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A bubbling cauldron of oddity - 52%

Andromeda_Unchained, February 3rd, 2014

The debut from Russia’s Starsoup is no doubt an odd affair, and one which was expected on my part – something I’m relatively sure will be the same for others – given their name, album title, and artwork. Speaking of which, I really dig the art. It looks like a salesman you’d come across in a The Legend Of Zelda game, and hey, doesn’t that mask look like the eponymous, transforming face apparel from that Jim Carrey movie?

What you can expect from Starsoup is a blend of progressive rock, AOR, and power metal, which at times works to the band’s benefit; although at others serves to their detriment. One thing is for sure: these guys are talented in their craft – particularly in the piano department – although everything from vocals to drums is well done. As for their songs, well, that’s a different story completely, and one which will likely divide opinion considering the Russians.

I feel caught in the middle: as an appreciator of all things prog I can really dig some of the songs here, although my ironclad heavy metal heart wishes they’d cut loose a fair bit more than they do. A lot of the tunes have a very friendly, melodic timbre which, sans the unorthodox songwriting choices, could earn them some radio play. Bazaar Of Wonders very much alternates between more progressive numbers and the softer, friendlier songs throughout. This gives the album a skewed effect, and is without a doubt an element which will affect enjoyment.

They start strong with the majestic opening cut “Angels”, which is introduced via luscious pianos and spreads its wings into a slow burning progressive metal cut which isn’t too far away from something Vanden Plas or Balance Of Power would put out. From this point on, they continue to switch direction between tepid AOR-sensible tracks, heavy numbers, and soggy ballads. Sometimes they hit the nail on the head, as seen in highlights such as “Cradle Of War”, the middle-eastern tinged “Bazaar”, and the sobering instrumental closing track “Rain In The Desert”. At other points, they meander through dull-country, essentially comprised of all the tracks I haven’t mentioned here. “Road To Sunset” is exceptionally bad, though.

This makes it hard for me to want to give Starsoup much of a recommendation. It’s an album I’m not overly keen on sitting through in its entirety, and as such one I wouldn’t revisit in the future. It feels like the band wanted to do everything at once, and while it’s a feat I won’t contest them for, I’d say that on the whole, Bazaar Of Wonders comes across as more uneven than creative. The appeal with these guys is definitely one for those into prog, as this is without a doubt too soft and too niche for any who enjoy a strict diet of studs and leather. The good songs are worth checking out I guess, although I’d seriously approach with caution.

Written for

Bazaar of Crappy Radio Rock - 32%

TheStormIRide, January 11th, 2014

Russia seems to be supplying a near endless supply of metal bands in recent years, with excellent acts rearing their heads, such as Grai, Hammerforce and Senmuth, just to name a few. Hailing from the Moscow region, Starsoup is another Russian band attempting to break out of their home country. Starsoup is a Russian band hailing from Moscow that was formed 2011. The band quickly released a single, Angels, in 2011, and followed up with their first full length album, Bazaar of Wonders, which was released in the last quarter of 2013.

Let's make this simple, right from the beginning. Starsoup's debut album is completely forgettable. With that out of the way, let's talk about why. While the band does boast some excellent musicianship and a few sections that are enjoyable, the end result is watered down, radio friendly drivel. Tracks like “Past Bites” and “Rumors of a Better Life” show the band aping Nickelback and Three Days Grace, as the sound on those tracks is reminiscent of that god awful post-grunge, alterna-rock scene: melodic guitars with no strength and pedestrian drumming coupled with limp, wanna-be tough guy vocals. They do throw in a few crunchy, slightly heavy riffs here and there just to show they are still trying to be heavy. “Ain't No Superman” is by far the worst track in this regard, utilizing a bouncy, mallcore flavored riff coupled with a bit of chunky riffing while the singer does his best post-grunge impression, only attempting a gruffer, tough guy style. Let's not even get into the ridiculous lyrics on that song either. There are also a few segments of saxophone driven butt rock sprinkled throughout, which wouldn't be that big of a deal if the rest of the album was completely solid, but it's not, and the saxophone lines fall flat, sounding completely out of place.

