When I like something, I get confused and sometimes irritated when others either don’t like it or don’t even know about it. This is the case, here. What we have, here, is an album that has been out for a week, now, and I’ve only seen three bloody reviews of the thing and no buzz, whatsoever, and that’s a shame.
So, quick background – I *like* “Spell Eater.” There, in what seems to be an unpopular opinion amongst what I’ve heard termed as “metal purists,” I enjoy the album for what it is, and that’s straight ahead, no nonsense metal. There’s no pretention to be modern. The most modern thing about the sound on that album would be the double-bass cannons. Perhaps I should clarify – modern in the era of “metalcore” this, “black metal” that…none of that, for which I’m grateful. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to take a release by a band and say it’s “heavy metal” and not have to do some sort of genre juggling.
Enter “Starbound Beast” and enter more sophisticated writing, less reliance on what I would refer to as “weird” vocal tactics (the strangled screams, the guttural growls and weird (that word again) fluttering vocal trick), and, most important to me, more polished embracing of the “old sound” of the mid-80s heavy metal. Before I go any further, let me say that while I don’t hate “I Want To F@$% You To Death,” (hereafter known as IWTFYTD), I think it would have made a “fun” b-side (remember those?) and I think it was a misstep to put it front and center on the album as the second actual song. It’s co-written by Lemmy, so how could it be bad, right? Read the title, again, and check back. To me, it’s the only weak track on the album and I could have done without it. It’s a solid enough song, musically, but the lyrics and Lemmy-ish delivery don’t work for me. That’s OK, though – it’s my opinion and if I don’t like and you do, that’s perfectly fine.
OK, enough with the negative – there are plenty of negative-ish reviews out there, which I don’t understand, but to each their own. What I enjoy about this album seem to be bones of contention and, as mentioned, revolve around a throwback approach to a more straight forward metal approach. This album doesn’t dance around anything, just forging forward with well constructed songs with driving rhythms, vocals and solos. It also doesn’t just pick one style – “Destroy Your Life” would fit in 1990 with its pounding intro and heavy progressions while the next track, “Starbound Beast” slogs and sludges along with extended and oft-soaring vocal lines and straight-forward riffing straight out of a mishmash of late-80s/early-90s Maiden, Priest and, perhaps, a touch Wylde-era Ozzy. “Zenith” rockets forth with reckless abandon with excellent riffing but also shows restraint and varies the assault creating a very nice dynamic in the song.
“Oracle” also starts with a thrashing intro but settles into a verse that offers a nice contrast and feels very 1985-ish, at times. It flows very well into another mid-to-late-80s sounding riff (think Metal Church), and that’s “Receiver.” The soloing on this song really opens up and grooves and I enjoy it, a lot. “Spectra Spectral” is another straight forward metal song that showcases every band member’s grasp of writing a very accessible, in a positive sense, song. I would have released this as the first single…
The album closes with “Alpha Tauri” and “Running Wild.” The former is a solid song that utilizes excellent vocal harmonics, solid riffing and soloing and features an ethereal break that really works well with the song while leading into possibly the most throwback riff-reentry on the album which takes you back to 1984 with no apologies and no need for said apologies. The song works. Regarding “Running Wild,” all I can say is that if you don’t see Paul Di’Anno and 1979-era Maiden, go back and try it again. Yes, I know it’s a Priest cover…that doesn’t change my opinion that Jill sounds more like Killers-era Di’Anno than Rob…
Now, I’m not saying this is the best album since (place your favorite album, here), but I am saying it’s a marked improvement over the “Spell Eater,” and shows growth in all aspects. It’s a very strong album. It’s listenable – you could put it on infinite repeat in your CD player, if that’s not too “old school” a reference, and not get bored 1.5 plays through. In fact, it’s after the first couple of listens that some of the little complexities start creeping out and make you think, “aw, our little Huntress is growing up!”
I tend to shy away from numeric values because I find them limiting, but since it seems to be the norm, I’ll say that the album as a whole is ≥8.5±0.25 out of 10.