Stellar Master Elite – Hologram Temple

With a name like Stellar Master Elite and an album title like Hologram Temple (Unholy Conspiracy Deathwork), one might expect a band with the sort of melodic death metal pretensions of Scar Symmetry and its ilk. The truth is, this German Blackened Doom outfit ploughs its own furrow, harsh and abrasive, spaced out and ethereal, forlorn and crushing. Hologram Temple also delves into some deeper issues – what’s real? What’s not real? Are we any different from machines? Has the band been reading a lot of Philip K Dick? Can we have sex with fax machines? And so on. Continue reading

Stellar Master Elite – III: Eternalism – The Psychospherical Chapter

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Okay, what’s the deal with bands who name themselves after song titles? Being honest about your influences is one thing, of course, but naming yourself after an album- or song-title – especially when it’s from an acknowledged classic of your genre – seems like one step up from being a tribute band and only playing covers.

Stellar Master Elite, you won’t be surprised to learn, are rather fond of Thorns, and the music on III: Eternalism – The Psychospherical Chapter (Essential Purification) takes its main cues from their eponymous classic debut. Shimmering, riff-heavy Black(ish) Metal drenched in spacey synths and effect-laden vocals, it also borrows openly from 666 International (Moonfog) and Grand Declaration Of War (Season of Mist/Necropolis), firmly embracing that late-90’s vision of the future that’s starting to sound like an artefact of a specific place and time.  Not that this is pure nostalgia – they’ve also picked up a beefy modern sound that lends a weight and power that few of its predecessors had.

There’s a lot to like about Eternalism – some genuinely effective riffs, a good sense of atmosphere and a strong vocal performance in particular can validate time invested in it – but just as many things against it. It’s very late 90s approach to experimentalism sounds almost twee compared to (slightly) more recent BM deviants like Blut Aus Nord or DSO. The slow pace and reliance on spooky noises can sap some of the energy from the music and create moments of boredom. Most of all, though, they suffer in comparison to the band they’ve taken their name from – while their sound is superficially very similar to that of Thorns, they lack the feeling of sheer, unbridled creativity and otherness that made that album such a punch in the face at the time.

Competent, often engaging but, ultimately, too content to simply re-tread someone else’s former glories, Eternalism is an album that just doesn’t have enough of its own character to justify its existence in a world where “weird” and “experimental” are often more common than generic.

 

6.5/10

 

RICHIE HR