Starkill - Shadow SleepCommercialized metal is one of the strangest and most unnatural phenomena our beloved genre has gone through. I’m not talking about metal that happened to get mainstream recognition, by the way. Even Metallica, with the most lucrative metal act in history, started off as a thrash metal band like any other and only gained widespread fame after 5 albums. I’m talking about bands that seem to have been created or molded precisely to sell metal to the masses, like Amaranthe or Sonic Syndicate. Bands that don’t create music, but produce it. Bands that hone and tweak their music, not to make it better and more in line with their artistic vision, but to make it more marketable, often under guidance (or force) of the label. This sentiment is so contrary to the nature of metal it’s insane, yet it persists in all its plastic, dull, predictable and overproduced horror. Enter Starkill.

Now, I won’t say Starkill is as bad as the two examples above. For one, they don’t have the obligatory hot woman to prance about in videos (well, not a permanent one), nor do they incorporate an utterly sickening amount of poppy electronic bips and boops aside from a keyboard lead in the opener ripped straight from the annals of Pain. The harsh vocals are actually not that bad either; although a tad toothless and forced, it doesn’t have the grating halfheartedness of most pop metal.

But “it’s not as bad as Amaranthe” is pretty much equivalent to “it’s not as unpleasant as a handjob from the Hulk.” Starkill still has all the makings of a band aiming square for that Hot Topic crowd. While the harsh vocals are tolerable, the more prevalent clean vocals are whiny, flat, and have the reach of a T-rex. Most of the time these are joined by either male or female backing vocals, both sounding just as lifeless. The band tries to have a symphonic edge by using the standard ‘symphonic’ setting on the keyboard and accentuating any particularly hard hitting chug. The solos are not bad, but there is little variety in technique, mostly focusing on rapid tapping across the scales, which means they all sound extremely similar. To top it off, the amount of variety in the rhythm guitar is less than nil, recycling a Sisyphean chug instead.

Starkill 2016

Now, I don’t mean offense to the musicians. One thing comes through from the music, there is an enthusiasm to what they do. It’s not an album that’s bad from lack of spirit, it’s not a lifeless slog. It’s the way the music feels so artificial, so constructed. Each song is built like a blueprint, put together mechanically from ingredients that work well for singles but become a grating repetition on an album. The songs adhere to a rigid pop structure, and staples keep reappearing, like dropping most of the instrumentation to give the vocals a quiet moment to introduce the final chorus. These are very specific tools, and every tool can be a good one in the hands of a skilled artist. But to combine a variety of tools to make something unique and organic is what creates art. To use the same selection of tools for every task is what creates a product.

This album already has a pre-made market, I am absolutely sure of that. Just like there’s a pre-made market for phones, clothes, and automobiles. People will always want, need and buy products. For many people, a type of music that never requires a moment of thought from them is an important product. But being simple is never an excuse for being bad. Bands from High Spirits to Soilwork make music that’s simple but fun, engaging and emotional. Not Starkill. Shadow Sleep is bland, formulaic, predictable, a product of commerce, and just plain bad. But hey: at least it’s better than Amaranthe.


Rating: 1.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: starkill.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/StarkillOfficial
Releases Worldwide: November 4th, 2016

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  • Why is this even getting reviewed? Did HR assign this?

    • Ferrous Beuller

      HR assigned a handjob from the Hulk?

      I quit.

      • Your exit interview will be handled by the Hulk. Try to relax.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          I hope it’s only the exit interview handled by the Hulk.

          • The Unicorn

            Its the ol’ “in thru the out door” routine that leaves a mark.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Is that what Led Zeppelin meant with the title of their last album?

          • sir_c

            well, they already squeezed your lemon on “II”

    • herrschobel

      yupp. asked that myself…seems a waste of time. but can you even waste time ? lord, this band has twisted my thoughts..i needs me some wormrot to counterbalance this trash

    • GardensTale

      If Amaranthe gets a review, Starkill gets a review. Let’s consider it a warning for our audience as well as to other pop metal bands to not be pop metal.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Ha, ya, I was also thinking of Amaranthe and then I saw your comment. I might also say “why Jorn?”, but I might get banned.

    • AngryMetalBird

      what?! it came with Geoff Tates seal of approval on it…

    • Oscar Albretsen

      Why not the new Avenged Sevenfold? That’s popular, but not insanely poppy…

      • The Nerd.

        They probably didn’t send a promo to AMG

        • Oscar Albretsen

          Heard it was like a “surprise release” or something.

