When you consider how incredibly fucking weird the world has become over the last few years, it makes sense that death metal should respond in kind. Following in the radioactive footsteps of BLOOD INCANTATION, CRYPTIC SHIFT, BEDSORE and many others, UNIVERSALLY ESTRANGED are firmly entrenched in the surreal and psychedelic world of sci-fi-obsessed, cosmic extremity, with all the wild dissonance and lysergic experimentation that fans of this stuff will be craving. Aside from being an exhilarating alternative to death metal's usual preoccupations — which, of course, are all to be cherished — records like "Reared Up In Spectral Predation" tap into the exploratory spirit of the genre's very early days, when bands like MORBID ANGEL and VITAL REMAINS made music that sounded like nothing else on Earth.
Admittedly, as the face-flaying chaos of the opening "Despoiling Souls Of Flesh Across The Galaxy" erupts, the Texans' sound is recognizably tethered to some form of traditional brutality, but it's the atmosphere the band generate, as they switch seamlessly from avant-garde cacophony to propulsive, four-to-the-floor riffing and then again, to a modular synth interlude, that fires the whole three-minute experience purposefully into the depths of space. With echoes of IMMOLATION at their most scabrous and ragged, "The Visitor" is another deceptively evocative slice of heads-down pummeling, as urgent but angular mid-paced riffs collide with some deeply twisted soloing. Significantly, the production throughout strikes a neat balance between foggy squall and contemporary crunch. The result is that swivel-eyed exercises in brevity and spite like "Sentient Meatsack" exert great presence and power, even as all those subtle layers of contrary churn conspire to send the listener's brain spiraling off toward some altered state of consciousness. "Teeming With That Of Unknown Origin" is particularly gripping: broadly straightforward, it hints at an epic streak that will serve UNIVERSALLY ESTRANGED well in the future, but with wicked spikes of feedback and a shuffling post-rock postscript.
They save the best until last: "Blistered Under The Blue Illusion" is a master class in old-school vibes welded to a proudly tripped-out mentality. The track has multiple killer riffs, some brilliantly abyssal gutturals from the band's (apparently nameless) frontman and an overwhelming sense that this would be the perfect soundtrack for the inevitable alien invasion that frees this wretched planet from our collective stupidity. Or, at least, that's what I'm getting from it. It's been a weird year. UNIVERSALLY ESTRANGED get it.