29 November 2017
American heavy metal trio Wildestarr have been active since 2003, but here in 2017, find themselves issuing only their third release. The band, a vehicle for former Vicious Rumors and Lääz Rockit bassist Dave Starr and his wife, vocalist London Wilde, have been silent on the studio front since 2012’s A Tell Tale Heart, but are ready to end that five year slumber with Beyond the Rain.
Despite the relatively lengthy gestation period, Beyond the Rain offers no real surprises, dishing up a solid, no frills helping of riff-laden heavy metal. The grandiose demeanour of the introductory piece “Metamorphose” is a bit cliched, but sets the scene well for the album’s namesake song. The title track perhaps doesn’t possess the drive that one may expect of first proper cut, but it’s a solid, varied piece that allows Wilde to carry the verses with her vocals and Starr’s fluid riffing to shine in the chorus. “Pressing the Wires” proceeds to crank the energy up a notch thanks to Josh Foster’s pummelling beats; an excellent track that hurtles out of the gates and refuses to let up. “Undersold” is in a similar fashion and does anything but undersell itself; a double bass driven bomber that ticks all the right boxes. These are the only two songs that are built on breathless speed, with most of the other tracks focusing on mid paced heaviness and grooves. It’s a bit of a shame, as they’re two of the strongest songs on the record, so a few more in their ilk would not have gone amiss, but the quality of the other material largely makes up for this missed opportunity.
“Double Red” is definitely the pick of the moderately paced pack, with monolithic chords raining down throughout as Wilde belts out a cracking chorus hook. It’s a track that never really alters its speed, but the variance in riffs and vocal melodies gives it a very diverse feel. It’s an expertly crafted song in this regard, with the stunning legato in Starr’s lead work topping things off in superb style. The dynamism of “Down Cold” allows the sprawling riff to really take off, whereas closer “When the Night Falls” settles for a straight up riff centric approach that takes no prisoners. The forgettable “Crimson Fifths” and somewhat clumsy “Rage and Water” are the only songs that never truly catch fire, representing an unfortunate mid album lull, but thankfully there’s two strong blocks of songs on either side that leave the duo coming across as a minor miss step.
The two key components of Wildestarr’s sound here are the aforementioned vocals of Wilde and the six string work of Starr. The production really beefs up Starr’s riff work, leaving it crystal clear and relentlessly heavy. Wilde’s low, gutsy voice ties in perfectly with the instrumental work as she belts out her lines with the best of them. There are occasions where you feel that maybe she’s stretching a little beyond her capabilities, but that’s part of the irresistible charm that she possesses. Many of the choruses find her layering her vocals, but it simply adds depth and never comes close to straying into the sort of pompous territory that many belittle power metal for.
If there were a flaw to be found with Beyond the Rain, it would be that the album lacks memorability once it has finished. There’s plenty of enjoyment to be found when listening along, and there are a fair number of catchy moments throughout, but once the record has stopped spinning, I found myself struggling to recall anything of note. It’s not the most immediate of albums, and is perhaps the sort of thing that will reward persistence and repeated plays. This might not sit too well the less patient listener, but I’m confident that fans of traditional and power metal will find something to enjoy here. Not a perfect album by any means, but a damn fine effort.
Highlights: “Pressing the Wires”, “Double Red”, “Undersold”
Find Wildestarr online:
Beyond the Rain is available worldwide on December 8th via Scarlet Records, and can be purchased here.