Whatever events had lead South Australian technical death metal band Intellect Devourer to split up in 1994 it’d surely been a blessing of the fates spurning on the realization of Adelaide based avant-thrashing black/death metal legends StarGazer soon after. Theirs was a sound we can definitively say was ahead of their time now that their earliest recordings, roughly 1995-1997 are compiled here to detail the formative continuation of their past band’s ambitions unto expansion and the great leap beyond that came with the ‘Borne’ 7″ EP. Here we witness not only the curtain shredded from their earliest views but also the “Ah ha!” that lead to great infamy between three mind-rupturing full-lengths and beyond. At the core of this experience lies the mind reshaped, paradigm surpassed, and clairvoyance for the future envisioned through outrageous feats of adaptive finesse and brutality. Also, riffs.
It should be no unsheathed blade to the unwitting necks out there, StarGazer are easily at the top of my favorite bands to have descended upon mankind these last two decades. Too often record collection and research demands the next thing, the unreachable to keep the exhausted self-extended listener’s passion moving with any real momentum — I was unquestionably experiencing strong existential dread in the mid-2000’s because of the chase hadn’t paid off. I’d exhausted my Anata records, memorized every lick of Arghoslent, and believe it or not the extreme metal world was much less crowded and much more exclusive back then. Upon regressing back to building altars to ‘Piece of Time’ and considering a lifetime of being one of those coots who only listens to pre-’95 metal, I was lucky enough to discover the first record from StarGazer (‘The Scream That Tore the Sky‘, 2005) was truly a revelation, or at least an inspiration to keep reaching for new music with confidence that the old ways were not lost on the increasingly grim future.
Although it appears the first demo, ‘Gloat’, was recorded after most of the bands ‘Borne’ EP it would release first in 1996 and feature a sound comparable to that of Martire‘s self-titled EP. Cold black metal gnashing by way of ripping death/thrash intensity makes this tape an exciting bit of provenance but also an indication of an already strong point of view in terms of guitar performances. This bestial and lava-spewing first release provides much of the most meaningful contrast between where StarGazer began and where their sound would project beyond. No song highlights the coming transcendence better than “Ride the Everglade of Regniroro” a song that is instantly recognizable from the second half of their 2014 full-length ‘A Merging To the Boundless’. This really cracks my brain open a bit having never heard the demo or the EP and I’m finally understanding why that particular song had such an otherworldly ‘old school’ feeling to it, it was yanked directly from the mid-90’s. The blackened side of the band was fully in gear early on in the band’s lifetime but I’d not really picked up on it without this compilation allowing for some extra clarification. There are two versions of “Ride the Everglade of Regniroro” on this LP and the second one was almost unrecognizable at first, sounding toppled over and slowed down compared to the first version.
“Borne” offers only glimpses of the great leap ahead beyond these formative recordings with still fairly quiet bass guitar tones and an even clearer sense of their black metal influences alongside obsidian-eyed bonus track “Final Winter Kiss”, which I’d figure was part of the ‘Gloat Sessions’ but perhaps left out for its clear black metal spine. Around this same time it is important to remember that between the two key members of the band they were in the midst of creating classics within other realms by way of Mournful Congregation, Cauldron Black Ram, Misery’s Omen, and refiring the kiln for Martire and Intellect Devourer briefly. Splits with Invocation and Arghoslent would follow and the rest is history folks should know by now; If not, it is all up on Bandcamp at this point and deserving of your ear.
As much of a scrape to the ear as a set of mid-90’s black/death demo reels from Australia might allow you to assume, the fidelity on this compilation sounds generally untouched and allows for a realistic listening experience that isn’t a statically-charged (or nastily glossy) mess. You can see the potential of their songwriting and techniques striking a boiling point within both recording sessions, with ‘Gloat’ being more raw and occasionally more technically ambitious within its ripping attack. It is an archive that I, as a longtime fan, have been wanting for years and couldn’t be more grateful to finally get to see the roots before they overtook the Earth. Of course the score is heartily biased this time around because ‘Gloat / Borne’ is an item that was long dormant on my personal wishlist since at least 2010, so, a very high recommendation for the indoctrinated StarGazer fan and a generally high recommendation for fans of ‘old school’ technical and progressive death metal ahead of its time.
Very high recommendation. 4.5/5.0
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