Though not flawless, Spell Eater the debut album from US heavy metallers Huntress, made a strong impression, its potent sounds and in the face devilry receiving mixed responses but always sparking something. For us it bred a definite appetite for what was to follow, a keen hunger which new release Starbound Beast teases with, satisfies more often than not but also leaves a sense that maybe the album is resting on earlier laurels rather than forging its own unique and forward driving adventure. It is certainly an appetising and frequently thrilling collection of powerful multi-flavoured tracks but lacks the dramatic impact which its predecessor ultimately achieved.
The Californian band fronted by the always potently pleasing vocals of Jill Janus, a classically trained singer who toured Europe as a teenage opera starlet before moving onto performing with Dave Navarro in a project called Under the Covers, arrived with a wind of brewing excitement and recommendation with their first full length, the anticipation for that already seeded as the band signed with Napalm Records and helped intensely by first single Eight of Swords. Made up of guitarists Blake Meahl and Anthony Crocamo, bassist Ian Alden, and drummer Carl Wierzbicky, some of whom ex-members of Professor, Dark Black and Skeletonwitch, alongside Janus, Huntress it is fair to say split opinions with their debut and are sure to do the same with Starbound Beast. It is fair to say the band and release does everything you would wish for in a heavy metal release, its sound a constant blaze of barging rhythms, predatory riffs, and soaring stormy vocals drenched in passion, but throughout the additionally thrash, death and black metal spiced encounter something is missing or been allowed to escape which leaves the new album bringing up the rear to their first rampage into the world.
Produced by Zeuss (Shadows Fall, Hatebreed, Agnostic Front), Starbound Beast starts like a beast on heat, its opening full song coming after the brief chaotic tempest seared by the classical tones of Janus weaving harpy like harmonic toxicity across its sky, the instrumental Enter The Exosphere. The following Blood Sisters sets its dramatic walls from the start, flames of sonic taunting and melodic colour caging the attention whilst rhythms frame it all with deliberate prowling intent. Once secure in its entrapment the excellent vocals of Janus, with a husky growl to her tones, rides boldly on the cantering charge of eager riffs and probing drums jabs which then open melodic arms through the infectious chorus. Throughout there is a constant menace to vocals and sound which flares up and casts shadows over the rampant muscle clad energetic core. It is an excellent track which twists and turns through dark provocation and warm evocation, the perfect scenario for light and dark to wage physical debate within brewing thoughts and maelstrom courting imagination.
It sets a high standard and equally lofty hopes and expectations for the rest of the album which are immediately dented by the following I Want To Fuck You To Death. The song has already seemingly come under fire from many quarters and though we would argue that it is not as bad as many claim, in many ways it does not do the album any favours. Co-penned with Lemmy, the song has a power metal grandeur in intent and a rapacious hunger in certainly the breath and the delivery of the verses, but as the predictable and underwhelming chorus loses the established pull of the track it sounds like a weaker fish from another pond, not the devil spawn lake of Starbound Beast.
Destroy Your Life gets things back on track, its striking melodic and fevered guitar invention standing out as much as the fury that is Janus’ vocals. The solo within is a sizzling detour from the greed of the song, its flare and craft lighting up hot sceneries for the band to exploit with the returning vociferous appetite of the sound and intensity. It is another of the more prominent highlights which the title track, which to be honest took time to persuade but eventually did succeed especially with Janus at her potently sirenesque best, the thrash driven carnivorous Zenith, as well as the following tracks Oracle and Receiver all make very decent attempts in emulating. The second of these savages the senses with primal greed and air scorching intensity vocally and sonically to lift the album back to its highest plateaus whilst the others hold their own with inventive endeavour to undoubtedly leave strong pleasure.
Completed by the more than decent Spectra Spectral and the stirring Alpha Tauri, the album offers plenty to enthuse over and take enjoyment from, especially taking songs individually but Starbound Beast as whole does seem to lose an undefined something Spell Eater which had and feel like a lost opportunity. Despite that Huntress and album still secure a regular appearance on our playlist.
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