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Tuesday 2 August 2022

Reviews: Jack Starr's Burning Star, Sleestak, Urban Primate, Tomorrow's Fate (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Rich Piva)

Jack Starr's Burning Starr - Souls Of The Innocent (Global Rock Records) [Matt Bladen]

New York City's veteran guitarist Jack Starr has been cranking out heavy metal riffs since 1984. His band Burning Starr is often mentioned in the same breath as bands such as Manowar, Riot V and of course Virgin Steel of which he is a founding member. Souls Of The Innocent is the eighth album from the group, their first since 2017 and the first with new vocalist Alex Panza. Panza has a brilliantly sky scraping classic metal voice, ideal for tracks like the orchestrated Ships In The Night. As with many bands of this tenure the style remains fixed but the maturity increases so while in the 80's they were interested in spirited shredfests, now mid paced marches such as the title track are more preferred. 

Happily they still carry enough muscle to get the fist in the air, to my ear there's a bit of European power metal, some NWOBHM (Winds Of War) and also a doom/bluesy riffage ala Heaven & Hell/ Dio, the doom sound coming from the throbbing bass of ex Pentagram man Ned Meloni who has been with Starr since 2004. Rounding out the rhythm section is Rhino who many will know as a former Manowar stickman, he hits like a sledgehammer, and I know this from personal experience as I've been hit in the chest by one of his drumsticks! Souls Of The Torment proves that there is life in the old dog yet, while many of his peers, have broken up, stick to playing the nostalgia circuit, or walk out of festivals with 24 hours to go. Jack Starr continue to produces classy heavy metal. 7/10

Sleestak - Harbinger (Self Released) [Rich P]

I wanted to like this. A bunch of people suggested this one to me and were super pumped to grab it once it was released.  The new album from Sleestak has been getting a lot of buzz in my little circle.  The Milwaukee, Wisconsin self-described progressive doom band have been around since 2003 and have released a bunch of stuff with styles all over the map.  Their latest, Harbinger, lingers around the heavy doom tip with death/growl vocals and frankly I have struggled to figure out why this has generated so much excitement. 

Their promo material promises a genre jumping ride across all sorts of the stuff we all love, but most of what I hear is straight ahead heavy doom and not much more. The first three tracks are just that: heavy doom with growling vocals. Nothing that you have not heard before. It is done well.  The songs are fine, and the album is well produced. The guitar work is strong as well. It is just nothing genre bending or all that unique. The song If is a great example of the great shredding from guitarist Matt Schmitz. But it also a bit meandering and a few minutes too long. This is a trend on Harbinger. Song Of The Sea is a nice acoustic driven, slower burner at times almost like their version of Planet Caravan which is pretty cool but again about two minutes too long.  I dig the haunting clean vocals on this one and the tail end of the track when we get a bit of creepy/psych.  This is probably my favorite track on Harbinger. 

Northwoods is a cool track too, with some haunting procession and a creepy vibe., but it is way too long, and I did long songs, I gave the new Wo Fat album a ten and the shortest song on that is like 12 minutes. I think that is my biggest issue with Harbinger; the songs just feel too long, like monumentally long when in actually they are not much longer than a lot of what is going on in the genre today. There is nothing bad on Harbinger. Sleestak can really play, and they have been a good band for a long time. This record just feels like way too much. Edit the tracks by at least tree minutes each and be a bit more focused on content and I think I would have enjoyed this more.  But if you have been a fan, you may still really dig this. I just found myself struggling to connect. 6/10

Urban Primate - Desolate (Wormholedeath Records) [Rich P]

One of my musical pet peeves is overproduction.  I tend to lean towards the rawer sounding bands, like ones that you know recorded their record live in the studio, in a cabin in a remote forest, or on a boombox in their basement. Nothing gets me more cringy then when a band sounds like they were produced in a lab.  This can be what makes or breaks a record for me. Don’t get me wrong, I feel like most people out there lean more towards the slickly produced albums, and it is those people who will really enjoy the second full length from Denmark’s Urban Primate, Desolation. The songs on Desolation are well constructed modern hard rock with serious grunge leanings. I also hear some nu-metal and even some metal-core influence, but the much more radio friendly version of the genre. The problem I have is that “generated in a lab” feel that I get from the eleven tracks on Desolation.  

Songs like Lies and A Sacrifice are extremely radio friendly versions of Korn songs, which for some may sound very appealing. Super slick for sure. These songs could all be played on modern rock radio immediately. Won’t Follow has some radio friendly unit shifting grunge vibes and that loose string bass you hear from the band with the K I mentioned earlier. Lesson is another radio ready hard rock tune that could be sandwiched between tracks from Godsmack and Disturbed on 104.4 the Beaver or some shitty station like that. The song titles are even a bit cliche, including tacks named Breathe, Belong, Walk Away, Home, and Let Go, which without looking could be the tracks from a Three Days Grace record. 

Please don’t get me wrong, nothing is bad on here, it is just very, very similar to a lot of stuff that has been on heavy radio rotation for about 20 years. Rinse and repeat, two drops in a test tube and poof, we have a modern hard rock band. People are going to enjoy this. If you like the slickly produced and derivative rock you hear on the radio this is for you.  I just need a bit more grime and slime in my music, and this is way too sterile for me. The number does not reflect this, as a six is not bad at all. Mostly because people will like this, it is just not my cup of tea. 6/10

Tomorrow's Fate - Appreciate The Time (ROAR! Rock Of Angels Records/NRT Records) [Matt Bladen

Austrian foursome Tomorrow's Fate are bassist/vocalist Benjamin Kuenstner, guitarists Manuel Rojak and André Reiter (who is also a vocalist) with drummer Manuel Wallis. They are young band that start their album off with My Way, a song that borrows heavily from AC/DC but then those vocals come in and no matter what else you hear, they distract the hell out of you. Benjamin cannot sing a note at all, neither can he write lyrics, just listen to Fly for evidence your honour.

I don't like to be negative towards bands if I can help it but this is weak debut album. Basic four on the floor rock riffs that have been recycled to the point of tedium and the worst voice I've heard for a long time that distracts you totally. I'm not going to linger on this one as by the ballad Be Human I'd switched it off. Hopefully they'll work out the kinks by the second album, if not then I won't be listening. 3/10

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