Atmospheric doom/sludge. Ponder that tag and allow the words and your imagination to create a world, a special place of their design. Personally, there’s no light where those words take me. I see the genre before me and am transported somewhere dark, cold; visions of Errata convulse under Clouds which Swallow the Sun, and I begin to dream of a place that I could call home. Norway, Finland, Russia, Canada… the lands of ice and snow dance behind my eyes, and I am as unable to resist the siren call of such a genre as <celebrity in 2017> is able to resist <heinous act>. I have a thing for getting choked and caressed
to by the sounds of scenery scorned by the sun, so I must admit that I was most fascinated by one specific aspect of Jupiterian when I chose to review their second full-length, Terraforming: these motherfuckers are Brazilian, yo [Yo ho ho, no more yos for thee. – Steel].
This intrigued me most because I wanted to hear what, if any, cultural influences would surface throughout the album’s six tracks, and how such fora da caixa fare might help to push the envelope in some way. Turns out, the only real examples of such exploration are boxed into the percussion of “Matriarch” and “Forefathers”. Otherwise, this atmospheric doom/sludge album is pretty straightforward blackened doom, albeit one with a genre identity crisis. From start to finish, Terraforming takes the grounds which bands such as Behemoth or Blut Aus Nord have tread their cloven hooves upon and Ahabs the ebony terrain into something monolithic and slow, the landscape altered yet still familiar.
Familiarity is fine when it comes to identifying inspiration, but formulaic songwriting is a different story, especially when that story is told in five tracks out of six. The first telling is in opener “Matriarch,” and it goes like this: The gates of Terraforming are slowly, menacingly drawn open by percussion and ambience, then torn asunder as guitarists V and A drag us through fields of blackened doom akin to a slower Behemoth passage. After skulking through the introductory fog and wandering through a chuggy, doomy valley, things lull for a breather before the track re-energizes itself and we find ourselves rising, climbing with the music and V’s Nergal-y roars. We crest at an atmospheric peak, then cast ourselves from such great heights as the mounting fury of the journey explodes into a supernova of unbridled rage and chaos. The onslaught eventually subsides, leaving us able to catch our breath or bleed out as needed. The end result makes for a strong start, but it unfortunately somewhat weakens the succeeding tracks once you realize that the song is not so much an opening statement as it is a template of everything to come, the slight exception to this being the somehow bearable
“Unintelligible Screaming Buried Under Ambient Noise” title track.
To that end, the music itself is never boring. While the foundation of each offering may be essentially identical, the well of inspiration which these Brazilians draw from runs deep, and a tasteful array of soundscapes provides the variety necessary to prevent déjà vu. Whether it’s the crawling Behemoth worship of “Matriarch,” the Saturnus-does-Insomnium melodies of “Unearthly Glow,” or the Dodecahedron tones of “Forefathers,” the tonal realm being explored is diverse enough that one can forgive the predictability. Nothing in these Jupiterian lands reeks of outright plagiarism or unoriginality; rather, everything simply follows the same path to reach its destination. While the last album and earlier EP’s may have been a bit more explorative, the band has still managed to craft something worth visiting in Terraforming. Bassists in particular may find this one to be yet another slap to the face as B-ist R continues the quiet legacy of absentee low-enders in metal mixes, but aside from that and the Alphabits shtick there is very little to complain about here.
Ultimately, Terraforming is a solid album. Exotic envelope-pusher it mayn’t be, but the band displays a strong understanding of at least one song structure and they’re clearly able to draw from multiple sources of inspiration and blend it all into something of their own. Without a litany of rain ‘n snow soaked brothers in blackened doom crowding their local metal scene it should be a little easier for the band to stand out and command attention. I’ll be making the occasional pilgrimage back to this, and I’m certainly keen to see where Jupiterian takes us next, I just hope that future releases see more shape thrown into their darkly colorful world.