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Living Dead Stars - Living Dead Stars

Living Dead Stars
Living Dead Stars
by Emily Schneider at 21 May 2020, 9:44 PM

You know the saying, don't judge a book by its cover? You could say a similar thing with don't judge a band by their name or their album artwork… I admittedly did that when I got the self-titled debut album from Los Angeles, California based band LIVING DEAD STARS. The name seemed a bit silly and I was reluctant to get started, but it didn't take long for my reluctance to fizzle into pure enjoyment shortly after I began this Cinematic Hard Rock album.

“Redeem Ourselves” is an interesting choice for an intro track. The orchestration is quite dramatic, it makes it feel more like a closing song honestly. The guitar solo was pretty good, some solid Hard Rock melody to pull this song out of "big movie ballad" territory. The layered vocals were a bit wonky/mish-mashed though. “Nightmare” has a very AVENGED SEVENFOLD flair to it. (and not just because of the song title!) The fast verses definitely had that M. Shadows touch plus the guitar solo has some major Synyster Gates vibes as well. “Checkmate” has a massive intro with a really neat speedy riff to get it going. This song is a politically charged one, there's this feeling of rebellion in the melody and within the lyrics. Nox is super passionate for every note he sings in this one, you can really feel the fire of his beliefs as the song goes along.

“Killzone” is a mosh-pit worthy track. The drums are bombastic, the guitars are more than worthy of banging your head to, and the vocals have that "wreck everything" energy perfect for the pit. “In Pieces” is an emotional ballad with some surprises folded in. There's some screamed vocals, a really lovely piano bit, and a solo from FALLING IN REVERSE guitarist Max Georgiev. There's a lot of emotional strife in this song and it's expressed well without being too angsty or cheesy. The ending flows really well into the next track, “Hopeless” . Two ballads in a row can be considered risky, but I find they do ballads well. This one did have some major angst involved, it reminded me of older THREE DAYS GRACE but with more theatrics. “Escape From Here” paints a setting of the side of Hollywood most people don't think about. There's this raw and gritty feel in the riffs and there's a emotion of anguish in the vocals. It's another dark and gloomy heartbreaking song.

“Fallen” picks up the pace. This one brings in some electronic keys into the mix along with some passive aggressive yet strangely positive lyrics. “Through the Fire” has a bit of dueling guitar action in the beginning. (I'm a sucker for that!) This song is a cool, head-bang worthy track with some great riffs sprinkled throughout and 2 melodic solos. M. Nox, once again, fills the song with his massive and dynamic vocals. “Northern Star” is the acoustic style closing track. The melody is gorgeous and the lyrics are well written.

Overall, I was surprised as hell by LIVING DEAD STARS. I'm admittedly not a huge fan of modern day Hard Rock.  A lot of it has a tendency of sounding like replicas to the late 90s to early 2000s “Post Grunge Hard Rock” era. These guys do pay homage to some of the iconic bands, but they definitely took their own creative liberties as well. The amount of orchestration on this album really added some drama and emotion to every song. I honestly enjoyed that aspect a lot more than when I'd initially read their self-described “Cinematographic Hard Rock” label. They not only made that label seem feasible, but also proved it's a near perfect way to describe their sound. Another aspect I keep mentioning are the vocals from M. Nox. He is one of those vocalists that not only grabs your attention, he commands it and keeps you hanging on every word he sings. He pours his heart out and lays it out for the listener to dissect or just stare at in bewilderment during every song. While the first track seemed a bit shaky and the chunk of ballads in the middle of the album made it drag a bit, this self-titled debut is pretty damn solid.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 7
Memorability: 8
Production: 7

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1 Redeem Ourselves
2 Nightmare
3 Checkmate
4 Killzone
5 In Pieces
6 Hopeless
7 Escape From Here
8 Fallen
9 Through the Fire
10 Northern Star
 
Lineup:
M.Nox -Vocals
Spencer Conley -Guitar
Michael X Zamora- Guitar
Jon Blackwell -Bass
Ashley Guest - Drums
Record Label: Pavement Music
     


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