It seems that all life really is about is learning how to accept change, or at least put on the best show possible to be remembered well. Art mirrors life. Art comes from the depths of the human soul unlike any other creature, able to channel creativity to perform feats of sculpture or pieces of music, or much more. In that way that life and art mimic each other, art must also adapt and change in order to grow. I personally admit to a streak of stoic adherence to the classics going through most of life becoming more and more convinced that there will never be another record by another band like Sabotage by Black Sabbath.
On the other hand, I recognize that if artists continued only with medieval religious and Classical painting, we may not know of someone as radically genius as Salvador Dali or as unbelievably benign as Monet. This theme of change as defined by bands moving music forward with their unique approaches and vivid ideas is definitely tied to the matter analogously as realized by the interplay of life and art. A closer look at such a realization of this is in the case of Stellar Master Elite, a band that is writing music in a key seemingly unheard, pioneers of Extreme Metal with ties to a bit of every good genre relating.
Stellar Master Elite (SME) formed in 2010 in Trier, Germany. Hologram Temple is their fourth full-length and their first jump outside the previous trilogy produced. SME are insanely talented and probably to their favor, are from a Germany that has a rich, firmly entrenched, mafia of elite Black Metal. It must be pretty stressful in such a sink or swim life, but it also drives up the stakes making the reward sweeter still. To stand among Bethlehem, Der Weg Einer Freiheit, Secrets of the Moon, and Panzerfaust, the first and last of which both have incredible new records alongside Hologram Temple must be legitimizing, immensely so.
In calculated fashion, the riffs are meticulously divined out via some secret Black Metal incantation, sacred arcane alchemy. Preferring to challenge the listener, the first track, “Null,” is perhaps just that. It is understandable to want to urge folks to immediately embrace slow, out-of-the-box, dreary, dirgeful Black Metal. The vibe I get from the album in total is that they are a Black Metal band that does Doom too…along with other things. Judging from that first track alone, though, the opposite would most likely be said to be true. It is, however, a solid track, but would have been either better served if placed elsewhere in the order.
The intensity is rapidly increased with the second track, “Freewill Decrypted,” and the third, “Apocalypsis”. One can hear echoes of Mayhem over twenty years ago when they ceaselessly advanced the genre, in the latter in particular. It just has that biting, intensely hot and cold feeling that speaks to the soul timelessly like true art.
Hearing the fifth track, “The Best We Have Created,” was like a spontaneous kick to the teeth. My head was literally spinning when the song kicks in. Immediately, one can hear classic Death Metal like Grave before they jump into a more Darkthrone-sounding part. It is best to keep in mind that when diving into the meat of the album, one should expect total immersion. Having already entranced the listener, SME now have control of the atmosphere and plot.
One is now in a situation comparable to Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back when Yoda tries to dissuade him from going into the cave before ultimately conceding to Luke’s curiosity. It is without doubt inspired by the story of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil where God forbade Adam and Eve to eat from. What one experiences in the cave is ultimately a representation of what they bring in with them.
“Black Hole Dementia,” track seven is undoubtedly a high point in the album with a vibe that echoes dizzying, mid-paced Satyricon like “A Moment of Clarity” from Intermezzo II. There is also a musical touch in parts akin to Ulver’s early material on Bergtatt, a true classic of the pantheon of Black Metal. Throughout, while paying homage musically to heroes, the band is ever moving the battle forward with their command of traditional Black Metal and Doom Metal seasoned with healthy portions of conscious-enhancing periods of blissfully pensive atmosphere. One feels as if having been switched with Dr. David Bowman, the astronaut from 2001: A Space Odyssey who was on his way through the cosmos into the center of infinity. As he neared catharsis, his soul became entwined with that of a fetus near birth. One soul was sacrificed for the birth of another.
“The Secret of Never-ending Chaos,” the eighth track, further affirms what was made clear much earlier in the album – that SME has a penchant for ensnaring the listener, transporting them to other realms. Evidently, science has seen evidence or confirmed, please excuse my deficient memory/negligence, that alternate realities exist. It would explain that netherworld that exists that most know of though do not admit to it. It is the realm of dreams, mystery, creativity, bliss, and the illuminati of factors that puzzle the flow of “this world” by acting out of time or the realm of possibility. The music in this song exemplifies their intoxicating effect, as perfectly illustrated by the guitar solos. The groove is strong on this song as well, a wise transition from the grindier parts. Listening to this song in its entirety, it is hard to mistake the feeling residing within for it is the same as when you first heard Pure Holocaust or even Storm of the Light’s Bane, like blasting true Black Metal with the windows down and snow pouring inside the car. Hearing a band invoke my favorite period of music – in my lifetime – truly connecting, not just a cover, is like musical nirvana, essentially lifting one’s feet off the ground into the air.
So, what is to make of this? The answer is quite simple. If the bands mentioned in reference to SME are of no interest then do not waste your time. In all seriousness, though, this is an album that will certainly knock people’s heads off. There is a potential for them here in the States as evidenced by Deafheaven while it is indeed obvious, they are two different bands. From that very pure, sacred, yet dark and potentially malevolent well, is drawn the temperature of this album as it plods along for when it ends, one’s system is practically jolted. Yes, it is that good.