Alright. Starkill. I feel that this band is just getting started. Soon internet searches will lead to this band rather than Starkiller, who is the main character of a periphery Star Wars project no one really gave a shit about. Starkill, on the other hand is a melodic black/death act from Chicago who is fitting right in on their current tour with Wintersun. Seriously, the two being paired together is a match made in the symphonic heavens. Holy shit, how old are these fucking kids?
Fires of Life is their debut album after some growing pains in a symphonic black death act. In fact, I think Starkill retains the same membership of their previous incarnations, so really the band has just rolled the same pair of dice over and over until hitting double sixes. The black metal aspects from previous acts are retained though mixed heavily with flashy melodic death and an unconventional dose of heroic fantasy. It is not often a symphonic black/death has a damn sorcerer on top of a snowy mountain emblazoned in artwork on their album cover, which looks ripped right from cheap 80’s sci fi magazines. The artwork really does not fit well with this type of music but, in any case, I seem to be the only one in the car yelling to stop.
Starkill is very good at sounding like other things. While this sounds like a cheap joke, Fires of Life immediately starts with “Whispers of Hersey,” a fantastic opener that sounds as if it could be a part of any Dimmu Borgir album from the past decade. While this still sounds like a cheap joke, Starkill’s ability to keep up with symphonic bands like Fleshgod Apocolypse and Arsis on their debut, while still being in middle school is outstanding. Alright, that last one was a cheap joke. Every attempt at humor I try to make is just because I feel no need to compliment this group on their ability to play since Fires of Life already does that for me.
Fires of Life’s biggest strength is its ability to entertain. Throughout the record are instances of competent black/death with a production so clean it almost blinds the eyes. Songs like “Sword, Spear, Blood, Fire,” “This is our Battle, This is our Day,” and the rousing closer “Wash Away The Blood With Rain” have so many theatric components, like atmospheric synth, whispered words, and lyrics of triumphant battle, it almost borders on ridiculous parody. I mentioned Starkill’s biggest strength is the ability to entertain and Fires of Life never crosses the line that changes entertainment to ridiculously dismissive. This is a record that exists for one to marvel at technical skill while still being thrown into a hyper violent, but not so gruesome, world where one is pitted against a glowing sabertooth tiger armed with only a laser rifle.
Did I mention guitar solos? So while Children of Bodom gets silly with instances of noodling, Fires of Life could just be an excuse to have guitar solos run at ridiculous speed. Harmonized, shredding, and melodic, the band’s two guitarists dip and dive over an almost inhuman rhythm section. This is the pinnacle and strongest aspect of this record and Starkill employs it to the fullest extent. Take this and combine it with an eclectic style of glam and second wave corpse paint and one has odd imagery that baffles but forces a smile. I already made a joke about their age, maybe I have passed the point of “getting it.”
Fires of Life is an interesting project as the band’s ability and competency far surpasses the level they currently reside. I feel like I am grading a paper from a student that should have skipped a grade years ago. If this band is not touring large clubs and driving around in buses with their logo painted on the side by this time next year then someone has seriously fucked up.
Album: Fires of Life
Released: April 30th, 2013
Label: Century Media Records
Score: 7/9 Hammers