(On February 1st Nuclear War Now! Productions will release the fourth full-length by the Australian genre-splicing band StarGazer, and today we premiere a full stream along with a review by Andy Synn.)
Australian alchemists StarGazer have always been a hard band to properly pin down.
Ask ten different people to describe them and you’re likely to receive ten different answers.
They’re a Black Metal band. Or a Thrash band. Or a Death Metal band. And what that play is either Progressive Black Metal, Blackened Thrash, or Technical Death Metal… or some uniquely unorthodox hybrid of all three.
Or maybe they’re something else entirely.
Long story short, no-one seems to be able to agree, and the various permutations of style and genre which people ascribe to the band are now almost as innumerable as the stars themselves.
And now, with the release of their long-awaited fourth album (which we’re premiering here today) it’s time for that debate to begin anew.
Of course, no matter what you want to call them, the fact of the matter is that StarGazer are just as good as ever, and Psychic Secretions is a more than worthy follow-up to 2014’s A Merging to the Boundless, something which quickly becomes apparent as soon as the indulgent instrumental intro of “Simulacrum” gives way to the recklessly proggy riffgasm of “Lash of the Tytans”.
It’s immediately obvious, just from this opening pairing, that the trio’s technical talents are as unquestionably awesome as ever, with the group’s new drummer slotting in seamlessly to fill the percussive pocket behind the band’s signature blend of ruthless riffs and fluid, flowing bass-lines.
Similarly, the group’s unorthodox sound continues to defy easy categorisation – sitting somewhere between Sadus and Sarcófago, Voivod and Ved Buens Ende, but never quite sounding exactly like any of them – meaning I’m once again expecting a spirited discussion (and a lot of disagreement) about how exactly we’re supposed to refer to the music they create.
Now, as the band themselves have stated, every record is both an opportunity for them to expand their artistic aesthetic while also staying true and strengthening their connection to their roots, and Psychic Secretions is no different in this regard.
On the one hand it’s obvious that the band’s penchant for proggy, psychedelia-infused melody has been foregrounded even more, from the dreamlike, Pink Floyd-ian feel of the aforementioned “Simulacrum”, to the unexpected ambient elements underlying “Star Vassal”, to the moody, mournful clean vocals that dominate the early stages of dramatic closer “Pilgrimage”.
It’s not the first time that the band have incorporated and experimented with some of these elements, of course, but their role has clearly been amplified and augmented this time around.
On the other, however, it’s also clear that Stargazer haven’t forgotten how to bring the thunder.
“Evil Olde Sol”, for example, is a slow-burn stunner of muscular riffs, menacing vocals, and mercurial bass lines that twitches and trembles with equal parts nervous anxiety and murderous intent, while “The Occidental Scourge” weaves together a wickedly infectious series of galloping guitars and galvanising grooves in a grim ‘n’ gritty union of form and function.
And then there’s “Hooves”, whose ominous early passages eventually build (over the course of just under four-and-a-half minutes) into a heavyweight headbanger of powerhouse riffage and taut technicality, all delivered with the energy and intensity of a band truly firing on all cylinders.
But whether they’re flexing their metallic muscles or indulging their proggiest proclivities, what really sets Stargazer’s latest opus apart is its rich, ruggedly organic sound which allows all the instruments the necessary space to breathe while also capturing the spontaneous, almost stream-of-consciousness, vibe of the music perfectly.
Ultimately Psychic Secretions is, as the title suggests, the product of a band truly operating on the same mental wavelength, channelling their collective creative impulse to turn thought into reality and mind into matter.