There’s no doubt about it, in this burgeoning world of myriad metal sub-genres, an unlucky few have been branded as default pejoratives. We’re all guilty of it to some degree: nu metal, metalcore, deathcore… basically anything with a core, all sneered at and vilified down the length of our long, elitist noses. It saddens my iron bones to find that power metal seems to be suffering the same fate. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but there can be no denying the scene’s quality output. Show me someone, anyone, who doesn’t like Blind Guardian, and I’ll show you a filthy liar. I, for one, have a heartier constitution than most for some well-crafted power. Historically, the genre has served me better than any brutal death metal when looking to oust unwanted guests (and make no mistake, they’re all unwanted); a quick blast of Nightfall In Middle-Earth and the fuckers scurry like rats on a sinking ship. My Angry Metal persecutors have seen fit to furnish me with yet another weapon of crass destruction, in the self-titled debut of Black Yet Full Of Stars.
Made up of Italian, Greek, and American musicians, this four-piece pedal a progressive, orchestral brand of power metal – think Black Halo era Kamelot on steroids — which grew on me very quickly, indeed. One of the biggest complaints I have with the genre as a whole is that so many of the peripheral bands seem content to settle for an entirely invisible rhythm section — riffs with the molecular integrity of porridge that serve only to advance the spotlight vocals. Black Yet Full Of Stars knows no such misfortune and offer up a collection of muscular riffing fit for the upper echelons of the soul-soaring power aficionado. Eschewing the hyperactive positivity of Helloween and Gamma Ray, which, in my experience, is the issue most take with power metal, Black Yet Full Of Stars instead opt for the heavier crunch of latter-day Symphony X; the bombast coexisting neatly with the guitars lest the power dilutes the metal.
Rousing choruses abound on this debut, with “Golden Child” and “Face to Face” both odes to overcoming adversity and the rugged transition from boy to man… Much of the authenticity is thanks to vocalist David Scott McBee – his burly mid-range, which uncannily manages to emulate the phrasing of both Russell Allen and Roy Khan, gifts the album with a certain grit lacking in much of the Euro scene today. Heavier cuts, “Every Great Man’s Ghost” and closer “Tempesta,” are made all the better for his delivery, accentuating the substantial rhythms. Although none of the material is overtly bad, there are a couple of moments that don’t quite work. The almost balladry of “A Boy in Chains” manages to just miss the mark. I’m beyond lactose tolerant, but the lyrics on this one nearly had me at critical mass. “The Last Against the Wolves” is one of the album’s faster moments and will probably go over well live, but sadly suffers from “middle-child syndrome” in that it is inexorably situated between two of the albums strongest tracks, and, consequently, easily overlooked.
Band mastermind and multi-instrumentalist Carlo M. Dini is clearly the man with the vision. He contributes not only guitars, bass, and keys but also oversees the not inconsiderable arrangements. The inherent symphonic elements often work as active instrumentation, with the strings following the guitars, working to accentuate the riff rather than serving as mere background fluff. The production, handled by Stefano Morabito (Hour Of Penance, Fleshgod Apocalypse), reflects this and is about as bold and slick (and arguably characterless) as you’d expect from any power metal record, with obvious emphasis on the vocals and orchestration – the instruments take on a crisp, if not dry tone in comparison.
Black Yet Full Of Stars crafted a fine debut full of innocuous yet satisfying power metal. The riffs have teeth and the choruses are outrageously hook-riddled. It’s only when I consider this is a debut record and muse on what some of the more established bands are currently producing (*cough*Iced Earth*cough*), that I can see just how much effort is present. This isn’t the album to slap you out of your powerviolent blood-fugue, but if, like me, you have an inclination towards metal’s more fantastical grandeur, then consider Black Yet Full Of Stars a new nebula on your ever-expanding horizon. Sure to please fans of Mob Rules and Borealis.