Well, this is going to be an interesting review. Drops Of Heart start Stargazer off with “Echoes” which I’ll admit opens with a beautiful lead riff and caught my attention immediately. “Frost Vice” feels like a standard melodeath cut, but the clean vocals are sloppy and ruin it. “Knot” brings in that harsh, depressive though still melodic atmosphere which reminds me of In Flames and Insomnium, not to mention another killer lead melody intertwined within the whole thing. I will say that while “Escapist” does have a good clean approach, “Lull” is where the whole band decides to become straight-forward melodic metal and that loses me a bit. Yes, there’s a great solo piece here but that doesn’t excuse the sub-par vocals in the beginning. Thankfully, the chorus is strong. A hit and miss clean singer does not work well for them, as he’s much better with melodies than when he’s in verse. The harsh vocals should fill most of the verse and the clean singing should fill most of the choruses. Not all of them of course, as no one wants the heavy verse soft chorus album that’s been done to death – but it would help their approach here. With the chorus for “Starlight” though, I find myself corrected. It’s just very hard to pin this down, because some songs really can hit and others just feel like the frontman is going overboard with his approach here. It’s melodic death metal my good man, and you’re not Whitney Houston. Just keep it to one harmony please, you’ll sound so much better that way.
“Modern Madness” has the right amount of groove laden within, making for a real stomper of a track. You can also hear the At The Gates influence pretty heavy here. There’s a clean chorus, but it’s passable enough. “Coffin” has a nice solo piece, though it also tends to lean more towards industrial effects, which is a nice change of pace as it shows musical depth. “Exodus” was nothing to write home about, but I will champion the use of a saxophone solo in “Death Lover.” The song itself is much along the lines of “Lull” and has a much softer side, but you can’t go wrong with a good and saxy sax solo. There’s also one with a guitar, so you get the best of both worlds, even though the piece has an admittedly slow start. “Discoveries” is much the same as several tracks we have already heard before. I’ll give it to them that the track shine sin melody as well as it’s use of quiet soundscapes to give listeners a supposed break from the frequent drum blasts, but it is still not all that memorable. This leaves us with the title track, which shines brightly due to it’s impressive synth display. The cut is also more electronic and bouncy than you might expect, showcasing some definite promise from the band. Though I have one issue and that would mainly be the fact that both the clean and harsh vocalist want to sing at the same time. The chorus to this track would have sounded far better if there wasn’t a clean vocalist in the background and bands have proven this technique works a bit better, it also comes off a bit more harsh. Reminds me of older melodeath discs where even despite the beauty of the riff melodies in the background, the vocals stayed harsh – and you felt that. There was real passion in those screams and growls. It had an animalistic nature that you just can’t capture with the clean approach alone.
Ultimately, I’m entirely hit or miss with Stargazers but I would not consider the record an abject failure either. No, it’s far from that. You can tell that a lot of work was put into this one and it’s a rather solid approach that I think several fans of the genre will enjoy. There are also some intriguing meanderings that cause the band to think out of the box, so that should also get your attention.