Stellar Death - Fragments of Light

Angry Metal Guy

Well. Here we are, 2021 at last and I decided to ease myself into this new year of misery musical exploration with a pick that seemed to be safely in my wheelhouse, based on the genre tag at least: a nice slab of safe, comforting post-metal. Fragments of Light is the debut LP from Washington, D.C.-based Stellar Death. The two-piece comprises Scott Loose (also of While Heaven Wept) and Matt Kozar (Witnesses), who play together in the female-fronted post-rock outfit Brave, which has existed for more than 20 years. Stellar Death, however, sees Loose and Kozar looking to break free of the constraints of that outfit and they set out on a new mission, to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilization, to boldly … oh no, wait, that’s something else.

Fragments of Light is a concept album that sees Stellar Death take us on a journey through the dark, cold vastness of space. An instrumental-only trip, the voyage takes the traveler through calm stretches of ambient void, past turbulent and progressive nebulae, into swirling, chugging maelstroms and beyond. Grand in scope and scale, the execution of Stellar Death’s concept feels almost cinematic, with its lush guitars and keys recalling a film score, and overlaid onto delicate electronica and largely restrained, yet complex percussion. The various sectors of the universe into which Stellar Death takes you all feel different and there is a genuine sense of progression to the journey. The chunky, shimmering guitars and frantic drumming of “Binary Collapse” stand in stark contrast to the delicate ambience and almost symphonic drone on the back half of “Everywhere and Nowhere,” yet the two clearly belong on the same record and are a continuation of each other.

Fragments of Light by Stellar Death

Fragments of Light draws on an array of influences from the atmospheric post-metal grandeur of The Ocean (“Betelgeuse” and “Approaching the Singularity”) to the progressive alt-rock of Tool (particularly in some of the drumming; “Critical Mass (That which cannot be Created)”) and even the ambient moods of a Mitochondrial Sun (“Afterglow”). The gorgeous opener “The Astronomer” sets up the record perfectly, easing into life with electronic warblings that quickly gather pace and melody before giving way to explosions of unexpectedly up-tempo riffing and harsh, angular distortion, set against glowing, slow-build post-metal stylings. As a seven-minute precis of what follows, it is perfect, as well as being an excellent track in its own right.

Most of the time, I find that when I read the concept behind an instrumental project, it sounds great on paper but is simply not borne out in the music. Even when I like the music, the only way I’m getting the concept is because someone has told me what it is and I sometimes still struggle to find it in the record. Not so with Fragments of Light — a rare exception to this rule — as Stellar Death weave their tale clearly and compellingly, despite the absence of vocals. They conjure both the vast loneliness of space and the moments of jeopardy and chaos that any good (cinematic) space epic needs. It also contrives to use its 52 minutes well, not feeling overlong nor meandering for my money: just sit back and enjoy the ride. Textured and rich, the sound on show is good too, feeling nicely balanced and the guitar tone on some of the soaring leads on the likes of “Betelgeuse” is well rounded.

Last year, I reviewed Seven PlanetsExplorer, which, although stylistically different, actually had the same broad theme as Fragments of Light. One of my criticisms of that record — although it was good — was that it came up short in conveying the sense of adventure and exploration, which might have transformed it from the enjoyable into the memorable. No such accusations can be levelled at Stellar Death, which is a cleverly written and well-crafted affair, that truly carries the listener away. While firmly in the post-metal stable, Fragments of Light draws on enough influences and has enough progressive flair that it does not rely on slow builds and crescendo — though those are present too — meaning its appeal should be somewhat broader than just the post-metal fans like myself.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: January 8th, 2021

The post Stellar Death – Fragments of Light Review appeared first on Angry Metal Guy.

Mon Jan 11 12:26:35 GMT 2021