An adventure which coaxes emotions and imagination into expanding its evocative narratives, Bazaar of Wonders the debut album from Russian progressive rock band Starsoup is a richly engaging and intriguing encounter. It is a release which maybe does not ignite a burning fire in the passions but certainly leaves them smouldering with an appetite to explore enthusiastically the excellently crafted and skilfully presented songs. The album is an enticing proposition, a colourful weave of heavy metal and progressive invention merged with additional varied flavours, a mix which captivates from start to finish.
Started at the tail end of 2011, Starsoup is the studio project of vocalist/guitarist Alexey Markov (Shadow Host, Distant Sun) who has keyboardist Andrew Gryaznov (Timesquare) alongside him. Their album, which evolved around the compositional foundation of a quartet of songs written and melodically composed during Markov’s time in the band Crime Of Passion where he was the vocalist and Gryaznov played keys, took over a year to emerge as other projects and the involvement and time of guests upon the release extended its ‘birth’. With a presence and sound which sparks thoughts of a diversity of bands from the likes of Dream Theater, ArcticFlame, and Stone Sour to Rush, Fates Warning, and Avenged Sevenfold, the album is a striking declaration of strong impressive vocals and melodic exploration within a senses inciting keys sculpted grandeur.
The Moscow duo open the Sublimity Records released album with the band’s first single Angels, one of the previously mentioned four songs which bred the album and as the others re-recorded and evolved for the album. With the impressive piano skills of Gryaznov making an emotive invitation, guitars and bass soon ignite the air around a firm and commanding rhythmic frame from by Alexander Vetkhov who provides drums and percussion across the whole of Bazaar of Wonders. As the strong and expressive vocals of Markov start unveiling the lyrical narrative, his delivery across the whole of the album diverse and potent, the track mixes up a power ballad like stance brewed with a feisty energy. It is a welcomingly introduction to the album and a clear portent of things to come, keys and vocals the brightest beacons within creative songwriting and striking musicianship across all aspects.
The following Ain’t No Superman confidently idles in with a jazz funk like swagger, its heat accelerated by melodic guitar flames. Into its stride the song is a more straight forward heavy rock encounter but one with a wealth of additives which keeps it unpredictable and intriguing, if less successful than its predecessor. Nevertheless there is plenty for the ears to get excited by, as also with Try. An acoustic guitar and piano resourcefulness wraps the ears before Markov fills the ballad with his fine voice backed with good harmonies. As it walks into its fullest height there like in all songs, is a fire in its belly which empowers the passionate bursts which erupt from within the melodic canvas. If aggression is the want the song, and ultimately the album are unlikely to suffice but for melodically spawned emotive adventures the release is a refreshing offering.
Both Cradle of War and Rumors of Better Life continue the ballad seeded attack, though the first of the pair from its elegant first third with a glorious flame of saxophone to its breath explodes into an intensive and muscular persuasion which constantly flirts with the passions throughout its impressive venture. Its successor is a mesmeric sunset of seductive melodies and evocative charm, a caressing wash of beauty which without enflaming emotions feeds them and thoughts skilfully.
The album’s best track Past Bites bruises the air with a fine array of sinewy riffs and crisp rhythms, a Metallica edge and essence seeping into the boisterous elements whilst again inventiveness fuels the triumph of the track and the intense hunger for its presence. It is the pinnacle of the release which makes the likes of the following The City and the Stars and Voices of the Wind seem pale in their balladry, though both again are impressively crafted. Between them though there is the excellent instrumental Bazaar, a piece of composing and realisation incendiary to imagination and emotions brought with a sonic mastery which simply seduces from start to finish; guitar, keys, and bass exceptional provocateurs in its mystique clad temptation.
The closing trio of songs, Road to Sunset with its great sultry sax calls and anthemic vocal mixes, the heavy metal bred Perfect Loser, and the closing piano conjured instrumental Rain in the Desert ensures the album ends on an enterprising and enjoyable stance, each individual and additional lures to a fine album. As said earlier, Bazaar of Wonders does not leave fires raging in the passions but certainly makes Starsoup worthy of close attention.
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