AlbumsJune 16, 20243,068 views

Ogasawara The Age of Stars


The Age of Stars
1. Destined Death 2. Empyrean Flesh 3. Stagnant Constellations 4. Follow the River 5. The Age of Stars
2024 self-released
Our score 8

6/17/2024

I know this is weird to start a review with, but I’m just being responsible: minor, vague spoilers throughout this review for the game Elden Ring. 

Here’s a quick little anecdote about how shooting your shot can sometimes be fruitful. I actually found this album and thus am reviewing it because the principle artist behind the project, Luke “Java” Sackenheim, reached out to Lambgoat. The hook: a black metal album based on Elden Ring. Although I’ve only played a paltry 30-ish hours of Elden Ring before getting absolutely dog-walked and setting it aside for a later, yet undetermined time, it’s my duty as a fucking nerd to investigate music based on or influenced by games I’m at least familiar with. It can be fun! And what I ultimately found with The Age of Stars is, just like it was worth Sackenheim’s time to reach out to us, so too was it worth delving into this album.

Ogasawara is a pretty new endeavor, a one-man black metal band only having another small album and a single released to its name before this one, and this album itself only adding five tracks to the list. Sackenheim describes himself as “literally just some dude in a room who records albums for 1 hour a day during his lunch breaks” so this is about as indie and underground as it gets. I could already hear some of y’all groan out loud when I said “one-man black metal band”, but let’s not forget the inhuman talent that can be tapped into by yourself when you are driven to create.

The Age of Stars is fully committed to the bit, from the cover art depicting demigod Ranni the Witch with the golden yellow branches of the Erdtree flanking her on both sides, to the title itself referencing one of Elden Ring’s many possible endings where Ranni is a key player. The music itself though is lovingly realized, rapid-fire, coarse black metal with a lot of melody and motion behind it - my favorite. It even has moments you could throw thrash and death metal labels around less like accusations and more like acknowledgements of the breadth of artistry that’s channeled by Ogasawara. 

It all begins with “Destined Death” and narration from Ranni the Witch (performed by a voice actress named Maiday). It sets the stage for a song steeped in assassination and the changing of great fate that gives Elden Ring’s setting its dark burden, referencing Godwyn the Golden, the Night of Black Knives, and Those Who Live in Death, all shit integral to the story of both this album and the game it takes influence from. Likewise, the music is dark, but never lost in itself. Snappy drums line the walls of Ogasawara’s music and remain a constant generator of power and foot-tapping while guitars dance between blistered screeds of caustic melody and progressions that call back to older Chthonic albums - another favorite. The amount of variance in the guitars alone makes The Age of Stars worth a listen because this thing is a riff house. 

“Empyrean Flesh” is chills-inducing with its piano and more open soundscapes. Don’t worry, it also contains a ripping solo, and Sackenheim’s vocals are appropriately monstrous, adopting a more elevated, raspy, goblin-like inflection rather than a bellowed, hellish tone, though there is some diversity in his vocals and how they howl to accentuate the end of some bars of lyrics. Ogasawara without a doubt is indebted more to the theatrical side of black metal and, given the album’s themes, is much better for it. “Stagnant Constellations” is another great example of that with some of the fastest tempos on display, but also yelping, finger-twisting, and tremolo-picked guitar work that revels in the blackened mood.

“Follow the River” is all about carrying that momentum to the end of the project, but still has some intense riffing and progressions capped off with splashy drums and a classical attitude when it comes to adhering to black metal standards. The title track is just a pummeling in the best way, all of the energy built up over the previous four songs being unleashed in a fun yet abrasive way that only this specific kind of black metal can achieve with ease. This track is the shortest, but still smashes the same amount of energy within that time which makes it awesomely kinetic and lovely. 

There’s not much in the line of complaints or shortcomings - I guess I could have used some more forlorn, finely-crafted ambience like in “Empyrean Flesh”. Still, The Age of Stars is a consummate black metal album and its use of Elden Ring lore isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be, a barrier of entry for any fans of this style of music. It’s great, period, perhaps surprisingly so, perfectly timed with the release of the long-awaited Elden Ring expansion, Shadow of the Erdtree. I can’t imagine a better soundtrack for those of y’all embarking on that harrowing journey.

Bottom Line: This isn’t just some random project about a video game with a surplus of passion and absence of compelling artistry, it’s a bona fide entertaining and action-packed black metal album with a lot to offer. Ogasawara just said fuck it and dumped all its stats into strength, mind, and dexterity, and while I don’t know if that’s a viable character build, it surely made for a genuinely impressive project, worthy of keeping an eye on no matter what it chooses to do for future releases.


6 comments

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anonymous 37 days ago

WHO?

anonymous 36 days ago

What a stupid Bottom Line.

anonymous 36 days ago

So is it better than Zulu, and the short answer is NO. Received a 9.

anonymous 36 days ago

oh f*ck yeah! I wont be listening to this bullshit!

anonymous 36 days ago

Ooh cool, had no idea about this before. I'll give it a listen.

anonymous 26 days ago

"We'd like cover art that looks like In Flames "Lunar Strain" but for weebs."