Blackstar Halo released their debut album “Illuminated” in 2010, having been together under a different name for a decade. The album was pre-released nationwide in then prominent film rental chain ”Filmtown” along with a music video for the title track made by Energia productions and Obscure entertainment who created Star Wreck and Iron Sky. Fast forward to 2019 and lengthy writing process and with some Swedish production magic from Fascination Street (named after The Cure song?) Studios with Johan Örnborg Mixing & Jens Bogren Mastering we have “Siren”. The album was partially crowdfunded and produced by the band independently with lyrical themes of temptation in many of its forms. While those lyrics are not woven together thematically, they instead created each song as a story which involves temptation in one way or the other, hence the name “Siren”, the ultimate temptation of the sailor.
A call to arms reminiscent of the soundtrack from a Transformers film comes with a programmed introduction to before the guitars kick in for “Bleeding Red Door”. An energetic gallop through some Melodic and Atmospheric Metal it’s Ville Hovi’s vocals that raise an eyebrow. Imagine if David Drainman of Disturbed fame demonstrated greater range, included some decent uncleans and changed up his lyrics to be less introspective. That’s what the vocals are like. “The Queen” takes things into a different direction, soaked with an 80’s industrial pop vibe but throwing off the cloak with some bursts of blast beats and Europe inspired synths. There isn’t much to deny the catchy choruses and hook. “Remedy” takes another stylistic leap with some Hair Metal vocals and driven riffs that take a rose tinted spectacle glance at those 80s Metal guitar tones with a bright solo. Dropping things down for a breakdown and a brutal unclean verse that pops back up into another solo showcases a broad range of influences on guitarists Hannu Kumpala and Timmu Eskelinen. Using a Dope esq buried sample and spoken word “The King” brings some rich leads with some pause break riffage playing on atmosphere with momentary silences. Ville Hovi finds another voice from somewhere and rotates between this one an the two he previously used in some style and if you’re a fan of Disturbed or Five Finger Death Punch then there is plenty of that same energy but with more talent and complexity on show here.
A classic Metal vibe and some decent storytelling get “The Wolf Mender” going in a new direction with some bright melodies and a female vocalists adding the siren’s touch. You could consider this cut the bands Power Metal conquest with some impressive subtlety that isn’t necessary shown elsewhere. Those comparisons with Disturbed are most apparent in “Downfall” which was the original name of the band from 1998-2009 before a line-up change and a change in sound direction. If lyrically this one is pointed at former band members then it’s well crafted enough not to have too much finger pointing or and direct approach. It layers up synths nicely with some chunky rhythm riffs adding a nice crunch factor. Not sure that Kraftwerk inspired introduction is necessary but when it burns bright with the blue touch paper it’s worth the wait. Lifting off with some more Transformer noises “Intruder” has a solid riff that has a little bit too much lead work over the top of it in places. You want it to thunder through the rhythmic pummelling gears and instead it deviates with some noodling. That being said, the Blackstar Halo manage to avoid overkill once the chorus hits and play it more by the numbers of their earlier works and there is a sense of In Flames in it with the dark spoken words at the close.
Swinging back violently to the synth heavy introduction piece of “Perdition’s Air” is a move that seems odd given the guitar orientation of the previous track and what you end up with is essentially a classic rock song that has been amped up for the album. It’s false ending for a chorus repeat works sonically but could have been cut to trim some fat from the song. The heavier “Less Than You” comes to life with some Iron Maiden riffs galloping through the verse chorus bridge sections. It’s a classic example of how to take something that works and rework it in your own image. Again using a false ending of sorts with a buried electronic industrialism breaking back into the final verse it’s an enjoyable cut with the air that you’ve heard it before. Ending a 51 second Alien invasion of synths with some powerhouse riffage “The Other Side” is an imagination of styles that help provide an epic backdrop to the storyline of the lyrics. Blackstar Halo have gone full throttle Symphonic Metal at this juncture with a theatre rather than a stage being more appropriate for the viewing. While in places less could be more, listen for the Siren’s call [6/10]
Bleeding Red Door
The Wolf Mender
Less Than You
The Other Side
“Siren” by Blackstar Halo will be released on 13th September via Inverse Records