The big cool scientific news this week is that physicists have finally been able to use gravitational waves to detect the presence of a gigantic black hole way out in the ether. As something of an aficionado of science myself, I do think this is extremely awesome, but I’m also pretty sure there’s a simpler explanation for the disturbance of spacetime felt. Someone was probably just listening to Protosapien, the new offering from Brazil’s Jupiterian. Heavy doesn’t even begin to cover how profoundly this one bangs, in a way that few other doom bands have been able to achieve.
Sao Paulo might not be the place you would expect crushing, cosmic doom to come from, but Jupiterian aim to put it on the doom metal map with what they are calling their magnum opus Protosapien, their third and most tightly focused full-length offering. The four-piece, who only identify themselves by a single letter each, sought to tone down the atmospheric sludge of their previous works and focus more on hefty riffs and slightly psychedelic melodies while still going lower, slower and heavier than ever before. Think Primitive Man with less (but not no) harsh noise or Bell Witch on a time crunch. Both of these bands have (this year!) offered what I consider to be stellar examples of just how much the genre of doom has progressed and just how much a band can do within and around those confines.
That’s not to detract from Jupiterian at all; in fact, listening to Protosapien really makes me wonder how they are not household names like their contemporaries. The riffs are just as nasty, the atmosphere is just as thick and suffocating (even if it is toned back slightly from Terraforming), the songs lumber and plod just as implacably, and the execution is absolutely on the same level. If you have not taken notice of them before, you will now, because you will feel the foundations of the world shake almost immediately upon pressing play, and you’ll enjoy every second of it. Oh, and how could I forget to mention that the most sought-after artist in the metal world (for a good reason), Mariusz Lewandowski, painted the cover art? To me, that almost sells the whole album by itself.
To describe Protosapien as heavy is like describing an F5 tornado as “a light breeze.” In much the same way, the songs on this album flatten everything in their path, and they do it in a way that keeps them from falling into the pit of repetition and sameness that can sometimes plague ultra-heavy doom bands. Closer “Earthling Bloodline” begins so slowly and heavily that it’s almost overwhelming, but it quickly moves into more mid-paced riffs that build and layer over each other until the album closes in a cacophony of noise. It’s a good track to point out because it shows just how smart Jupiterian’s songwriting is here. Not that Terraforming isn’t great in its own way, but the band was intentional about being more focused on Protosapien, and they nailed it. They figured out the formula for when to introduce a riff, when to move on from it and when to bring it back so that attention spans are maximized when listening. Still, there isn’t a total absence of the atmosphere that made Terraforming unique. “Capricorn” holds down the middle of the album by layering eerie melodies and repeating, swirling guitar lines that seem to pull at the edges of reality. “Mere Humans” features a powerful mix of mournful and creepy, effortlessly switching between an almost bouncy feel and churning dissonance. There’s a lot of strong hooks here that are sure to keep this planted deep in the subconscious.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: I truly believe no single sub-genre of metal is undergoing more rapid growth and mutation in the best way possible than doom. There is so much happening in the genre and there seems to be no barrier to the boom in quality and forward-thinking, geographic or otherwise. Jupiterian should absolutely be counted among those at the forefront of the genre, and Protosapien seems to be just the beginning for their peak.