Reviewed: June 2022
Released: 2022, Bravemusic
Reviewer: Simon Wiedemann
Stellar Death are an instrumental metal band from Washington, DC with old school death metal and modern post-rock influences. Their sound is also lush and atmospheric yet has an aggressive energy. They will be releasing their new EP ‘Sentient (Chapter 1)’ on 10th June, 2022 through Bravemusic. It is the first part of a number of works that are based on the exploration of consciousness within the universe. The album was recorded from late 2021 to early 2022 at House Nice and was mastered by Greg Schwan.
The musical approach here is often on the minimalist side, but good things come to those who wait and all that. There is a constant development in all tracks which is very musical. The group can be compared doom metallers Shape of Despair in that respect, SD just aren’t quite as morbid. There are perhaps some slightly strange musical decisions, such as the overly quick fade out in the latter part of ‘Emergence’, but the way the track then changes into something else takes you by surprise and surprise is what a lot of ambient rock/metal can do with. Less serious metal fans will likely be wondering where the vocalist is, especially in the more repetitive sections that could be (ignorantly) perceived as dull, but more sophisticated people will appreciate the sense of loneliness and sadness such instrumental music has.
The band can also be compared to instrumental rock band Pelican, in that they have no desire to show off in the way other vocal-less acts such as Liquid Tension Experiment do. Interestingly, the drums sound fake with Pelican and SD, but that’s because they ARE fake in the latter. They certainly don’t stand out as overly mechanical, but it is fairly clear they’re not human. (Though to be fair, I did have to check. Personally, I’d have pressed the ‘humanise’ button on my recording software). That’s a bit of a shame for music that’s supposed to be so ambient. Arguably the percussion should be softer and less rigid, though in the heavier sections it does work. Whilst the album only consists of three tracks and lasts twenty minutes, it is clearly a very interesting journey with the right balance of moods. Not too boring, not too messy and OTT.
In conclusion, if you like somewhat dark and surreal music that is more about the musician’s creative inner vision rather than a need to impress with instrumental pyrotechnics, SD will likely be perfect for you. There ARE some admirable guitar solo displays, but they are performed in such a way, and are placed in such climactic positions, they sound flashier than they really are, which shows the taste of the band members. If you find the album to be dull at first, certainly give it at least one more try and it is very likely it will grow on you, like it did with me. The extended structures, intelligent harmonies and varied textures are all very well done, it’s just a shame the album ended so soon. Highly recommended!