StarGazer
A Great Work of Ages

The second album (despite being around since 1997) from Australia’s Stargazer fills two needs: First, it makes up for the disappointing Blood Revolt, redeeming Profound Lore records once again. Second, it satiates me until Atheist’s Jupiter drops. OK, I recently got Jupiter, but this tied me over.

You’d think an Australian band comprised of two former Portal members would be equally as nasty as their former band, but A Great Work of Ages (I can’t speak for 2005’s The Scream That Tore the Sky) is an altogether different beast. As per my Atheist comparison above, Stargazer is a more technical, progressive death metal act full of twangy bass flurries, discordant but intelligent, complex time changes and varying vocals.

Admittedly, the first track of the album “Red Antler Radiant”, takes a while to grab my attention, making for a slightly lackluster introduction to the band. However, about two minutes in, the bass run and subsequent stunning melodic swathe shows what this band is about for the rest of the album. Second track “Passing Stone-Onto the Greater Sun” is pure Atheist, down to the Kelly Shaefer–esque rasps and choppy, jazzy but well crafted structures.

However the band does not simply qualify as a Atheist clone, displaying their own character for the dizzying “Pypes of Psychosomatis” where a languid, loung-y, laid back section precedes a very cool technical chug and solo. The brilliantly convoluted “Reflective Convex Continuum” cranks up the busy factor with a vast array of time changes and pacing shifts before the almost 9-minute album centerpiece “Chase for Serpentsong” saunters into view with a acoustic, relaxed build, before cascading into virtually indescribable vortex of technicality, melodies and shimmering solos that will blow your mind.

“The Morbid Slither” is a shorter, more direct―if still a shifty―track, and I’ll admit at about this point in the album, my attention is waning. A fact not helped by the album’s weakest track “Hue-Man-King”, which seems a little self-indulgent, even for an album such as this. Closer “Formless Face of the Timeless Faceless” is beyond convoluted―I mean just look at the title. Or it might be my ADD. Not that they are bad songs as they fit in with the overall excellence of the album, but after the mammoth “Chase for Serpentsong”, I’m literally exhausted.

The well titled A Great Work of Ages is certainly and unequivocally for the Atheist crowd, but also of interest to those that enjoy Decrepit Birth, Cynic and Theory Practice due to its more eloquent and genuinely progressive textures―though not as polished production wise. Rather than being death metal where bass solos, synths, acoustics and the label ‘experimental’ is slapped on it without much of a thought, StarGazer is truly challenging and brilliant.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
October 7th, 2010

Comments

  1. Commented by: vugelnox

    really didn’t like the Blood Revolt eh? I think its Profound Lore’s best release of 2010 so far (very possible that Agalloch will top it). I’d peg the Stargazer as my 2nd favorite PL release of the year, it tops their debut and equals the brillance of their split with Invocation from over a decade ago.


  2. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    Does their earlier stuff sound like this also?


  3. Commented by: vugelnox

    the split with Invocation is much thrashier and lighter on the progressive tendencies and a very good release overall (Invocation were an early incarnation of Portal). Their first proper album is more like this but the songwriting isn’t quite as strong.


  4. Commented by: Staylow

    Wow, this is pretty good shit. Nice review as usual Erik.


  5. Commented by: Dan

    my favorite song of theirs is “Magikkian” off of their split with Arghoslent. really organic production and a the kind super headbangable riff towards the end that you don’t quite always get with most tech death.


  6. Commented by: Biff_Tannen

    Picked this up over the weekend…. two fulls spins in, and Im not feeling it at all. There were a couple tasty riffs here and there, but it was entirely underwhelming to me. The production flat out sucks. Totally devoid of any life or heft. Just flat and uninspired and way too thin for this type of music.
    Really wanted to get into this, too. I will give it a few more tries, but it seems like a case of style over substance to me at this point.


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