          AMG needs to spend less time reviewing promos and more time reviewing what I tell them.

  • Mr T

    You can’t kill the metal
    The metal will live on
    Starkill tried to kill the metal…

  • AndySynn

    Yeah, these guys epitomise safe, bland, and by-the-numbers “metal” which record labels keep trying to push in the full knowledge that it’s basically the equivalent of manufactured pop music.

    Though, in fairness to them, as utterly beige and sexless as Starkill are, they’re not *quite* as calculated as someone like Bring Me The Horizon, whose entire (and very successful) career has been based on looking at whatever’s popular at the moment, and incorporating bits and pieces of that into their sound in a way that appeals to the angsty teenager crowd who tell you that they only like mainstream Pop in an “ironic” way.

    There’s absolutely no substance to them, but they’re a fine barometer for what seems to pass as the modern “alternative” these days.

    • GardensTale

      I’m honored to have written a review you actually agree with.

      • Diego Molero

        Well, if someone disagrees with your review…

      • AlphaBetaFoxface

        I think you might be the first.

      • AndySynn

        Don’t worry, I’m sure normal service will be resumed shortly.

    • Diego Molero

      I would rather listen to BMTH than this. Bring Me is bad, yes but I can actually listen to some songs (the old ones), and make it through it without wanting to cut my ears off. And the song “Hospital for Souls” I really think is actually a good song by BMTH.

      • Gaëtan Baratin

        I saw BMTH live in a festival and it was actually quite enjoyable. Their singer carries out the performance while being high, drunk and insulting the crowd (“Jump, yo fockin possies!!!”). It’s a guilty pleasure.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      You mean Machine Head?

      • Reese Burns

        Have I finally found the one other person in existence who isn’t into Machine Head? Am I alone no longer?

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          Actually I believe “Burn my Eyes” is an all-time Metal classic. Then, “The More Things Change” tried to be more of the same, but fell way short of the mark. After that, Machine Head turned to bandwagon jumping and if it was an Olympic Sport they would likely break Michael Phelps’ record.

          • Ashes of Empires is very good (“Imperium” is stellar and as good as anything on Burn My Eyes), but some of the middle tracks are average and/or have cringeworthy lyrics.

          • GardensTale

            Spot on, and I liked most of Locust as well, but the last one was bland and the recently released single sounds like they went back to their nu metal garbage phase.

          • Grymm

            Burn My Eyes was awesome.

            Everything else? Not so much. Yes, even The Blackening.

        • sir_c

          I don’t think you are alone. Trust me, you are not.

  • Wilhelm

    I could only get through a minute…just terrible lol

    • Morrowind542

      You’re a braver man than I. I could only withstand 24 seconds of the sonic torture.

  • SegaGenitals

    I saw Starkill open up for Belphegor. Probably the worst live music I have heard in years. No idea what sort of sexually ambiguous, Hot-Topic shopping, millennial bullshit demographic they are targeting, but count me out.

    • Jason

      Belphegor? That seems like an odd pairing.

      They’re touring the States with Dark Tranquillity. I was thinking of going later this month to see DT, but the support bands have me wondering if I’d get my money’s worth.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Odd pairing? It’s like ice cream and anchovies.

        • basenjibrian

          Living in the SF Bay Area, that would be considered “innovative and transcendent cuisine”. But only if the anchovies were “sustainably caught by indigenous fisherfolk” and the ice cream “biodynamic”

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Biodynamic ice cream… sounds delicious! NO anchovies on mine, please.

      • SegaGenitals

        Now that I think of it, it was a Ne Obliviscaris show not Belphegor. Had it conflated with another show at same venue.

        • GREEN MIST BLINDS

          I feel like belphegor would hurt them

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Yes, Belphegor are WAY into BDSM.

          • GREEN MIST BLINDS

            Damn I can’t tell if your being sarcastic or not

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            100% serious. Look at Belphegor’s album covers and promotional pictures: lots of goats, gas masks, nuns, bondage, nuns in bondage, leather, nuns wearing leather…

      • Dr. Wvrm

        I went on Friday. If you’re going for DT, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. Support was definitely suspect (Enforcer was fun, Starkill was brutal, I don’t dig StS live), but DT knocked it out of the park.

    • The Unicorn

      How the fuck does Starkill open for Belphegor?!?!! Who put that tour together?

      • Hulksteraus

        Century media….. actually, from Sega G’s updated comment, it was ne obliviscarus….

