Mitochondrial Sun
Sju Pulsarer

When Niklas Sundin left Dark Tranquillity early last year, I was genuinely bummed the fuck out. Mostly, I was upset about what it might mean for a band I held near-and-dear to my heart, but I was also bummed because I’d heard Sundin’s first solo offering from side project Mitochondrial Sun and came away pretty “meh” on the whole thing.

I should clarify, Mitochondrial Sun isn’t a bad record by any stretch, just… the whole cinemascape thing really isn’t my scene. That’s a Me problem, not a Niklas Sundin problem, but alas I was bummed that perhaps the only creative output I’d get to enjoy from one of metal’s most inspired minds would be his artwork that continues to adorn albums and T-shirt and tempt me to part way with my money on a pretty regular basis.

But since then, Dark Tranquillity have gone on to release yet another solid album with Chris Amott filing the void left behind – and now, I’m beyond happy to say that Niklas Sundin has released a fucking wrecking ball of an album that has been swimming around gleefully in my head since I first heard it. Sju Pulsarer is a STUNNER.

First off, any doubts I had that Niklas Sundin was interested anymore in making aggressive music have been launched into the sun (get it?!), because Sju Pulsarer is like a proverbial brick wall of sound – a thick, lush avalanche of Black Metal, Industrial and breakneck-speed Drone influences, layered with some of the most beautifully haunting melodies I’ve heard put to recording in quite some time. Right from the get-go on “Pulsar 1,” Sundin layers what would otherwise be some tame guitars, over a super super-intense drum machine blast beat that just punches you right in the face in the best possible way. It’s like if Violet Cold did a collaboration with The Berserker and while that may not seem like it makes a ton of sense, the effect is absolutely immense. Then comes the star of the show – intricately layered synth tones and melodies that are as catchy as they are completely unnerving – like watching the X-Files on an mix of LSD and MDMA; potentially terrifying and thrilling all at once. Mix in some sporadic, distant hits of incoherent screaming like he does here and throughout the album, and the whole experience becomes even more spine-tingling.

That general theme plays throughout Sju Pulsarer, with Sundin again and again finding new, brilliant melodies and textures to add to the mix. Pulsars “2,” “3” and “4” play maybe a touch closer to more “traditional” atmospheric Black Metal paces, chock full of pulsating blast beats and letting tremolo-picked guitars really take the forefront, while layering in the occasional unsettling audio sample or tortured vocal layers.  They’re great tracks and certainly demonstrate Sundin’s knack for building compelling melodies, but I think the project is at it’s best when he gets a little more experimental and lets the synths shine – not a statement I often find myself making – but “Pulsar 5” serves as a perfect example, starting with some surf-inspired theremin? I don’t know if it’s a synth effect or if he’s actually playing a theremin – if it’s the latter that’s fucking awesome. Either way, it offers a sweet, vintage Sci-Fi vibe that I dig the hell out of. Similarly, the unsettling and overwhelming bell tones and layered effects at the end of “4” take that song to another level, creating a sense of cosmic terror that seeps into your skull like a Lovecraftian horror tale.

While this album has been available digitally since November of last year, I think it’s worth bringing it up now for two reasons: 1) It has finally been made available on CD and Vinyl this month, and 2) I suspect there’s probably others out there like me that hadn’t given this one a chance after hearing the first Mitochondrial Sun release. If you’re in that camp, abandon whatever preconceptions you may have and dive right into Sju Pulsarer as soon as you possibly can, because this album surprised the ever-loving fuck out of me.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
March 4th, 2021

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