I enjoy straight-up, corpse-feasting death metal and corpse-painted black metal as much as the next guy, returning to each often during my spin-vinyl-wash-dishes time, but it’s never too long before the need for an odd combination of the two comes to the forefront of my plate-scrubbing soundtrack. StarGazer’s latest, A Merging to the Boundless, shows the Aussie prodigies once again neck-flailing and experimenting just as they have with previous efforts, but for those uninitiated, don’t click away now thinking this band or this album is yet another yawn-inducing display of ‘look at me!’ musical over-acting – StarGazer’s ‘prog’ (if that term even applies here) is quashed time and time again in favor of a head-pummeling Black/Death Metal that is pure, just infused with fretless bass runs that would cause Steve DiGiorgio to skidmark his undies with a ‘why-didn’t-I-think-of-that-could-have-had-V8’ moment. From the Morbid Angel/Aura Noir combo opener of ‘Black Gammon’, you know you’ve got something special invading your earholes, and though shredding solos and odd-time breaks abound, by song’s end all you be left with is the desire to start the song again – because it’s the song itself that has taken up residence in your mind’s reel-to-reel. Things get really bizarre on oddly-named second track ‘Old Tea’ (also my second-favorite song on the album) yet even amongst the fingerbone-cracking six-string chord weirdness, the droning, Snake-from-Voivod vocal of Damon Good, and demented atonal jazz rhythms of Denny Blake (both of whom split time in Mournful Congregation, Cauldron Black Ram, Martire, etc) the knowledge that riff ecstacy is right around the corner stays close at hand, and makes these adventures in genre-bending powerful and – more importantly – tasteful.
On personal favorite ‘Grand Equilizer’, StarGazer’s employment of tri-chords amongst the malaise elevates the album to its heretofore hinted-at black/death greatness, as that famed structure of dark music injects a palpable eeriness into each movement of the eleven minute Hell-journey that remains Beelze-loved even during a distortion-less guitar, quietly-chorused bass interlude that sets up a triumphant, late 70s/early 80s (read: classic metal) closing to this mid-tempo, masterful track.
As on previous efforts, StarGazer’s Altars of Madness Morbid Angel influences arise often amongst the more straightforward riffs on the album, but for the most part these come across as more subtle than before (with the notable exceptions of the aforementioned ‘Black Gammon’ and the absolutely neck-cracking ‘Merging to the Boundless’). But a love of Sadus and, ultimately, their own complicated yet still digestible songwriting are what make StarGazer who the are, and what makes A Merging to the Boundless a release that deserves both attention and respect. –Jim
ps – StarGazer are about to embark on a tour with Undergang, also reviewed this week.
Nuclear War Now! Productions