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Monday 10 June 2019

Reviews: Starkill, Lo-Pan, Of Virtue, Emerald (Manus)

Starkill: Gravity (Massakren Inc.)

Starkill’s newest effort is s fine one. Album number four for the Chicago melo-death group is more of what fans would expect, with a few new additions to the sound. Or maybe just one big new addition. Gravity is Starkill’s first album to feature new clean vocalist Sarah Lynn Collier, who joined the band in 2017. The results are excellent, with Collier’s voice blending perfectly with the music and the heavy vocals. It’s a change to be sure, and one fans would be forgiven for being skeptical about, but it works. The songs are powerful, with an operatic feel. They all channel futuristic sci-fi-tinged images similar to that on the album’s cover, and do an excellent job sticking with that theme. Not Alone is an epic, bombastic composition that stands out as one of the album’s highlights, along with the symphonic Manufactured Bliss and the alien-sounding Face The Dark. It’s hard to listen to any one song though. This is an album you want to listen to all the way through, probably more than once. 8/10

Lo-Pan: Subtle (Aqualamb)

Wait… is this a stoner metal band with good vocals? By the time the first track is over, Lo-Pan’s Subtle already clearly boasts all the elements we wish every stoner metal album had. The riffs are catchy and don’t drag on forever, the rhythm section is solid, and the album is not just good in spite of the vocals like so many records in this style seem to be; the vocals are one of the best things about this album. Many of the songs follow a similar formula—but that’s not to say the album is repetitive. Tunes like Ten Days, Sage and Everything Burns sound like they would go over particularly well in a live setting, but really, any of these songs would translate easily from recording to stage. There’s no studio trickery and no impossible-to-recreate effects. It’s just some guys playing their instruments, and nothing else is needed. 8/10
Of Virtue: What Defines You (SharpTone Records)

Upon a first listen, the new Of Virtue record sounds like something that should have come out around 2013… and been left there. The style just feels tired, generic and already burnt out. It’s pretty standard metalcore, being made up mostly of heavy verses and melodic choruses, and with lyrics that drip teen angst. It’s more or less the same music that made a crop of bands fairly big the first half of this decade, but what’s worse is that this album actually isn’t even particularly good for its style. There are a few catchy riffs, like on the song Alone, but most of the guitar work consists of just typical chugs, and the vocals just lack power. The screams feel weak and the melodic vocals often feel wimpy, especially on the album’s “slow song,” Pictures Of You. This album might be enjoyable to high school kids who can empathize with its shallow lyrical content, but listeners over the age of 16 will most likely find it laughable. 3/10

Emerald: Restless Souls (Rock Of Angels Records)

Power metal doesn’t need to be anything fancy, really. When it’s done right, it rocks. Emerald’s Restless Souls isn’t missing anything you’d look for in a solid power metal record. The fantasy-fueled, swords and sorcerers-style power metal has already been perfected, and as such its unlikely anyone new will come along and completely dwarf the greats of the scene, but with this record, Emerald nevertheless show their ability to firmly hold their ground. The first half or so of the album is epic and fast-paced, with songs like Valley Of Death and Son Of Sam throwing the record into gear. About mid-way though, it starts to drag a little, and never really fully recovers to the force and vigor it has at the beginning. That’s not to say the songs on the second half of the record aren’t good enough; it’s more of a pacing thing and could easily be fixed by switching up the order of the songs. Still, this is a solid album, and is probably what any Emerald fan would expect. 7/10

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