Sin Starlett – Solid Source of Steel Review

Calling something new “NWoBHM” is a tricky proposition. Some bands and labels seem to fall on the description as a lazy synonym for Maiden, but that clearly only captures a slice of the historical scene. Sin Starlett’s tendency to swap out huge sections of the wardrobe between albums only amplifies the confusion in calling them simply “NWoBHM.” 2012’s awfully-named Throat Attack saw Starlett wear through the combined speed and pop sensibilities of Defenders of the Faith-era Judas Priest. 2016’s Digital Overload, meanwhile, saw the Starletts adopt thrashier trappings. Although heavily backloaded on Overload, the borderline thrash riffs and vocal barks seemed to signal a new direction for follow-up Solid Source of Steel.

Yet the metal music mech on the cover heralds yet another new direction, this time accompanied by a personnel change in Sin Starlett’s guitar tandem. Out is Jan Horat and in is “Jack Tytan.”1 Similarly out are those thrash elements from Digital Overload. Instead, a new heaping of early power metal influences accompany the most ludicrous metal, erm, Tytan I’ve ever seen (Keyboard bandoliers! Playing metal on a guitar with a Bigsby bridge! Tiny people worshipping it like a glorious airbrushed interpretation of a Lewandowski painting!). The cover has me whipping up a Béchamel sauce so I can dump this sucker in and make bougie mac and cheese like the stinky turophile I am.

Solid Source of Steel certainly starts off with an appetizing bang with “Love Bites”-cum-Terminator synth stabs. Tytan and returning axeman Reno Meier wield the requisite chops, throwing nods to their six-string influences throughout. The title track sees the duo marrying Hansen-era Helloween leads to Maiden’s gallop. On “Waves of Hamartia,” Tytan and Meier flash tastefully-brief neoclassical fills without going overboard into Yngwie territory. “Rule or Obey” coolly mixes natural harmonics into an otherwise standard NWoBHM riff. The bridge of “Streetlight Domino” even includes a short, emotive bridge new for the band’s sound. The stylistic mix of furious riffing and soaring vocals punctuated by shouted backing vocals are the highlights of Starlett’s evolved sound. What largely hasn’t changed is vocalist Elias Felber’s biting, impassioned Halford impression. While his voice won’t be for everyone—his falsetto sometimes comes off like Barry Gibb’s—it suits the material. On “Rule or Obey” he even shows off a new side of his voice with a fair approximation of The Warning-era Tate. A vocoder bridge on “Straight and Ready” similarly breaks up the falsetto monotony.

While the power elements present serve as a nice change of pace from the Priest influences and Maiden gallop, Sin Starlett still seem apprehensive about fully embracing their new sound. This indecision results in bloated and undercooked compositions. While Meier and Tytan rip through a library of leads, multi-minute instrumental sections drag down what should be far more concise compositions (“Struck Down,” “Iron Stamina”). Even more problematic is the addition of more solos far after compositions have reached their emotional climax. No matter how many times I’ve listened to “Straight and Ready,” I’m still caught off guard when the song goes on for two more minutes after the post-solo chorus. Felder also isn’t immune from criticism, as he tends to pigeon-hole himself into using his upper register and falsetto despite indications on prior albums and here that he’s capable of much more. The constant falsetto is paired with a heavy studio reverb that frequently renders Felder’s enunciation difficult to parse. This combination can make for a tiring listening experience.

Given Sin Starlett’s propensity to change sounds between albums, Solid Source of Steel is a tough album to evaluate. On the next album, I hope that the Swiss Starletts bring back some of the more aggressive elements dropped after Digital Overload while also retaining what they bring to the table on Solid Source of Steel. It could make for a kitchen sink mess, but Sin Starlett seems more than its NWOBHM core. Even if this is the limit of the band’s sound, Sin Starlett makes invigorating, often engaging trad metal that’s perfect fodder for playlist material. Methinks “Streetlight Domino” will fit nicely alongside “Motorcycle Man” on my biking playlist.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Metalizer Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 22nd, 2022

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