StarGazer - _The Scream That Tore the Sky_
(Agonia, 2005)
by: T. DePalma (9 out of 10)
It takes a special combination of knowledge, ability and sensibility to combine ulterior techniques within metal and still maintain a heart of savagery within the whole. This is not to say that music which is less animal and more technical is by default weaker in comparison -- the later works of Gorguts and Deeds of Flesh, though having a lithifying effect on the listener, remain monumental in their respective advances in the realm of death metal, because their high-brow approach contains a holistic expression of rhythm integrated with classical theory without novelty quirks. It is eternally rewarding. But generally, advances in this sense equal a loss of some organic quality or, in the extreme, detachment from metal itself.

On this long delayed album, StarGazer have found synergy between various sub-genres, constructed with viscid melody and polycentric instrumentation, maintaining the natural fluidity and flavor of its parts, yet giving them greater possibility in an all-metal opus that communicates becoming. It's something that tears at the walls, outwardly instilling terror, but flowing clear-headedness and beauty within: the dual spirit of the Mahottama Heruka that is splendidly showcased on the cover of this album. In Buddhism, the Heruka is an enlightened deity that expresses liberation in ferocious posture; the subtext for this work colored corner to corner in ancient symbols and magick.

The genesis of this album stretches back to 1995, finally completed and seeing the light of day with these eleven tracks. Despite the dating, these songs bear only a root comparison to the StarGazer material released previously in the basic mold of death/thrash. In much the same way Morbid Angel and Absu turned modern death metal and black/thrash into an epiphany, StarGazer now resides in a similar sphere both musically and lyrically, with mythological ramblings transmuted through a language geared more toward eclectic reinterpretation of those and other influences, stylishly filtering in references to the band members' other projects (Misery's Omen, Mournful Congregation, Martire).

The vocals mark another change, becoming less frequent and under-mixed into subliminal growls between the old-school raging of the six-string and the agile movements of bass guitar, copulating together like serpents. The psychedelic or jazz-like voice of the bass, with its fretless, rubbery textured intonation similar to virtuoso musician Jonas Hellborg, gives the music an elusive quality and plays in dizzying apposition to the drums. (Its prevalence requires no mention of a particular song, though the instrumental "Tongues" is a fascinating piece of illusion and melody.) This style, however, sounds less like flashy improve and more like other variations already absorbed into composition material; it's more structural, thus integrated more completely into metal. The album as a whole refrains from wandering too far outside into different schools that might clutter things up (despite its thematic arc, _The Scream That Tore the Sky_ does not resort to the hackneyed use of overly ethnic rhythms or instruments to enhance the point) and in no way does this minimize StarGazer's efficacy.

_The Scream That Tore the Sky_ unifies subtlety and ferocity and is gratifying not only for the present demand it satisfies, but for its chance at stopping weeds from blocking future pathways; and it is highly recommended for its wise approach to songwriting and attempts at confronting the parameters of thought through metal.


(article published 27/6/2005)

8/18/2005 T DePalma StarGazer: Pilgrims Against the Flux
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