I’m guessing you’ve probably never heard of Stellar Master Elite, have you? If you haven’t, then let me introduce you to them. Named after a Thorns song, Stellar Master Elite are a German black metal band with healthy amounts of doom and atmospheric components in their sound. They formed in 2010, and have so far released three albums.
The Rank and File column normally deals with higher-profile bands, but this time I wanted to highlight a band a bit more underground. This is one half a rank and file, one half a review of their albums, (including the recently-released reissues of their first two albums), and one half simply to alert you to this high-quality band, if you’re not already aware of them. Yes, I know that the fractions don’t add up, but it is what is it is.
So anyway, my motives should now be abundantly clear – listen to Stellar Master Elite. Listen long and hard.
This is a relatively straightforward Rank and File, as each album the band have produced is better than its predecessor. As such, they’re essentially ranked in chronological order.
Apparently, the band are working on their fourth album as we speak. After listening to the below, I hope you’ll be looking forward to it as much as I am.
I – 2011
This was the album that introduced the world to Stellar Master Elite’s music, and on I they had a Satyricon-influenced sound that mainly stuck close to the second wave style. Although the band’s synth-heavy, expansive sound that they would later develop is only partially in place on this album, you can clearly see the start of it here; the electronic aspects of the music are less obvious, more subtle, and used more sparingly. Later, they would become much more prominent.
I is essentially a second wave black metal album, with a few extra frills to add to its personality, (I must particularly praise “Ain Soph,” with its guest female vocals from Julia Leis). Overall, the songs are good, and everything here hits the spot quite nicely. If I were all that the band were capable of then Stellar Master Elite would still be more than worthy of your time, but as we’ll see shortly, they evolved into so much more than just this.
Eclipsed by what came next it may ultimately be, but I is still a strong debut album and a very enjoyable listen.
II: Destructive Interference Generator – 2013
The band’s second album was in some ways a step forward in sound but is still largely closer to I than to their future output. Benjamin Borucki from Sonic Reign took over main vocal duties, and the traditional black metal core of the songs work well with his blackened rasp.
Keeping their base of Satyricon/Thorns-inspired black metal, Stellar Master Elite expanded their repertoire on this release to further include elements of doom, drone, ambient, and electronics, although not yet in the amounts that their third album would deliver. The introduction of wider stylistic elements into the band’s black metal allowed them to test the waters and experiment, but without drifting too far from their established sound.
It’s tempting to think of II: Destructive Interference Generator as a prototype for the band’s third album; a test run of sorts for the fully-realised vision that Stellar Master Elite would achieve in 2015. However, there are two problems with thinking like this. The first is that III: Eternalism – The Psychospherical Chapter was less of a step forward for the band, and more of a leap. The second is that this viewpoint can marginalise what a damn good album II: Destructive Interference Generator is in its own right.
III: Eternalism – The Psychospherical Chapter – 2015
It was on this album that Stellar Master Elite truly came into their own. Building on their accomplishments from I and II: Destructive Interference Generator, III: Eternalism – The Psychospherical Chapter was a bold evolutionary leap in progression. Although recognisably of the same lineage as its predecessors, the ambition and range displayed on this album is impressive and demonstrated a band that were ready to finally morph into something special.
Rich, textured, nuanced, and diverse, this album is a journey through blackened soundscapes and dark emotions. Each song has its own firm identity and offers the listener something different. All of this is collected under a holistic framework that allows the band free reign to mutate and adapt their sound as they see fit, while still remaining cohesive and consistent.
Synths enhance the music endlessly, and the band’s fusion of atmospheric black metal, ambient drone, and blackened doom is wonderfully realised. This was the album that Stellar Master Elite fully embraced the multiple stylistic influences that they clearly have, and embedded them securely in the music, to great effect.
The band picked up a new vocalist, (and bassist) for this album, and the vocals are very well-performed. The mix of forbidding growls and piercing screams attempt to lead you astray at every chance they get, and you’d be foolish not to listen. The elegantly Gothic “Perdition Time Loop” is led by clean vocals, (a guest slot from Markus Stock from The Vision Bleak), which is another nice touch to an already well-developed and notable album.
III: Eternalism – The Psychospherical Chapter boasts 63 minutes of intricate, well-crafted blackened music and emotive darkness. All three of these releases are ones I highly recommend, but if you only get hold of one of them, then make it is this one. Kind of makes you excited for what the band are going to unleash on their upcoming fourth album, eh?