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The void above. - 75%

Diamhea, March 31st, 2015
Written based on this version: 2002, CD, Adipocere Records

I feel the need to open with the fact that Starlight Extinction was extremely hard to track down. I was really hoping for this to be the superior twin to Slave Design that the timeline may suggest. Sadly, it really isn't, but that doesn't necessary mean it isn't worth a listen. As an entity separate from Sybreed, Rain is decidedly more atmospheric and alternatively less compact and perfunctory than the rigid and staggered industrial groove the group is/was lauded for today. The first two albums put larger stock in this modus operandi, but Starlight Extinction does serve as something of a final stepping stone that propelled the band just far enough to make waves after the name change. Strutting palm mutes that toe the line partitioning Morbid Angel replace Betrisey's still-developing style, making this a somewhat diffused listen for those in need of a killer groove metal fix. This does strip away an accretion of the potency and mechanical patina that served as a positive complement later on, so these guys aren't quite working with a full deck here.

If anything, this makes me miss Ben more than ever, as Sin is a much more nose-to-the-grindstone frontman, delivering aggrandized shouts and distorted croaking that falls more in line with prototypical industrial acts. He lacks Ben's clean chops, and this does comparatively bring the material down a hair. Lacking the earlier primordial charm of Natural Order, here we see the band moving closer to intergalactic subject matter and tone. Just like T3chn0ph0b1a, the inky blackness of the æther serves as a potent backdrop to the music at hand, and from a certain point of view, the thought of this band continuing as opposed to changing to Sybreed is somewhat intriguing. Betrisey is backed by Laurent Mainolfi on guitars, and they weave the twin axes in and out of a number of rangy grooves that moor the music in a forceful anchor of polished virulence. This alone should sate followers of both camps, irregardless of the band's decisions after the fact.

One standout feature that appears as early as this record are the sequenced electronic backings, typically opening songs but never truly leaving the listener's peripheral vision. It screams of the year the record was released (2002) and adds what I interpret as a nostalgic flair that hails back to '90s tracker/demoscene music that I adore so much. So in isolation, that is a huge personal plus, and it separates Starlight Extinction from what came after it for a number of reasons. The solemn, soaring angst of songs like "Starclouds & Cosmic Seas" (perhaps Rain's one true masterpiece) and "Annihilation of the Centuries" ooze choking dystopian atmosphere and gel so well with the more harried, crunchier numbers. This is also a very accessible album, with an average song length hovering around the three-minute mark. This precludes the band from stagnating, and helps mitigate some of the less appealing passages. The final two songs are the most interesting, especially the spoken-word driven "The Final Extinction," which sounds like carnival music set atop a whirling morass of grime and detritus.

In the end, I really enjoyed this, and I almost wonder how good this band could have been if they continued on after Ben joined up instead of changing nomenclature and (slightly) musical style. The contrast of rich dissonance, brighter melodies and a heaping of electronics should be enough to reel in any industrial/groove metal fan, if not for the strong pedigree of the musicians involved. The lack of clean vocals hurt it a bit, along with the fact that it can never hope to shake the Sybreed comparison, but Rain definitely had a future worth looking forward to, and in this case, a past worth revisiting.