10 Horns with Martin Shouler of Superterrestrial
The word Superterrestrial means “above the earth.” It’s an apt name for a band from Crawley, UK, who adopted it for their otherworldly blend of space-themed, black metal and dark ambient synth. Formed in 2017 by founders Martin Shouler and Warren King, Superterrestrial’s musical amalgam is inspired by the empty, unforgiving darkness and cosmic phenomena of our vast universe.
Superterrestrial self-released their menacing second album, “The Void That Exists,” on August 16. The LP plays like a soundtrack to an alien, horror film set on the remote edges of a ragged galaxy. Burzum-like buzzsaw guitars give way to black hole passages of electro-calm, only to be chased by hull-crushing riffs.
I talked to Superterrestrial guitarist and vocalist, Martin Shouler, about combining black metal and dark synth on “The Void That Exists,” painting an alien world for the LP cover, and what deep space mysteries he’d like to see solved in his lifetime.1. How did you first get into black metal? Were there any particular bands or shows that first triggered your passion for the music?
I didn't know anyone in my area who was into black metal in my younger days, so I had to go through various "gateway" bands. And in doing that I would say Immortal is the band that really triggered it all for me. I went to see a lot of local black metal bands in London. Not sure I could remember my actual first one. Must have been great though or I may not have gone back...2. Superterrestrial formed in 2017 with the goal of writing space-themed black metal and combining it with dark ambient synths. How did the idea for merging those musical genres first come about?
We all listen to a lot of artists from both of those genres and would often switch from listening to DSBM albums to film scores. So, my day would often be filled with a combination of the two, and it just seemed like a good idea to put them together! We weren't trying to create something completely original, we just wanted to combine styles that we liked without boundaries.3. Can you describe the band’s process for composing and recording your music? Is there a specific method you follow for crafting the metal and synth parts?
It normally starts with a guitar riff and we build from there. I can only think of one track that we built around a synth part first. That is not necessarily a deliberate process, it’s just that we find it easier to come up with ideas on the guitar. We're not organised enough to have a specific way to write every song, so we try just to write and see what happens! As for recording, it’s done over quite a few separate sessions with a mixture of home and proper studio time.4. Your new album, “The Void That Exists” continues the sound you started on “Ocean of Emptiness,” but I think the songwriting is more nuanced and improved. “Moreton Wave” is a standout track for me, for example. What musical expectations did you have for this album when you were writing it?
Thanks! The main expectation is always just to try and improve ourselves; to outdo our last release. We think we achieved that with this one. With “Moreton Wave” we just wanted to push ourselves to see if we could write a track that was slower, longer and more "spacious.”
Hopefully life on other planets, rather than an asteroid heading to destroy us all. There is, of course, the possibility of discovering things we could not even imagine when we start to look further. But for now, the discovery of life on other planets would be huge.6. You painted an alien world for the new album cover. How did the concept for the art come about? Are there any illustrators or space-related visuals that have inspired your style?
We wanted it to be familiar, but yet somehow different. While the cold nothingness in space creates interesting lyrical themes, it doesn't leave a lot for artwork inspiration. I’m more inspired by doom/sludge cover artists than anything else. Not necessarily in style, but certainly in the scale of their paintings. Artists like Adam Burke, Anthony Roberts and Mariusz Lewandowski, for example.7. You have self-released two Superterrestrial albums through Green Flaw Productions. What is the most difficult part of self-releasing your music? What is the most rewarding part?
The most difficult part is definitely getting the music heard. It's very crowded out there with so much great music being released. Plus, we have to do all the work... Having the music complete is rewarding enough, but it is great to see people still checking it out and supporting us, despite so many other choices.8. Black metal has evolved quite a bit since it began. Over the last few years the genre has become a trend with a lot of experimentation in the scene. Where do you think black metal might go in the future, musically? What other boundaries might be pushed?
It's hard to imagine there are still boundaries left with the great artists that are (and have been) around. I’m looking forward to hearing whatever it is they try though! Just write what you want to hear. There's always room for more straightforward black metal.9. Given your own unique and experimental mix of black metal and ambient synth, where do you see Superterrestrial heading musically 10 years from now?
We will not specifically try to change, however I fully expect things to evolve naturally. Hopefully we’re pretty much the same, but better? That said, we are always prepared to try new things and we look for inspiration everywhere, so if anything creeps in and pushes us in a new direction we won't be stopping it.10. One of Superterrestrial’s influences is synth-driven soundtrack scores, specifically from John Carpenter's films. What are your Top 5 space-themed movies and why?
I think it's going to be a pretty obvious list, but I would go for:
Alien – A masterclass in tension. And yes, it’s better than Aliens.
Event Horizon – Great special effects and tons of atmosphere. A very effective horror film.
2001: A Space Odyssey – Massive in scope and vision. It still impresses me every time I watch it.
Moon – Just brilliant, really. Amazing soundtrack too.
Gravity – More like a rollercoaster ride than a movie. Sometimes that's enough, especially when done this well.
To find out more about Superterrestrial, or to purchase “The Void that Exists” on cassette or digital, visit the Greenflaw Productions page at https://greenflaw.bandcamp.com
Facebook: Green Flaw Productions