Jupiterian – Protosapien Review

Lured in initially by that artwork – unmistakably Mariusz Lewandowski but with a teensy variation on his typical hooded figure and preferred color palette – the advance track (“Mere Humans”) for Jupiterian’s Protosapien sounded huge; as in, geologically significant. This Brazilian four-piece was previously unknown to me, so off I scurried to the AMG archive dungeons to ensure that it could be mine to review! I was to be disappointed, as I discovered that a certain Muppet had in fact reviewed the last slab of atmospheric doom sludge dished up by Jupiterian. Then, when the news broke that Muppet was going to be pursuing interests outside The Hall, I realized that the follow up to 2017’s Terraforming was up for grabs after all. Alas, I moved too slowly and it took the combined powers of me and my brother-in-sludge Cherd to persuade Steel that Jupiterian’s third outing was really unlikely to be his thing. So, was Protosapien worth it?

Mesmerically slow and unrelentingly abrasive, Protosapien crashes over you in doom-laden waves. Emerging into the light gloom that follows the unsettlingly ominous intro “Homecoming,” blackened sludge riffs so thick you could chew them do battle with the throat-shredding, bellowed roars of vocalist V. Recalling Unsettling Whispers-era Gaerea, slowed to the speed of Primitive Man, Jupiterian are on caustically abrasive form. R’s rumbling bass lines gives Protosapien an earthy, cavernous sound beneath the churning guitars of A and V. When Jupiterian do shift gears and step up the tempo (“Voidborn”), they hit a sort of thunderous chug approaching Deathspell Omega territory.

At their best though, Jupiterian evoke the sort of monolithic doom of Eremit, tinged with the dissonant melodies of early Gojira. This is the glorious territory they inhabit on Protosapien’s longest, and also best, cut “Starless.” Majestic but still brutally harsh, this track traverses dark landscapes, as massive riffs fall off into cliffs of feedback and G’s drums rise and fall in both tempo and ferocity, at times almost stalling before bursting back into life. Album closer “Earthling Bloodline” initially crawls forward at funereal pace, before nasty, blackened sludge reminiscent of Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean lifts the pace in stuttering gasps. This duo closes out Protosapien on a very strong note.

Clocking in at a pleasingly crisp 35 minutes, Protosapien is a crushing, claustrophobic record, much closer in tone to Jupiterian’s 2015 debut, Aphotic, than their last outing. Where Terraforming toyed with sections of (relatively) melodic levity, there is no light to be found on Protosapien. This is reflected in the sound on show too, with a rough, hard edge to the guitars and a thunderous bass sound that gives the record a vastness I associate with funeral doom more than sludge. Protosapien lacks a little in the variety stakes, however. As Muppet said of Terraforming, so I can say of Protosapien: pretty well everything on the album is well done but there is little to surprise – for the most part, the songwriting sets its path and continues in a fairly straight line to its ultimate destination. The exception to this is “Voidborn,” parts of which sound out of place set against the rest of the material. There is nothing wrong with the song but it ups the pace, and introduces both rasped and semi-clean vocals, in a way that is so isolated from everything else Jupiterian do that it stands out.

The short runtime just about covers the relatively straight-line songwriting and the epic “Starless” makes for a standout seven minutes and change. Overall though, Protosapien doesn’t quite have the edge to take Jupiterian to the next level. It’s a solid, bruisingly bleak album, with strong performances from all four band members and one which I have no hesitation recommending to sludge and atmospheric doom fans alike. I would, however, like to see Jupiterian take a few more risks and experiment just a little more on their next record.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Transcending Obscurity
Websites: jupiterian.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/jupiteriansect
Releases Worldwide: Digital: 09.11.2020 | EU: 2020.09.11 | NA: 10.09.2020

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