Writing fresh introductions for black metal reviews becomes exponentially more difficult with each new attempt. Case in point: I have already written this entire review, sans introduction, because I had no clue how to introduce Superterrestrial. Like many modern underground dwellers, they revel in secrecy. Not only are the band members’ roles undisclosed, but information on The Void that Exists available online at the time of this writing is so scarce that Metal Archives has mistakenly categorized it as a two-track EP. In actuality, the second record from this mysterious U.K. outfit is a full LP, showcasing a streamlined hodgepodge of various black metal styles. Unfortunately, Superterrestrial doesn’t use this blend to craft a complete artistic vision, resulting in dreary competence. As this record’s title would suggest: it simply exists.
The Void that Exists finds itself at a crossroads where second-wave black metal, atmospheric black metal, and horror synth soundtracks intersect. “Intersect” might not actually be an apt phrase, as the latter component doesn’t co-mingle with the black metal aspects so much as it exists alongside them via in-track interludes. Even so, these moments make for the record’s most intriguing sections, with the grating buzzsaw synths in the latter half of “Heliacal Rising” and the somber, Silent Hill-esque piano melody of “Collapsar” making for memorable highlights. Superterrestrial‘s black metal side presides over most of this album, and though the blackened portions are the least interesting of the two sounds, their tonality makes them a good match. The lonely, claustrophobic soundscape carved out by the tremolo riffs recalls the apocalyptic melancholy of Manetheren, and the persistent sense of oppression makes it feel like the record has a purpose.
Unfortunately, that purpose is rendered elusive by Superterrestrial‘s execution. The band seems to arrange their riffs in an order which hints at an overarching structure, but the static loudness of the riffs offers little in the way of compositional escalation. This results in what is more or less a riff salad with synth dressing, only the riffs presented aren’t particularly kinetic or creative, amounting to little more than blackened chord progressions. This means that The Void that Exists‘ significant atmosphere is left to pick up the slack, but the melodies born from it are often forgettable. The record’s sullen personality leaves a lasting impression, but melody-wise, Superterrestrial is more concerned with crafting a depressive mood than it is with forging memorable hooks. When reflecting on the record post-listening, I perceive it as a fog of melancholy, unable to recall much aside from the general atmosphere.
In general, it feels like Superterrestrial has little interest in marrying their disparate synth and black metal elements. This is a shame, as doing so could do wonders to enhance the dull black metal portions. Yet I can’t shake the feeling that there are keyboards buried beneath the wall of guitars; occasionally I come close to perceiving the ghost of a synth riding under the strings, but I can’t determine whether the two instruments regularly coexist. Indeed, the guitar mixing on this album is dominating in its loudness, and the flat guitar tone does little to warm me to its presence. The natural drum tones fare much better, and while I can’t attribute credit where it’s due — Superterrestrial‘s Bandcamp page lists the band members’ names but not their roles — the drummer brings dynamic tom interludes and death metal adrenaline to his performances. The vocalists’ shrieks also impress, reflecting the coldest realms of the DSBM vocal style.
To summarize my issues with The Void that Exists: I feel as though it’s undercooked. Superterrestrial acts on ideas that have yet to fully mature and the fact that their debut LP only just came out last year leads me to believe this album was hastily written and recorded. Perhaps the band would fare better if they modeled their release schedule around a Nightwishian snail’s pace rather than a Tomb Mold-esque rapid-fire salvo. As it stands now, The Void that Exists‘ considerable atmosphere and a handful of solid moments feel glued together with lazy tremolo filler. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever heard, and I wouldn’t even call any part of the record strictly bad, but its minor issues add up fast enough to quickly invalidate it in a scene awash with vigor and creativity.