Wednesday, December 01, 2010

StarGazer: A Great Work of Ages (2010)


Australia has proven to be an innovative source for metal in recent years, likely due to its extreme isolation prior to the age of the Internet. And when you consider that bandwidth wasn't really adequate for easy trade of music until about 2004, it's been isolated for a long time. Suddenly, it became exposed to a much broader spectrum of metal all at once, leading to the creation of some interesting sounds that have little regard for the normal "rules" of genre boundaries.

StarGazer is one of those genre-smashing bands. Sharing two members with avant-garde death metallers Portal, they actually bear little in common with that band aside from being extreme metal innovators.

Because they don't follow the rules, they're labeled avant-garde, but there's nothing avant-garde about the music in an objective sense. To describe their style as succinctly as possible, I would call it blackened heavy metal. Many of the riffs could have been pulled from Judas Priest or Iron Maiden (or even some of the better parts of Van Halen--see "The Morbid Slither, the Sinner Slough"). But they take those riffs and combine them with slower death growls (as you might find in funeral doom), black metal rasps, tremolo picking, and blast beats, while keeping some of the pinch harmonics and "raunchy" guitar embellishments of traditional heavy metal. There are even a few parts that you would probably call death metal or doom metal (see "Passing Stone - into the Greater Sun" for examples of both).

The resemblance to Maiden is even stronger when you consider the fantastic bass playing. It is fully audible throughout, and rarely tracks the guitar. There are some sections where the bass takes the lead, as on the solo in "Pypes of Psychosomatis".

The pace changes often to keep things interesting, leaning more toward the fast, and as with Portal there are brief tempo shifts and fast/slow/fast riffs. The riffs are memorable, and they create complete songs full of anticipation and release, and it's truly unlike anything else out there.

The Verdict: It's as if the sudden exposure to two decades of extreme metal gave them a completely different outlook. Most of the world sees black metal as a thing that grew from thrash, but StarGazer has taken the things that make black metal black and applied them to pure heavy metal, to make a unique and interesting beast. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

No comments:

Post a Comment