  • savafreak

    So sad, their debut album was excellent, a breath of fresh air in the Melodic Death Genre, relentless and well crafted and technical from start till finish. Their sophomore however was a let down, signs of hyper modernism and commercialism started to appear, was too bland, generic and uninspired, and it seems that the transformation or the demetalization is complete now !

    • herrschobel

      these people have a history ? who would have thought, i was under the impression they just crawled out of a petri dish made to annoy people like me…

      • savafreak

        Imagine ! they have videos from their debut album, Fires of Life 2013 on youtube, check them out if you are interested, you will be surprised how promising they were 3 years ago , and how “Bigly” they differ from now!

        • Robert Turnbull

          Just listened to their debut following your post. Sound like a completely different band!

        • Couldn’t agree more. Fires of Life kicked ass. Had high hopes for the band. Virus of the Mind was concerning, but not all bad. This is total garbage.

  • Jason

    Best line in the review: But “it’s not as bad as Amaranthe” is pretty much equivalent to “it’s not as unpleasant as a handjob from the Hulk.”

    • Oscar Albretsen

      A handjob from the Hulk sounds pretty appealing. He’s strong, but he’s probably got a tender side that might make for the most invigorating hand job of your life.

    • Gaëtan Baratin

      Yeah, better than a handjob from Edward Silver-Hands…

      • Jason

        Or Edward Scissor-hands, even! ;)

  • Antorus

    Off to a good start this week…

    • Some shit had to drop to balance all the good stuff from October

  • Dethjesta

    Yeah, this is embarrassing. That promo pic is horrifying.

    • Morrowind542

      They look like an 80’s hair metal band

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        No way. No puffy hair, bandannas or cowboy hats.

        • Oscar Albretsen

          LOL- Beautiful. So true!

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Hm… I wonder what has Vardan been up to…

    • Reese Burns

      I can never tell if people here genuinely like him or not, haha, but I think it’s about time for a new Vardan record.

      • We would welcome a new Vardan platter. It’s been too long since we’ve enjoyed of deep sorrow.

        • Antorus

          or enjoyed of deep inside joke

  • Norfair Legend

    I don’t mean to be rude but…is that a girl or a guy singing in the video? And if that is a girl, which one is she in the promo pic? Both are a little ambiguous.

    • Oscar Albretsen

      If that’s a guy, my sexuality is getting unfairly challenged.

      • SegaGenitals

        It’s a dude. Dude looks like a lady.

        • Oscar Albretsen

          That’s a DUDE???? Excuse me, I need to do some laundry. Whites.

    • Exitium

      It’s their new vocalist Sarah Lynn. I guess Sarah could be a guy’s name too, however (even more) unconventional, than naming a guy Leslie today would be.

  • Reese Burns

    I’m not even brave enough to check out the embedded track.

    • The Unicorn

      Its good, listen all the way thru. This song is total cornball shit but I think the song is great.

  • BranMakMorn

    Honest question: what IS the target of these bands? I’m not a big expert on teenagers today, but when I was one you either were into metal or not. If not, fine. If you were, you wouldn’t listen to this crap. Is this targeting non-metal people who want something a bit more “edgy”?

    • I’m no expert on teens either but I always assumed this kind of music was aimed at younger fans as a kind of “gateway to metal” experience. Catchy, not too scary but still heavy enough to turn off your parents and authority figures.

      • Reese Burns

        I’d say it’s geared more towards the “it’s not just a phase, mom!” crowd.

        • Ah, I remember that phase!

          • [not a Dr]

            The only phase I remember is the Pre-Ignition phase.

      • Exitium

        So why not just introduce them to Pantera then like every other person in the 90s that didn’t listen to “metal” besides the black album?

        The people who are saying the red head *in the video* is a man are nuts. Didn’t even need to look up the fact that it’s Sarah Lynn to know that it’s a woman.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    The guys are wearing more make-up than the girl!

    • Reese Burns

      Hate to break it to you, but if you’re talking about the chick in the band photo.. that’s a guy.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        COME ON! That girl in the picture is not the same girl singing in the video? If that is a guy he should SERIOUSLY consider growing a mustache, a huge fucking mustache. Seriously.

        • Reese Burns

          Or at least ditch the makeup

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            He REALLY needs that mustache.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    By “handjob from the Hulk” you mean “having your penis torn off”, right?

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    “Sisyphean Chug” would be a great name for a djent band.

  • Wow, this is not good. I never would have considered “Starkill” to be great, but their last two albums had at least a few tolerable tracks. It is clear (at least with the embedded track) that this band has no interest in originality, or quality song writing and has regressed since “Virus of the Mind”.

