Gothenburg style guitar leads atop crunching slabs of alt. metal riffing, injected with oodles of power metal grandiosity and electronic flourishes representing every decade of the last forty years; it’s a rather niche combination. Luckily for Blackstar Halo, it’s one that’s executed with more than a little pizzazz on their stomping new release, ‘Siren.’[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BziYaj_D0Cs&w=560&h=315]
The Finnish metallers’ follow-up to their solid, if not remarkable, debut ‘Illuminated’ is a marked step up in terms of experimentation, while also showcasing a greater assurance in regards to dynamic songwriting. Opener ‘Bleeding Red Door’ deftly marries latter-day In Flames-esque melodious, staccato leads bedrocked by downtuned chugs (don’t say nü metal, anyone) with elevating synths that’s sure to resonate with fans of Within Temptation’s more recent material.
It also showcases Ville Hovi’s vocal dexterity early on; the aforementioned track segueing from convincing death growls to a much more traditional power metal style with an impressive deftness, before even chucking in the odd guttural quirk seemingly learned from the school of David Draiman.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aS8YndOlmEU&w=560&h=315]
Elsewhere, lead single ‘The Queen’ finds Blackstar Halo evoking a more industrial vibe with its four to the floor stomp, and just a touch of Wednesday 13 in the vocal delivery during the verses before launching into a particularly bombastic chorus. Conversely, ‘The King’ juxtaposes an energetic modern metal gallop with a refrain that can only be described as being, well, a little bit ABBA. Equally as amusing is the unbridled joy of ‘Downfall’, which for all the world sounds like Hammerfall having some interesting relations with a Sega Megadrive.
As delightfully cheesy as they can get, Blackstar Halos know when to bring the heavy, as indicated by the hitherto untapped savagery of the album closer, ‘The Other Side.’ However, the pinnacle arrives in the form of ‘Wolf The Mender’, featuring both the most arresting vocal hook and the most virtuosic lead work courtesy of guitarists Timo Eskelinen and Hannu Kumpula.
Although they represent a broad canvas of influences, some that may at first seem rather incongruous when merged together, Blackstar Halo has delivered a victorious sophomore release that positively revels in the scope of its extremities.
Review by Jonny Davidson for metalplanetmusic