Unashamedly a heavy metal band in the truest sense, there’s something pleasingly both retro and contemporary about the Norwegians Stargazer. Life Will Never Be The Same is their third release, coming after 2019’s The Sky Is The Limit and nearly 14 years since their eponymous debut record in 2009.
Stargazer – Life Will Never Be The Same (Mighty Music)
Release Date: 3 March 2023
Words: Paul Hutchings
Another album themed by events of the past few years, it’s a melodic dream, combining heavy riffs with the soaring vocals of Tore André Helgemo – think of the likes of H.E.A.T. and Alcatrazz, combined with elements of Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and Europe, and you’ll have a fair idea about the band’s sound.
Stargazer balance tenderness with a steely edge. Take the second track, Live My Dream. It’s spliced between huge doses of melody, screamingly good lead guitar and Helgemo’s fantastic pipes. They draw deep from the Dio well, too, with the crafting of their songs reminiscent of the late legend’s better works.
Rock The Sky smoulders rather than blazes, but the brooding feel allows the band, guitarist William Ernstsen, keyboardist Sondre Bjerkset, bassist Jomar Johansen and drummer Morten Skogstad, to scope out their style. If you like your melodic rock, then I’d wager that you’ll like Stargazer. Ernstsen’s guitar work is amongst the best I’ve heard this year, a fabulous combination of virtuoso and expressionist.
They play it by numbers on occasion, mind. Live Today is a ghastly ballad, the kind of guff that Scorpions used to churn out in spades. It’s nails down the blackboard time for this one, and even a spaced-out solo isn’t going to rescue it. But we can forgive the odd Metal faux pas, and with the forward button engaged, you can soon immerse yourself in Don’t Kill, which has a riff reminiscent of Dokken.
It’s the harder rocking music that really gets the blood racing. It certainly is better than Heartbroken, which, as you may guess from the title, is another stomach-churner. Why bands decide to throw in ballads is beyond me.
The stomping style on Turn Off The Light, with some razor-sharp guitar work, maybe a sugar-coated song, but it works well with that previously mentioned harder edge. Stargazer drops it low for a third time on the gentle instrumental Beyond The Moon, which features a bluesy style workout and is a pleasure to enjoy.
Overall, there’s plenty to appreciate here. It isn’t going to threaten my top ten albums of 2023, but there was no time when I wanted to turn it off.
A warm, engaging and melodically crafted album, Stargazer’s market is different to many bands I listen to. That they have a market is unquestionable, and this is an album that is likely to put them more in the spotlight.