Review Summary: Stare into the sun…
Death metal, stereotypically, is not known for its intricacies. I mean if we take a quick tumble down the genre’s salubrious, yet infamous history the likes of Morbid Angel, Deicide and Suffocation aren’t likely to create a conversation based on their individual levels of subtle musicianship. No, the conversation itself will circle around how fast a certain riff is, how ‘heavy’ this other track is compared to that one, how tight “drummer X’s” blasts are or why the fuc
k Glen Benton has an upside down cross branded into his forehead. Satan yo! There are those however, who do see (listen) past the scaled up tempos, the brutal rhythms and the distorted guitar lines finding joy in the music that’s as beautifully put together as it is heavy. For those with a predisposition to the likes of Gorguts, Atheist, Ulcerate or even Blood Incantation (I hope I’m not name-dropping for the sake of it) Australia’s Stargazer is surely deserved of a mention in such crowds, while tilting death metal into another cosmic, blackened field.
is the band’s fourth full-length since the mid-2000’s (with a few shorter releases well before that), tackling the technical death metal scene in their own blackened and cosmic way. Typically, the group holds onto an aesthetic, progressing from one end of the genre to every single nuance in between. It’s a sweeping soundscape, full of sorts of jagged and winding musicianship, enthralling in design and well executed. After a short, melodic introduction that is “Simulacrum”, Psychic Secretions
rushes into a frenzied, but thoughtfully melodic, “Lash of the Tytans”. In this case, it’s a matter of ebb and flow before an onslaught of groove and decadent riffs. “Lash of the Tytans” itself is awash with blackened riffs, but allows itself room to breathe by use of simple, chordal melodies. These act as a hook, drawing the listener in, lulling them into a state of fluidity before the death n’ roll of “Evil Olde Sol” crashes through the mix. Deliberate grooves carry raspy growls in even phrasing. The effect is borderline psychedelic, but abrasive to the touch due to circling riffs and punching percussion. Despite the natural gravitation to the group’s guitar and drumming combinations, the real backbone of Stargazer’s newest (and much of the older material) is those bass lines which pop above the tumult and clearly expressive string work it supports.
As Psychic Secretions
moves into its second half the music itself becomes more punchy, leaning heavily into the blackened progressiveness which defines the band’s movements through the death metal genre. “The Occidental Scourge” for example, doesn’t let up on the group’s natural tendencies for veracity and yet there’s a doomier edge to the riffs, more room to breathe. In parts, this does work against Stargazer’s newest offering. “All Knowing Cold” definitely fits the bill as far as the Australian’s deathly aesthetic goes, but takes away some of the atmospheric pressure built in the album’s earlier stages. The slower, more doom focused riffs quash the space between sections, failing to build the right foundation to which the track’s closing blasts (and out of the blue) freneticism seem misplaced. The record’s closer, “Pilgrim Age” also leans into a sense of sparsity before typical death metal antics. Simple notes punch through the atmosphere, unaided by the band’s other instrumentation while introducing clean sung vocals. As a sum of its parts, “Pilgrim Age” is a quality expression of blackened doom, but in context of this forty minute record, it’s a thumb sticking out.
When all is said and done it’s worth mentioning that my grievances with Stargazer’s newest offering are few and minor - to be found in the record’s later moments. Largely, Psychic Secretions
is a hit from the underground scene, brought to listeners with a sinister resolve and interesting angle. For all the name-dropping found in the earlier moments of this transcript, Stargazer are an entity defined only by the direction they take between death, black, progressive and doom metal (although the band may favor certain sub-genres more than others - naturally). Overall, it’s a gambit to state whether Psychic Secretions
will land in too many ‘best of’ lists come December, but it’s most definitely one of the year’s more interesting extreme releases thus far.