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Album Review: STARKILL Fires of Life

Posted by on April 29, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Listening to a new, young band like Starkill is sort of like playing a game of audio charades. Who do they most sound like?

What established group has influenced them the most? Well, they sound like band-X the most. No, you dumb shit, they sound more like band-Y. No, you’re both morons and drunk, they sound like this other band neither of you have ever considered because you’re also stupid and don’t know dick.

If you take YouTube comments as your guide, then Starkill allegedly sounds like Children of Bodom, Dimmu Borgir, Stormlord, King Diamond, and Cradle of Filth all rolled into a big incestuous amalgamation.

In other words, it’s about impossible for a new band to distinguish their sound from others. Especially given the propensity for melodeath bands to sound like one another. It’s inevitable. So what’s wrong with that? Not a damn thing. And Chicago-based quartet Starkill proves it by succeeding where few young bands ever do: the band’s sound is ultimately their own, though everyone hears something a little different in their music.

On their debut album, Fires of Life, Starkill—Parker Jameson, Spencer Weidner, Charlie Federici, and Mike Beutsch—blend elements of death metal, melodeath, and power metal with symphonic arrangements to create a surprisingly heavy, and at times epic collection.

Epic in the sense of medieval swordplay, fantastic battles, and conquering diabolical foes. A few tracks do have a strong power metal feel to them, in particular “Immortal Hunt.” But don’t let the cover art fool you: this is not purely a power metal album. Take the title track, “Fires of Life,” which blends the epic themes with an underlying synth arrangement and fast melodeath chops without sacrificing a bit of aggression.

It’s no different on “Sword, Spear, Blood, Fire” and “Below the Darkest Depths.” Throughout the album Jameson’s growled vocals—punctuated with an occasional rising screech—deliver lyrics you can at least comprehend, but don’t stray into attempts at clean singing (which probably would have ruined this album). The guitar leads are tight and well-executed, giving way occasionally to synth interludes that call to mind Reroute to Remain-era In Flames. And speaking of other bands Starkill sounds like, the track “New Infernal Rebirth” (see video below) somehow manages to echo the most recent Finntroll material, albeit in a distant way.

The feeling that you’ve heard this all before, even though you haven’t, not exactly, it’s hard to shake. Starkill seem to be aware of this and, according to their press bio, acknowledge the influence Children of Bodom and Dimmu Borgir and Nightwish had on their own musical development. The new and young Starkill will have to find their own way to distinguish themselves from the European monsters who tower over them. Fires of Life, though neither forgettable nor an outright masterpiece, sets them in the right direction.

Fires of Life is due out April 30 in North America and May 13 in Europe on Century Media Records. Starkill is featured on the “End of Disclosure” tour with Hypocrisy, Aborted, and others May 1st through 13th.

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