Earlier this year I personally claimed that Clutch’s ‘Earth Rocker’ would likely be my album of the year, even though it was only March. I have now had to reconsider after hearing the first album by Chicago based ‘insert metal genre here’ Starkill.
The strangely Indie band name intertwined with the power metal look of the band didn’t lead me initially to think I would bat an eyelid at this newly signed band to Century Media Records. It just shows how first impressions can be incredibly wrong, to the point of downright idiocy.
I cannot think back to a début that has fired me up to the point of instant obsession before. Nor can I recall an album that has impressed me to the point of running out of plays available on the press promo delivery.
With a plethora of layering; stemming from skilled solo’s, galloping blasts and sneakily implemented vocal sound effects through to a tantalisingly clever keyboard, choral harmony, sparklingly clean guitar noodling and singalong choruses all thrown into a metal melting pot driven by blackened metal vocals and death metal brutality; It’s an album that sparked one hell of a reaction in my nether lady regions.
You can indeed hear a variety of influences, listen for yourself to see what they are, but Fires Of Life is something extremely special. In Whispers Of Heresy for example, the piano intro is hauntingly pretty, it brings a tingle when merged seamlessly with the triple fast blast beats that are nicely set back in the mix, then the spiteful black metal vocal throws you off guard, and a pagan metal guitar solo kicks in. It develops with a further sprinkling of programmed sound effects, short gravelly growls and exceptional riffs that propel you head first into a world of extreme sensory overload; you should by now need at least seven pairs of ears to truly appreciate what is being delivered here. And then some.
Welcome to Fires Of Life. It’s stunning.
Ten tracks. Ten. You get ten of the above. All different, but equally powerful. It was exceptionally difficult to pick stand out tracks, but I’ll have to go for Below The Darkest Depths as my ultimate favourite. I’m not sure you’ll be able to pick out a favourite either, you’ll have the urge to replay each track ’til your hard drive screams for mercy. The short sharp intake of breath just before a drop on the title track Fires of Life made me bite my lip, and it’s tiny touches like this that set Starkill’s record writing apart from the usual.
There is just so much to listen to, and you discover more subtle nuances with each listen.
The robotic vocal in Sword, Spear, Blood, Fire developing into a thrash tinged death shred solo is a…a…yet another one of the many I could mention as well as the choppy chorus of Immortal Hunt and the guttural depth of the dual vocals on New Infernal Rebirth laid down with a military style symphonic synth. There is not one boring track on this album.
Début albums can be hit and miss. A really decent couple of tracks with experimental subsequent fillers showcasing what a band believes will make them ‘unique’. The case can be that each song denies them a gelling of sound, and a lacklustre mishmash of tenuous links. Starkill avoid this, with a professionalism that far belies their apparent tender years. The thing is, they manage to avoid it with scary precision. You will know each song is Starkill, you will however, remember each track for it’s own sound, not re-using a riff, neither mimicking nor falling into some sloppy, lazy, uninspired rehash of a previous melody.
That takes skill, which this band has by the bucketload.
Fires Of Life can cause a pit at the same time as forcing your eyes to roll back in their sockets and throw yourself back on the ground of any festival field in a writhing mess, the pristine solo’s and spotless production intertwine beautifully into a heady mix of darkly exquisite windmilling beauty.
Sorry for the gushing, but when you listen you will hear exactly what I am saying. I’m in love with this album and you likely will be too. If you have ears.
I am a death metal fan. I am a Gojira fan. I am not a fan of black metal, nor power metal, and not necessarily viking metal. I like to have my face melted and my skull crushed with a sledgehammer. Starkill will not crush your skull, they will not spandex you into Power Metal hell, nor will they lull you to sleep with a pagan flute. But be warned, what they do serve up is a blissfully blistering blow of dynamically decadent impassioned darkened melodic metal of the highest calibre that is truly a pleasure to raise a beer filled drinking horn to, before you form a circle pit and fist pump til you keel over.
Woah, I’m out of breath after that sentence. How many adjectives can you fit into a statement? With Starkill it’s not going to be enough.
If you don’t attempt to air guitar to this, you are not human. If you fail to be moved by this, you are not human.
If I were an elitist, I would have not bothered with this album had I based how I expected it to sound on the way they look. And let’s face it, they do look about 16. I want to temper this rview with some low points, or some faults. But I can’t. Sorry.
I urge you to give Starkill a listen, in fact, I implore you.