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Starsoup - Castles of Sand Award winner

Castles of Sand
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 22 January 2018, 7:23 AM

Russian Progressive Rock band STARSOUP is, at the moment, a studio band, featuring guest musicians. Formed in 2011, their debut “Bazaar of Wonders” came in 2013. Towards the end of 2017, they released their second album here titled “Castles of Sand,” which contains ten tracks. Reviews for the first album on Encyclopaedia Metallum were less than kind, but Progressive music can be a challenge for the average lay person to understand. So I look forward to checking out this latest effort.

“The Catcher in the Lie” leads us off. Out of the gate, I immediately get a DREAM THEATER vibe, on their heavier side, with crunchy distorted guitars and dark subject matter. Nifty bass and drum work combine with haunting piano melodies and a varied vocal approach. If this is indicative of the rest of the album, we already have a clear winner here. “Into the Woods” takes a 180 turn and has a comely commercial sound, with clear guitar notes and poignant vocals. Some of the lyrics  are just a little lost in translation but you can’t fault a band who have English as a second language. “Brother’s Plea” heads back into the shadows, with a bit of a Middle Eastern sound from the chord progressions and effects. An ominous anthem, it invokes imagery of a coronation of a great King during the reign of an ancient empire.

“You’re World is Dead” is a folky funeral dirge of sorts, watching fallen leaves scattering among headstones in a graveyard on a cold fall morning, under hopeless grey skies. “Rumors of Better Life” is a peaceful acoustical track, with pensive vocals and a ray of hope that shines through your melancholy world with a bright yellow beam. “Escapist” hears that heavy sound return, in a combination of dirty guitar riff, keys and edgy vocals. A balls-out chorus pushes melody amidst the aggressive instrumental parts. It reminds me of the James LaBrie solo song “Alone.” “Castle” is a lengthy instrumental, at close to seven minutes. It has a dark and moody entrance, with voices in the background that you cannot quite understand their message. It sounds brooding however. Gathering steam ominously, it turns to a slow, methodical pace with spacy keyboards and rich texture. An extended guitar solo is completely on the melody line and is fantastic.

The vocal duet in the short piano led piece “The World that has Moved on” is very pretty. It’s an introspective piece that ponders the questions burning inside of all of us. Closing the album is “Moon on the Shore.” The soft tickle of the ivories is featured here, along with what sounds like the serene movement of the tide, under calm skies after dark. What a beautiful closing song for a lovely album. I can’t really find fault with anything here. In fact, it’s extremely well done as an album…diverse in scope…heavy and powerful and times, and calm and vulnerable at others. What Alexey showed most on this collection of songs is a seasoned and sophisticated sense of songwriting and all the elements of Progressive music that make this genre so special. I can’t imagine any fan of Progressive music not wanting to have this album in their collection.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 8
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. The Catcher in the Lie
2. Into the Woods
3. Brother’s Plea
4. You’re World is Dead
5. Rumors of Better Love
6. Escapist
7. Winter in Shire
8. Castle
9. The World that has Moved on
10. Moon on the Shore
Alexey Markov – Guitars, Vocals, Effects
Record Label: Metalism Records


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Edited 19 February 2019

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