Written by: Blackie Skulless
If this album cover doesn’t catch your eye immediately, then I don’t know what will. There’s so much to look at, just as there is so much to listen to with the debut Universally Estranged record. Entitled Reared Up In Spectral Predation, this is a (pretty obviously) space / sci-fi / alien themed technical death metal album with a drop of synthwave. Yes, you read that correctly, and thankfully it doesn’t try to be a combo of the two, rather it uses passages to join different ideas.
So it should go without saying that you’re going to be immersed in wildly fast and intricate strum and riff patterns with sporadic solos all over the place. Nothing we haven’t seen before, right? Well, somewhat. Universally Estranged is actually pretty left-field even for an already niche style. The synths aside, there’s an extra layer of cosmic flavors strictly from the guitar tones casting noisy auras crossed with crystal clear solo wankery. Neat as it sounds, I found it to be overwhelming.
But interestingly enough, it wasn’t difficult to dig out the rhythmic integrity that death metal is built on. “Sentient Meatsack” is overloaded with noisy effects and drum blasts, yet I found the buried riff to have such a groove to it. Early on, “Despoiling Souls Of Flesh Across The Galaxy” opens on a note where it’s damn near impossible to follow what’s going on, but its descent into “The Visitor” somehow manages to feel organic. The latter of those two songs is far easier to digest and packs a more precise punch. Plus, its outro gleams light on those synthwave transitions.
Admittedly, Reared Up In Spectral Predation is guilty of taking that simpler step the opposite direction a bit too far as well. By that, I mean the repetition in patterns starts to grow exhausting underneath the overly extensive leads by the time you reach “Blistered Under The Blue Illusion.” Some may actually prefer this, and perhaps the right mood could fix it, but I couldn’t get all of it to stick after a few passes through the black hole. The softer breaks are essential for full intake, which is what I love about the wavy exit on “Teeming With That Of Unknown Origin.”
Overall, Universally Estranged are a tough one. I give this great props for doing something so interesting, and I won’t act like it isn’t mind blowing or innovative. On a musical front it definitely isn’t entirely my cup of tea. I’d check this out if any of the descriptions match your interests. Fans of Xoth, Rings Of Saturn, Cyberdyne, or Nucleus could find something to dig here.
Universally Estranged - Reared Up In Spectral Predation will be released April 30th, 2021 via Blood Harvest Records
Universally Estranged can be found:
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!