Universally Estranged – Dimension of Deviant Clusters Review

Did you catch Reared Up in Spectral Predation last year? If not, you missed Universally Estrangedߵs startling debut, a cosmically competent slab of OSDM fury that dissolved slowly amongst the whirring of scattershot synth swooshes, robotic bleeps, and washed-out guitar heroism. Though it had its dips in quality and pacing, its unique presence and soundscape cemented a spot on my watchlist—a burst of potential that freed many from the inertia that OSDM often inspires. Drawing on sounds equally as earthy as extraterrestrial, this Texas-incepted act has brought forth its sophomore outing, Dimension of Deviant Clusters. Can Universally Estranged slingshot off its prior success to new, unforeseen heights?

Well, yes, Universally Estranged continues to expand with the greater cosmos as their otherworldly oscillations develop a stronger weave against chunk-heavy riffage. Compiling goregrind gurgles (“Dimension of Deviant Clusters”), trad-happy tapping (“Devoured from Another Time”), and fuzzy four on the floor interludes (“(interlude)”), not a single band in the scene sounds quite like these star-scaling Texans. Oh, not Texans—TexanUniversally Estranged is the manifestation of one mind, who simply goes by Brett. And sure, Brett takes some wilder synth cues from established cosmonauts Mithras but does so without the intense brutality or technicality, yet we’d be amiss to call Dimension just a lesser On Strange Loops. Still recognizably a contemporary of the modern OSDM coterie, the reverb-stuffed, tightly-recorded backdrop across Dimension comes equally across as reminiscent of tripped-out versions of baser acts like Fleshrot or Astral TombNeanderthals in space with plenty of abandon.

Not surprisingly then, Dimension of Deviant Clusters gives gravity to grimy death metal through the weight of wild production tricks. As Shrek would say, after a heaving puff of a powerful blunt, “this shit has layers.” For instance, Brett sets his phaser to chug to create the tension of overlooking an alien onslaught (“Devoured from Another Time”). Or, with phaser recklessly set to rapidly dissolving solo, Brett replicates a catastrophic crash landing (“Memory of Death”). But more than just guitar magic, Brett also colors his chasmal articulations with dank coats of delay and reverb (“Corrupted Mind Palace”) to slowly loosen our grip on reality. And to build properly the chaos that emerges throughout, Brett applies demonic pitch-shifting to his vocals, straddling the line between the hiss of a strained pressure lock and the flush of a twisted goregrind guttural (“Dimension of Deviant Clusters,” “Universally Estranged”).

Naturally, the ever-present synth layers and IDM-flavored breaks add a charm to the experience, even if they don’t always keep the album moving. While I’m not a huge fan of “(intro)”—a now recurring opening style in Universally Estrangedߵs catalog—it feels purposeful, like the opening credits to your favorite campy show. Besides, against the average metal album, Dimension requires a little extra calibration time. As a similar cleanse, Dimension also foreshadows its two biggest musical peaks with short shuffle segments: one at the end of “Between the Lacunae” before the wild titular escapade, and the other “(interlude)” preceding the two-track finale. And, of course, the most striking exploration occurs in the final minutes of Dimensions, as we drift across a modal synth wash floating through the world that Universally Estranged has meticulously designed. Again, I’m not entirely confident all the little breaks are necessary, but the closing statement feels justified.

Far be it from me to tell Brett what to do differently with his idiosyncratic mélange of sci-fi and death metal. As always, I’ve attempted to explain to you some of the more recurring tricks and phrases that Dimension of Deviant Clusters hosts to hypnotize and haunt. However, the gorgeous mix and spacious master, while cutting some of the percussive power death metal usually hosts,1 allows each spin to unlock new sustained notes here and vocal loops there. In roughly 18 months, we have already received two quality outings from this cosmogonic mind, and in that span Universally Estranged has managed to develop both a recognizable sound and cult following—feel free to join. So, if you have thirty minutes to kill, toss on some proper cans, take a hit or two if that suits you, and stare at the ceiling with Universally Estranged.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Blood Harvest Records
Website: universallyestranged.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: October 28th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. The drums may be programmed. That’s not necessarily a reason why they may sound underwhelming, but it doesn’t always help.
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