Review: StarerWind, Breeze, Or Breath

Starer - Wind, Breeze, Or Breath album

Blink and breathe

Inspired primarily by lucid dreaming, the vortex-like songwriting throughout Wind, Breeze, Or Breath evokes as much hypnagogic experiences as it does dreamlike lucidity. Depicting a dream cycle across 7 tracks, the relative lushness of Starer’s third full-length evokes the sort of dissociative immateriality you experience through lucid dreaming, hypnagogia, and nightmares.

The one-man black metal project from Kentucky soldiers forward on the back of two previous cult favorites that differentiated the project from many in the USBM scene with a more symphonic, emotive stylistic direction. The annual release schedule starting with 18° Below The Horizon in 2021 and The What Is To Be in 2022 continues with release of Wind, Breeze, Or Breath, though more refined and focused.

Separating itself from a lot other Kentucky-based black metal, Starer has always seems less concerned with the natural world in itself and more with human experiences, with songwriting sensibilities that are suitably emotive and tangible.

A track like “Drifting” places emphasis on ostinato guitar runs and melodic progressions in place of shrillness. A musical break at the halfway mark of the track is both poignant and authoritative—like the sound of inspiration hitting, of something clicking into place, of a dreamer becoming aware of his dream. The clean vocal section that follows feels oddly euphoric as a result, but without any forced sentimentality. The relatively clean guitar introduction to “Shaping” swirls around the mix like a whirlpool, giving way to a very hypnagogic track. The feeling of unclear outlines of shapes and textures permeate the release; it feels more in line with late 2000s Blackgaze à la Dopamine than it does Falls Of Rauros.

But then, Starer has always tapped into a different atmospheric vein than many in the genre. Distinct from a lot of the oblique folk influence of many other American based atmospheric black metal projects, its focus on comparatively lush production and bright, broad composition has made the project stand out since the debut.

The symphonic elements of Starer found on tracks like “Witnessing” are tasteful, with keys accenting the songwriting rather than lathering it in a faux-orchestral flavor. A track like “Emerging”, which has the most pomposity and flair to its sustained-synth introduction of any track on the record, manages to incorporate its symphonic black metal influence with uniquely stabbing, staccato riffing.

“Returning” is in many ways the record at its most traditional, bookending the album in a way that evokes suddenly waking up from the middle of a dream on a bitter morning—the track has a suitably melancholic undertone to it as a result. Despite being a less immediately confrontational record, “Returning” leaves the listener with a bit of unease as it fades out, as if not everything has been answered, as if not everything was elucidated—the track fades into silence like the fading memory of a dream.

Wind, Breeze, or Breath is out on July 28th via Bandcamp.

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