to hint at one direction and then switch gears entirely, with the softer almost post rock/metal opening of “Transient Lunar Phenomenon” giving way unexpectedly to riffing that feels much closer to Blut Aus Nord. It’s this type of unexpected yet seamless transitions that work to the band’s advantage, though they do sometimes cut some of them just a bit short. The ambient passages also work well within the confines of each track and I appreciate how they’ve woven into each one rather than just being shoehorned in as an intro or outro. Stylistically these fall somewhere between older dark ambient/soundtrack works and the ambient part of Darkspace albums, which definitely adds to the appeal. Admittedly while some of the unexpected flourishes are cut short, the longest tracks also feel overstretched. “Periastron” and Heliacal Rising” both push into the seven- and eight-minute range and while they have interesting synth work, the black metal passages repeat some of their ideas for longer than they need to. It doesn’t derail the experience, but there remains some room for the group to tighten up things even further.
Two of Superterrestrial’s members contribute vocals throughout The Fathomless Decay, and they both come through as harsher shrieks and screams that sound as though they’re just barely breaking through the wall of sound. One of the vocalists has a much higher and shrill pitch while the other is a bit lower and blends into the background a bit more. I could see some people wishing that there was a bit more clarity to the vocals and they weren’t so buried, but personally I think they suit the cold and mysterious sound that the band is going for. However, The Fathomless Decay does seem to feel a little one-dimensional when it comes to the screams, even with two different singers, and I’d like just a little more variation to the performance.
There may be some tweaks that would make Superterrestrial’s material stronger, but I’ve still found myself returning to their latest album quite a bit thanks to its mysterious and haunting synth work alongside the colder black metal. It’s clear that they’ve been able to fuse the two sides of their sound better together than ever before, and there are already some unexpected flourishes to their writing that make the band worth checking out. The Fathomless Decay is available from Green Flaw Productions.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg