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All-Star Lineup Produces Catchy, Upbeat Debut - 73%

DeathRiderDoom, June 17th, 2009

From the opening polished, reverbed and chorused title chant that opens this album, you know you’re not in store for another medieval-themed speed metal album – which were all the rage in 1985. What we have here is almost glam/party metal – but not glam in the ‘Faster Pussycat’ sense – with it’s bluesy guitars, lackluster musicianship and sleazy lyrical buffoonery. More like more light hearted, yet thunderous heavy metal – in the vain of something between Ratt, Scorpions and Kick Axe. While this particular sub-genre is often written off as ‘faggy’ and without real musical merit – it should be noted that originality of sound, and musical proficiency are found here – perhaps more than many more ‘accepted’ mid-80’s speed/heavy metal albums – say Backwater or Living Death’s for example. Just because the genre doesn’t have the fast paced speed, and heavier, serious lyrical subject matter – doesn’t mean it can’t have good degrees of heaviness and quality songwriting. This is what we have here with Burning Starr’s debut; a good mix of heavy drums, wicked solos, and melodic vocal tones crafting together some catchy, upbeat heavy metal.

Well respected guitarist Jack Starr, best known for his axemanship in the legendary Virgin Steele, and one time Riot vocalist Frank Vestry come together here with additional talent to craft what is generally a strong mix of catchy upbeat tunes well deserved of a place alongside the aforementioned Scorpions, et al. Your opener ‘Rock the American Way’ is an incredibly catchy number, whose chorus you will be singin’ to yourself hours after your initial listen. In the pro-rock category of song – this one sits right up there among the better efforts. Jack Starr’s guitar efforts are well thought out – understated due to the constraints of the sub genre, but showcasing some proficiency in the right places. In the more speed metal sounding ‘Live Fast, Rock Hard’ he shreds out a bunch of great fast paced leads, and closes the track on an awesome scale-out showcase. Throughout the album he’s crunching out hard hittin’ punchiness – coupled with well mixed drums – such as in the thundering, yet slow intro and verse to ‘Born to Rock’. Yes that’s right – three, count ‘em three tracks with rock in the title. You should be starting to get a pretty clear idea of what sorta band you’re in for now.

Track wise – aside from the catchy opener, the strongest tracks are ‘Fight the Thunder’ and The sleazy ‘Heat of the Night’ with its guitar harmonics, and Scorpions style vocal twinning harmonics. ‘Fight the Thunder’ is another thoroughly catchy number. This time we have a ‘whipping’ metallic sample in the intro which is eerily similar to an intro effect on ‘Rapid Fire’ from a little album called British Steel. This may be a bit of a rip-off – but using it repeatedly throughout the chorus isn’t – then again – using it in the outro is! In ‘Heat of the Night’ we experience some great innovative riffs from Starr, mixed with some more generic ones – definitely more overall pleasing than much of the later wannabe be bands’ efforts. Throughout the little guitar leads, it almost sounds like more upbeat Queensryche, while vocals are thoroughly Scorpions. On the other hand ‘She’s on Fire’ is perhaps a little boring – with some slightly cliché lyrics, and it’s Fastway comparable overall sound being held back by it’s mild pace. Having said that however – there’s no really crap tracks on this one – just a great melodic heavy metal album all-round – benefitting from a skillful guitarist, and great singer.

If you like stuff like Scorpions – check this one out. The melodic stylings – coupling crunchy and effective riffage with strong vocal harmonies, make for a winning formula – and one-up many of the later mainstream acts who would attempt the melodic rock/glam metal sorta formula (’87 onwards). There’s plenty of cool little riffs scattered throughout, and a tonne of upbeat enthusiasm coming through in the sound. Production-wise – we get a strong job – as you would expect from a band in this vein. Clean, crisp and polished are the order of the day, perhaps the bass guitar being a little too hidden in the background, however. This fun, enjoyable album definitely has re-playability too – I never really get sick of the tunes, ad it works as a great complement with a primary diet of old school thrash and speed – an occasional indulgence which makes a great complement to some upbeat party vibes and a couple light hearted brews.

-DeathRiderDoom