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Space Mirrors

Cosmic Horror III: Stella Polaris

Review by Gary Hill

I've reviewed several albums from this act before, but missed this one and the other that's reviewed in this issue previously. Since I'm working on the updated version of The Strange Sound of Cthulhu: Music Inspired by the Writings of H.P. Lovecraft, it seemed a good time to correct that omission. This particular release came out in 2015. It's more metallic than some of the other music from Space Mirrors. In fact, I could have made the argument to land it under metal, but based on the rest of the catalog and some of the music here, I've put it under prog. One interesting change to the lineup on this set is the presence of Nik Turner. He lends his vocals to one song and plays saxophone or flute (both on one) on several.

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Track by Track Review
Haunter of the Dark
Fierce metal sounds bring this into being. It's hard rocking and really fiery. The vocals land more in the vein of industrial or techno sounds. There are hints of space rock in the mix here, but more than anything else this is screaming hot metal. It shifts later in the piece toward thrash metal. In fact, this resembles Metallica at times.
Even more purely heavy metal in nature, this is a bit less fierce than the opener was. It drives forward in style. At roughly ten-minutes in length, this is of epic size. It's also rather epic in scope. They take it to a keyboard laden section later that brings some tasteful weirdness to the proceedings. Then it works back out to the song proper from there. There are some intriguing changes as this works forward.
White Ship
Opening with multiple voices in an acapella arrangement, this works out from there to something more in line with psychedelic space rock. There is a dark and trippy element to the cut.  I dig the echoey space meets fusion section later in the track. The guitar soloing in the last minute or so actually has just a bit of a Jerry Garcia vibe to it. Overall the cut is a psychedelic space rocker, though.
Stella Polaris
Another that lands in the more metallic end of the spectrum, this has a lot of that industrial element at play. There is still plenty of space rock, particularly in the over-layers of the piece. There is some particularly noteworthy bass work built into this later. It gets quite intense and powerfully metallic further down the musical road. As it approaches the five-minute mark it turns toward some freaky, psychedelic jazz stylings. I dig the saxophone provided by Nik Turner later in the number. That whole section lends a real dream-like quality to the track.
(A Passer) Through the Storm
Here we're back into more industrial meets metal territory. This is another powerhouse cut that really rocks. It does drop down late in the track to some trippy keyboard based stuff for the ending section.
In The Blood
More of a metallic prog movement opens this number. It gets more into pure metallic stylings as it marches forward. The pounding movement around the four minute mark brings more of that progressive element. It has spoken vocals on the top of it as it carries forward.
Burning Chaplet
Mellower and much proggier, this has a dark and rather mysterious element to it. It grows out gradually and does have some metallic crunch in the mix. After the three minute mark it gradually shifts into a scorching hot metal jam. That doesn't hold it for long, though, as keyboard soloing takes over from there in a more pure progressive rock vein.  They work it to more pure metallic stuff beyond that, though. Eventually it works out to more of a industrial rock mode for a time. Then it evolves to more of a melodic movement beyond that.
West of Arkham
Powering in with a fierce and driving intensity, there is a lot of metal in the mix at the start of this. Before the three-minute mark it shifts out to some cool space meets jazz music. The saxophone again provides an intriguing touch to the piece. By around the four and a half minute mark, though, it has shifted to something more in line with thrash. We're taken from there back into the song proper with plenty of metal and industrial at its heart.
The Crawling Chaos
Trippy space music opens this tentatively. It begins to emerge from there in slow, tentative and measured lines of sound. This cut is over eleven-minutes long, qualifying it as epic. Rather creepy spoken vocals come over the top as the cut continues to evolve gradually. By around the four minute mark it has really risen up into something powerful. Then it shifts to a metallic riff driven movement from there to continue. Still, there are bits of space rock that fly across the top of the arrangement even during that segment. This works through some intriguing variations. I love the section later that's part space rock and part stoner metal. It turns a bit fiercer as it marches onward.
Essential Saltes of Humane Dust
A space keyboard section with a lot of effects opens this and holds it for a while. It works out after a time to more driving, hard rocking stuff. It resembles techno and metal, but has some proggy changes. The bass work is again quite interesting. Around the half-way mark the cut turns toward melodic metal territory. It pounds out from there with a metal meets space rock intensity.
The Master
Trippy weirdness opens this. Nik Turner provides a spoken vocal part, calling to mind comparisons to Hawkwind. The music that dances around this is very freaky in a lot of ways. There is very much a science fiction weirdness built into this. Multiple voices say "The Master" on the closing section.
Hidden Track (The Ancient Ones)
There is a hidden track here. It's a cover of a song originally done by Morbid Angel. This is fierce and metallic. Yet there is a Goth rock meets space vibe built into it, too.
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