There are many metal bands out there claiming to tap into mystical, esoteric energies. But how many actually conjure that feeling within the listener? How many bands successfully fill your ears with that sense of unnameable crawling cosmic chaos that HP Lovecraft so easily invoked on the printed page, that feeling that can only be described as “the occult”? Australian death metal trio StarGazer is one of those bands. Their sound is mesmerizing; the music is technical and progressive without ever forgetting the importance of the song. Listening to their latest album, A Great Work of Ages / A Work of Great Ages (Profound Lore, 2010) feels like unearthing some obscure musical grimoire that had been previously lost to the sands of antiquity. I contacted guitarist/vocalist The Serpent Inquisitor to discuss the inner workings of StarGazer and various arcane subjects.
THKD: It has been five years since the last StarGazer full length. Why the long wait between albums?
The Serpent Inquisitor: There had been many hurdles in the intervening years. Initially there was the training of the new drummer, Selenium, towards local, national and a Japanese tour. The onus had been then set on finding a new record label whom would believe and support the band, which was achieved with the empirical Profound Lore Productions. Lastly, as an album that had incubated so long had to be mediated correctly, a thorough amount of time was drafted to all aspects of the package.
THKD: How did you come to release A Great Work of Ages on Profound Lore? Were you a fan of the label beforehand?
TSI: Yes. We were fans of the label and vice versa. Profound Lore harbor a slew of unique bands and seems to love them all like their little children.
THKD: How do you think the band has progressed since The Scream that Tore the Sky and how was this progression incorporated into A Great Work of Ages?
TSI: Whether StarGazer has progressed or not is a curious question. Our songs progress in myriad ways. One man’s progression is another man’s regression. I believe we have captured the ubiquitous nature of the band on this new album more obviously than the last. Half of the songs are old enough to have been on our debut too. The 3rd album will no doubt stunt expectations of progression further. That would be the aim anyway!
THKD: How would you describe your songwriting/compositional approach? Is it a group effort or does the band have a “main composer”?
TSI: I am the primary composer, inasmuch as the crux of the song (guitars/lyrics/some drumming etc), but the group melds them to varying degrees. All bass lines are written by T.G.R.D, and as the listener knows, they are paramount to the overall feel of every song.
THKD: You recorded/produced A Great Work of Ages yourselves. What made you decide to do this and are you pleased with the results?
TSI: Should we be pleased with the results? T.G.R.D is an experienced engineer so the bulk of the technical work was adopted by his hands and ears. He and I were the producers, with the drummer stepping in with advice hither and thither.
THKD: What are some of the lyrical themes explored on A Great Work of Ages? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
TSI: Dimensional Apocalypse, Inner Earth Races, Harmonic Nature, the Karma and Magic of Thought, a Myth of Race Origin and the Serpents, Demons, Multi-dimensionality of the Hue-Man, Ley Lines and Conjunctions empowering Portals.
As the album goes, the subjects are in that order.
Everything, and I mean everything drives my inspirations. How can it be any one, or even a few things, when so many things are interconnected?
THKD: What does “the occult” mean to you? How does your interpretation of the occult inform StarGazer’s music?
TSI: The occult is obscuration, both to the benefit and detriment to the hue-man condition. The correct definition of the occult is supposedly ‘the secret origin of mankind’. Now, the history of the race of man has been obscured and certain ‘theological’ sects hide this for the particularly ‘initiated’. Would we, as a race benefit from the privation of our true and aeon spanning heritage? Probably. Would it suit vested financial, spiritual, media, financial interests (all interconnected mind you)? Definitely not.
The human race is enslaved and that’s how it is desired it should stay. Freedom is a finer goal to strive for. Enlightenment and wisdom is freedom. Freedom of unaffected Thought, unaffected Will, unaffected Love.
That is the True Occult.
THKD: StarGazer’s music is quite technical and progressive, but also sounds very earthy and organic. Is it difficult to keep such complex music emotive and engaging for the listener?
TSI: We aren’t writing ‘for the listener’ so I would say that when we are no longer achieving those tenets, then it has become hard!! What you have just asked defines our approach to the music well.
THKD: With that said, why do you think so much modern technical metal comes off as clinical and soulless?
TSI: I understand what you infer and I believe it relates to a lack of ‘song’. There were plenty of technical bands from the 70’s (and let’s not forget classical, latin, and jazz; all technical as fuck!), whom were careful to write ‘songs’. I don’t know how else to frame this. The studio productions are also cold aren’t they? When drums are triggered, guitars overproduced and there is no room made for integrating frequencies, then where to go??
THKD: Are you at all influenced by the “classic” technical death metal bands such as Atheist and Cynic? What about the progressive rock of the 1970s?
TSI: Not just technical death metal bands, but technical rock, heavy metal, speed metal etc. What modern band is more extreme than WatchTower’s ‘Control and Resistance’?? Not every bit of StarGazer is brazenly technical, we just procure ideas that are somewhat unexplored in the modern metal scene.
I listened to the Cynic demos in High School, not a fan of the albums though. Atheist, well, deathrash masters unbridled!!! Progressive rock I enjoy to a degree, mostly a handful of select albums by select bands.
TSI: Being a prime representation of the Golden Mean, the nautilus represents the logistics of our immediate creation and materiality. The Hydrae personify the obscuration, it’s 7 maws devouring truth and synergy.
THKD: The full title of the album is A Great Work of Ages / A Work of Great Ages. Can you explain the meaning/meanings behind it?
TSI: ‘A Great Work of Ages’ was originally the sole title. It’s reference is two-fold without resorting to any dualistic concepts. It implies the enfeebling, misleading and subsequent enslavement of our known human race. The second title denotes this album to be a tribute and attribute to a greater age to come.
THKD: There is a quote from Francis Bacon on your myspace page: “He That Will Not Apply New Remedies Must Expect New Evils; For Time Is The Greatest Innovator”. What does this quotation mean to you and how does it tie into StarGazer?
TSI: The beauty of quotes like that above is that it generally means much the same to everyone whom resonates to its premise. I understand it as you understand it, that is why it could be considered ‘profound’.
Francis Bacon also had some interesting ties to various cults/groups, so his words could hide or infer something more. Time is not on our side; all truths are concurrently being raked like a Japanese stone garden, to whatever patterns the rake-wielder deigns. As time wears on, these truths will become completely lost and enslavement complete.
THKD: Do you have any touring plans for A Great Work of Ages?
TSI: We would have it so. There will be shows initially within Australia and further into time, overseas. Where we tour will depend largely on whom could raise their hands to aide in structuring said events.
THKD: Are there any final thoughts you’d like to add?
TSI: I don’t like hip-hop, I don’t dance and I don’t offer final words.