Starkill – Virus Of The Mind
Reviewed by Kevin Hathaway
I don’t usually fancy myself a melodeath kind of guy, but Starkill’s debut Fires Of Life grabbed me like few melodeath albums have when it came out early last year. It was brutal and cheesy without either element detracting from the other, and it had more wicked guitar licks than you could shake a stick at. The vocals didn’t make me want to drive the nearest sharp object through my ears either. It was like if Children of Bodom didn’t suck! All right, that was a low blow, but Fires Of Life still holds up pretty well coming from someone who doesn’t really consider himself a fan of melodeath. So I was kind of excited to hear about follow-up Virus Of The Mind. Could they recapture the magic that made Fires Of Life such a rare treat for my musical taste?
Well, they came close. While not capturing the beautiful mix of brutality and cheese of the debut, Virus Of The Mind is a respectable effort in its own right. The music is a lot more dramatic, with a gaggle of symphonic bits scattered throughout, like the somber violin melody repeated throughout the title track. It’s also a lot more bare-boned and straightforward, but I wouldn’t say watered-down. The riff-to-solo/guitar lick ratio is a lot more even this time around. The songs fall into a more digestible running time, mostly clocking between four and five minutes. Cleans vocals are new to the fold, neither adding to nor detracting from the experience.
Seeing as I don’t listen to a whole lot of melodeath, it’s hard for me to draw comparisons aside from the big names. Parker Jameson largely runs the show here, tackling lead vocals, lead guitar, and keyboards. His vocal style brings to mind Jari Maenpaa, with more of a melodic black metal rasp at times, but remains fairly intelligible. The guitar acrobatics of Alexi Laiho also seem to leave a huge impression upon the band, but not as much as they did on Fires Of Life, clearing the path for much more sophisticated symphonics than were present on the debut.
The album loses steam at a few points with a few filler tracks (could they loop that piano line in “When Hope Fades” any more?), but great stuff like the one-two punch of openers “Be Dead Or Die” (despite its lengthy intro) and “Winter Desolation” can still be found, and “My Catharsis” proves to be a cathartic shred-fest. I’m still more likely to return to Fires Of Life, but Virus Of The Mind had awfully big shoes to fill. As it is, this is a perfectly fine melodeath album with no major flaws beside the unfortunate fate of having to follow up one of the most under-rated metal gems of last year.
P.S, does the album cover remind anybody else of Serenity’s War Of Ages? No? Just me? Okay.
3.5 // 5