Feb 132024

Let’s pretend you can’t listen to Stellar Remains‘ new EP right now, even though you can if you just scroll further down the screen you’re now looking at.

Let’s take our game of make-believe a move further and pretend you have no idea who this band is and have never heard a note of its music. That requires less suspension of disbelief, because Wastelands is in fact the first release of Stellar Remains, and only one song from the EP has been available for streaming before today.

Moreover, all that most of us know or could find out about the band (apart from that one song) is that it’s the solo work of Brisbane-based Dan Elkin, who has no resume on Metal-Archives yet.

So, if you indulge all this pretending, then you have to put some amount of weight on what we now have to say about Wastelands. How nice for us.

Well, but maybe it’s better to begin with what Dan Elkin has to say about the EP:

Wastelands is an exploration of themes of existentialism, the depth of human consciousness and individualism all set against a cosmic backdrop. Progressive in nature, songs may shift from swampy death metal, to savage black metal to interstellar ambience all in the span of one song. The intent is to take the listener on a journey and asks them to look inwards as much as they look to the stars for answers.

If what you take away from that précis is that the music is likely to be multi-faceted, unpredictable, and ambitious, then you’ve understood it correctly. And the précis itself turns out to be accurate as well.

It may be a cliché to say that a record is a journey, but in this case that doesn’t make it any less true. More than that, many of these six songs individually prove to be journeys all their own, especially the two 7+ minute songs that come at the end of the EP’s running order. And the ambition is evident — Stellar Remains does aim for the stars.

The EP begins with the one-two punch of “Ceaseless Charade of the Living Dead” and “Obsolescence“. Collectively they display some of Stellar Remains‘ key influences and special strengths, discharging a harrowing but also hallucinatory brand of death metal.

The music revealed in those first two tracks is massively heavy in the low end, heavy enough to feel like the earth is shaking itself apart, and replete with cold abyssal roars and unhinged, mind-scarring howls. But within them you’ll also hear eerie, intriguing, and unsettling flights of guitars, unpredictably maneuvering up in the sonic stratosphere.

Of those two, the opener is more gradual in its progression, more alien, and more blood-freezing in its atmosphere, but the shrill, quivering mutations of the lead guitar also make it dazzling, while “Obsolescence” is almost immediately overpowering in its ruinous low-end assaults, its crazed vocal expulsions, and its blazing, blaring, and blistering fretwork frenzies. The drumming creates a high-speed destructive spectacle, constantly changing, while the riffing and percussive grooves often feel like pile-drivers run amok.

No wonder that “Obsolescence” was chosen as that one lead-off single in advance of the EP’s release. The lead-guitar work feels like a rapidly rotating audio kaleidoscope, even revealing some deft and seductive picking in a phase when the low-end munitions fall silent, and in the last half-minute the song converts into a rapidly jolting workout that’s as catchy as it is skull-rattling.

From there, “Weeping On the Shoulder of a Memory” initially continues driving with turbocharged power, but soon enough segues into the glittering ring of a channel-shifting guitar and a proggy guitar solo that slowly oozes and then spirals high, bringing with it angst-laden singing, which continues even after the song’s more ruinous elements and more bestial vocals re-emerge.

Weeping On the Shoulder of a Memory” brings out more of Stellar Remains‘ multi-faceted stylistic interests, but the ensuing track, the relatively brief “Invisible Man“, brings out even more. There, the rippling piano keys and misty, wavering surround-sounds, create spectral and surreal sensations, strange and elegant and mesmerizing.

But if you think all the many paths of this wide-ranging EP have now been mapped for you, think again. The acoustic strumming and multiple bird-like tones that launch the title track will dispel any such thought. That song, mainly an instrumental one, expands in proggy and even jazz-like directions, even as it also fires up the rhythmic jackhammers and sets free the percussive acrobatics.

A slow build of sorts, “Wastelands” (the song) becomes a dazzling delight, richly intricate and packed with tempo variations and other musical twists and turns, yet also spine-shaking and bone-breaking.

By this point we thought “Wastelands” was the EP’s stand-out track, the best of a very good bunch, but we had to re-think that after listening to the other 7+ minute song that closes the experience. That one, “Cloudbearer“, is another elaborate roller-coaster ride, rich in its tonal variations and head-spinning in its veering and vaulting adventurousness (and you’ll be rewarded if you pay particular attention to the bass-work in this one).

Make no mistake, “Cloudbearers” will brutishly bust you up too, but like “Wastelands” it’s a prog-death triumph, a tremendously accomplished mind-bender and mood-changer that seems to have arrived out of the clear blue sky.

And that’s probably one good way of summing up the EP as a whole. The press materials for the EP provide another one, describing it as a journey into the unknown, “equal parts terror and wonder”. The fact that this is the first release of Stellar Remains, and that all this is the work of one person, makes it even more dumbfounding.

Now we can drop the pretense of our opening paragraph. Now you can ignore everything we’ve said and just listen… to one of the most impressive EPs of any kind this writer has heard in the first month and a half of the year.



It was a bit of an exaggeration to say that Wastelands is the work of one person: It was produced, engineered, and mixed by Brendan Auld, and it was mastered by Simón Da Silva, both of whom have quite impressive resumes at Metal-Archives, even if Mr. Elkin doesn’t (yet). The attention-grabbing cover art is the work of Jon Weber, and Loughie Alston designed the logo.

Wastelands will be released by Gutter Prince Cabal Records on February 15th, on CD, cassette tape, and digital formats. Pre-orders are available now:




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