The only memorable tracks on this album are “Angels” and “Bazaar”. The former showcases the band performing a rollicking prog metal piece with instrumental flourishes, but nothing too showy. The vocals go for a more melodic, James Labrie style which, while not overly forceful, sound a hell of a lot better than the alterna-rock vocals of the rest of the album. “Bazaar” showcases a slightly middle eastern feel in the keyboard embellishments and shows some heavy, power metal styled riffing. The best part of “Bazaar” is that there are no vocals to ruin the music. I shouldn't say that, because while the vocals do suck for the rest of the songs, the music is pretty lackluster too. It's sad, though, because “Angels” and “Bazaar” show such promise.

There are a few piano led segments that work surprisingly well, like the instrumental “Rain in the Desert”, which is a calm and serene piece utilizing watery sound clips, and “Voices of the Wind” which brings forth female vocals to counter the weak Labrie styled vocals. The duet is performed to a subtle piano line and the harmonized vocals sound better than anything else on the album. It could be because the majority of the album is watered down radio rock that I could just be pining for anything different. I shouldn't write off everything else as terrible, because there are some nice riffs and instrumental flourishes throughout, like the keyboard fills and prog-styled licks during “Cradle of War” and the heavy, groove-laden riffing during “Past Bites”. But then again, these segments of awesome are sandwiched between radio alterna-rock and bouncy mallcore.

Starsoup's debut full length, Bazaar of Wonders, is pretty awful. While, the band shows some promise with their progressive flourishes and strength during “Bazaar” and “Angels”. I can't recommend this anyone. If you dig alterna-rock, you already have your radio staples. If you dig progressive rock or metal, there really isn't enough here to get excited about. Two good tracks and two so-so tracks amidst a pile of garbage. Steer clear of this one, people.

Written for The Metal Observer:

I'll take a sandwich. - 14%

Zodijackyl, December 5th, 2013

Starsoup's promotional blurb boasts "the influences are varied, inclusive of Metallica and Dream Theater" - if you think that's varied, then you might think this is "heavy" metal. It's sort of like Dream Theater without the instrumental prowess, that slightly heavy atmospheric rock that has a thick guitar tone but no riffs, lots of keys/piano, a soft vocalist, overlong songs, and drum beats that aren't just a standard backbeat, but aren't necessarily more interesting. There's even a piano ballad with saxophone emulating the style of DT's "Another Day" - their interest in heavy metal doesn't seem to extend beyond Dream Theater and bands that Dream Theater have covered.

This is a good example of how a "prog" band can be completely one-dimensional: they understand some of the basic components - chugging a bit with a thick guitar tone mixed with cleans and leads, lots of piano parts, not-quite-standard drumming - but they pretty much make over-diversified melodic rock songs rather than actually building something with them. At times it seems like they're trying to make lame radio rock without hooks - "Ain't No Superman" recalls Three Doors Down, "Past Bites" sounds like a mallcore tune with soft whisper-singing and snarling alternated with sorta-southern groove riffs. This doesn't sound good when the vocalist sounds like James Labrie without any power and not much tone - sorta like a male Celine Dion who tries to sound tough occasionally. I'm not sure of the light parts of the heavy parts are worse, but the band can't seem to either, never sticking with a heavy part for long, without much sensibility in where the song goes.

If you like second-rate Dream Theater wannabes that can go in one ear and out the other, then you might like this. If you think Starsoup is a better name for a "metal" band than Sadistik Exekution, then you might like this. If you're a prog fan who primarily listens to prog bands who had a radio hit or two, you might like this. I don't expect you to like this, I'm saying that Starsoup is lame and boring. I'll take a Starsandwich.