  • Tom the Tank

    Look at this album art! They named their songs “Sword, Spear, Blood, Fire” and “New Infernal Rebirth.” What happened?! They went from mediocre Amon Amarth knockoff to a flaccid loaf of pop metal in three years flat.

    http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/43f5679667837bf4363836ca84a7205991aea91ab9158d2cbae718122952967c.jpg

    • JimminySnakeTits

      Yeah, I was surprised by this review, because I remember that album pretty fondly – album cover and contents in general. Too bad.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Didn’t this site post a lengthy “things you may have missed” article about Amaranthe’s last album last year?

    • It wouldn’t have been on April 1 by any chance, would it?

      • Yep, the very same day we broke the news of the Crimean War-themed Cannibal Corpse album.

        • Reese Burns

          ..Which I happen to still be waiting for.

      • Oscar Albretsen

        Ahh, missed that. OK, makes sense now. Je suis une idiote.

  • El Lado Oscuro

    Funny as hell review… sadly true, and right on the money about Amaranthe. Specially liked the introduction, very deep indeed… jeep

  • Kmill

    That solo was better than a 1.0. Just sayin….

    • GardensTale

      Which makes it a shame that they did not replace all the clean vocals and repetitive rhythm guitars with solos then.

      • Kmill

        Just stickin up for a 1.5-2.0 solo when I hear it. But yeah, the song is pretty horrible.

      • [not a Dr]

        Because less solos can’t be more solos. That would be impossible!

    • Thatguy

      No it wasn’t.

  • They opened for Epica and Moonspell a while back. There were a bunch of teenage girls bitching about how Starkill was the only good band on the show. Ell oh ell.
    They’ve got technical ability, but as the review states the
    music’s just dull and predictable.

  • Maximos662

    This is even more formulaic and pitiful than even Sonic Syndicate, and that is quite an achievement. I will never get back the two and a half minutes of that track I listened to.

  • Thomas Grann

    I saw them open for Amorphis in 2013 and they were great. Due to a violent storm only 30-40 people made it to the gig, but neither Starkill nor Amorphis seemed troubled by this and gave excellent performances. The embedded track, however, leaves a lot to be desired. The first album was so much fun; melodeath with Manowar lyrics. I miss that.

  • Lavatron

    As someone who really enjoys the first two albums, I shook my head in disbelief while reading. But I knew better and had to listen. Now my ears are bleeding. Maybe it’s time to start trusting you guys.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Well, when all is said and done, I just know that embedded track fucking sucks.

  • The Unicorn

    Is the redhead in the band photo a girl? Serious question.

    Also, I like this song. What the hell is wrong with me?!?!

    Around 2:05-2:35 for a glimmer it sounded like Anacrusis Screams and Whispers material.

    I dig this song.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      You need to unicorn-shame yourself.

    • The solo was pretty good. The rest? Not so much

    • sir_c

      I think there still is a little piece of rainbow stuck on your bum

    • Grymm

      You HAD to invoke the legendary Anacrusis, didn’t you?

      No, I didn’t just try to listen to that part, YOU DID.

      *awkward stare*

      …shut up.

      • The Unicorn

        Easy…easy…

  • Meat Tornado

    Well the frontman did well filling in on a song for Xenoyr on Ne Obliviscaris’s NA tour. And they seem like nice guys. So they have that going for them

    • El Lado Oscuro

      interesting info, not everybody can sing for Xen

  • Exitium

    The band picture says everything you need to know. Although 1.0 might be slightly too low. They can steal and play Dimmu Borgir and Epica riffs pretty well!

  • OzanCan

    The band promo photo says it all, the guys’ hair prettier than the girl’s. Holy fuck they’re fake xD hahahah!!!

  • Arikael

    are those the Starkill who created “Fires of life”?
    That was a decent album, nothing special, but nice. How could they go from that to this utterly uninspired “music”?

  • sir_c

    With head and shoulders they… wash their hair.
    Christ, this is as likable as a stale Whopper lying in the rain.

  • AnnieK13

    ugh..that is not good

  • Grymm

    It’s weird that, once upon a time, these guys were a “black metal” band.

  • Requiem

    The embedded track is like the bastard lovechild of recent shitty-era Muse and a heavy, pretentious, sense-of-humour-less Ninja Sex Party, complete with nebulous, meaningless ‘anthemic’ lyricism. This didn’t even leave me the good grace of a laugh or two, it’s just profoundly dull.