After forming in 2010, Stellar Master Elite released a steady trio of albums and new release “Hologram Temple” is their first offering in four years finding the Germans combining a heady mix of black and doom metal whilst throwing in a progressive slant and a psychedelic drone overtone that makes for a more challenging experience. The band explore the human condition with concepts of mortality and the impact of technology in a future that has been depicted by novelist Philip K Dick. So how does this play out musically?

The drone and black noise of “Null” is a hugely atmospheric opener with an hypnotic, repetitive riff similar to countrymen Domkraft in style. Aggressive, growled vocals overlay this creating an early statement that flows into an Opeth tinged sound albeit far more dense. The opening tracks are full of a churning venom especially driven by the vocals. “Apocalypsis” with its throat shredding delivery creates a nightmarish torrent before the album starts to take a more psychedelic, progressive turn on “Ad Infinitum” with a trippy, muffled spoken word intro full of sci-fi textures. A doomier turn that sounds like a latter day Electric Wizard is simply big and full of atmosphere as pulsating synths hang in the background before a weighty, juddering riff comes in. This is a standout track that has a grand scale and a sweeping effect that gives it constant motion.

Shades of Primordial come in on “The Beast We Have Created” which is a fast paced piece of blunt force trauma that sees the album continue to grow and shift direction while keeping its common themes intact. Ominous synths and tribal percussion on “Agitation Consent War” with spoken word vocals create space and light amongst the surrounding tracks. This actually has a tone not too dissimilar to the instrumental interludes on Black Sabbath’s “Born Again” before the hardcore punk tinged aggression of “Black Hole Dementia” that unleashes a groove that is then pummelled into the ground.

The album lifts upward on the back of “Never Ending Chaos”- a fine precursor to the 15 minute closing track, “Temple Tetragon” whose introduction is almost cinematic in scale with a sci-fi soundtrack aura. Full of drama and expectation with dry, cold drumming, it morphs into a brief explosion of sheer black metal brutality. Electronica comes in and the drum beat has a military style between the blackened blasts that give the track a sense of relentless momentum. Working into a darker, Pink Floyd styled sonic exploration in the latter half, it’s a thoughtfully crafted piece that creates a mind bending journey. The fading drone leaves a sea of questions that’s challenging but equally interesting and engaging.

This is a layered and sometime complex album that really shouldn’t be genre classified to any great extent. There’s a passion and conviction in its delivery that is very hard to ignore. Completely engaging and compelling it’s well worth a listen and will reward with close attention.

(8/10 Johnny Zed)