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StarGazer – Psychic Secretions

StarGazer
Psychic Secretions
by Santiago Puyol at 25 January 2021, 7:14 PM

Coming from Adelaide, Australia, Technical Death Metallers STARGAZER have released their fifth studio full-length so far, Psychic Secretions, the follow-up to 2017’s "A Merging To The Boundless: Void Of Voyce", a split and a compilation. Here the band offers an eight-track release, with two distinct halves and a little under 40 minutes of gorgeous, Psychedelic-tingled, Progressive Death Metal.

"Simulacrum" opens the record with a strong, Psychedelic mix of guitar and bass sounds. Very nostalgic and vaguely sinister. It plays around with time signatures, making for a soft but interesting start. It gives way to "Lash Of The Tytans". Slow but powerful, the whole band emerges out of the almost silent intro to the album, before exploding into TechDeath mayhem. The use of fretless bass lends some warmth to the abrasive sound, making things feel slightly jazzier and psychedelic even in the heaviest moments and bring the band closer to CYNIC’s sound in the quieter moments, without ever sounding like copycats or derivative. Reverb-drenched, almost-clean guitar lines make for an exquisite coda.

Noisy guitar squeaks pair up nicely with the bluesy undertones of "Evil Olde Sol", almost like a deep, forgotten backbone. The way the rhythm shifts between swingy and robotic makes for a dazzling contrast. STARGAZER opt for a stop-and-start structure and it works due to their skillful playing, never losing momentum. In other hands, the track could sound to fractured, this is a band that makes the most of their experience.

"Star Vassal" begins with deep, unsettling ambience. Heavily phased bass contributes to the overall dizzy feel of the song, another one with a shifting structure. It goes full-blown Prog for its last third, with a Flamenco-inspired passage of exquisite guitar soloing by The Serpent Inquisitor. Weird whispered vocals help paint an abstract picture. It ends powerful, putting an end to the first half of the record on a high point.

Things pick up quickly with the driving rhythm of "Hooves". The Great Righteous Destroyer lays down the nastiest bass runs of the whole record and things surely get heavy and dark, as if they hadn’t so far. Apparently a straightforward banger, it goes down a psychedelic, almost punkish hole for its last section. Subtle effects on the drums and heavy tremolo, plus delay, on the guitar make everything go crazy.

"The Occidental Scourge" follows similar ideas to Hooves but delivering in a more complex, Technical Death Metal way, this track feels nonetheless quite punkish at times, with some catchiness and a sense of urgency embedded in the guitar work. The almost conversational delivery of the harsh vocals adds a bit of dynamism. Khronomancer gets thrashy behind the kit, playing around the beat with groove always on their head. Meanwhile, "All Knowing Cold" finds the band doubling down on the CYNIC influence. Jazzy drumming paired up with infectious riffing and nasty vocal work make the core of this track. It ends with a surprise that I’m not revealing, but it really sets the mood to the finale.

At the very start, closer "Pilgrimage" feels like a rework of "Simulacrum", as it explores similar ideas, but with the whole band on board this time. It has a beautiful, slightly menacing and deeply nostalgic sound, more akin to a Jeff Buckley album than a Technical Death Metal one. The vocal work, mostly clean, is impeccable and comes as another surprise in an album that delivers quite a few twists. There is a profound anguish in the vocal lines and the fact that they get slightly buried by the band’s sound, actually contributes thematically. Mid-point through, it moves into heavier territory, but those first three minutes and a half are pure, unadulterated, beauty. Once the band starts galloping, things get heavy and complex for sure, but it is the huge risk taken in the first half that makes this closer a winner.

A psychedelic vibe covers the whole album, undoubtedly intentional as it fits thematically. Production-wise there are very little issues even if the sound gets a bit muffled at times. The songwriting and the musicianship are clearly STARGAZER’s biggest assets. Thankfully, they let the songs shine and use their instruments only in favour of the composition and not the other way round. Overall, "Psychic Secretions" is an excellent record by a band comfortable on their skin, and with a clear vision of what their music should sound like.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 7
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Simulacrum
2. Lash Of The Tytans
3. Evil Olde Sol
4. Star Vassal
5. Hooves
6. The Occidental Scourge
7. All Knowing Cold
8. Pilgrimage
Lineup:
The Great Righteous Destroyer – Bass, Vocals
The Serpent Inquisitor – Guitars, Vocals
Khronomancer – Drums
Record Label: Nuclear War Now! Productions
     


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Edited 09 March 2021
 

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