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Star One

Victims of the Modern Age

Review by Gary Hill

This is the second album from Star One. The group is a side project of Arjen Lucassen. A number of vocalists and musicians round out the lineup. In terms of singers, the album includes Russell Allen (Symphony X), Damian Wilson (Headspace, Threshold), Floor Jansen (ex-After Forever, ReVamp) and Dan Swanö (Nightingale, Second Sky). Musicians on the album in addition to Lucassen are Ed Warby (Ayreon, Hail of Bullets, Gorefest), Peter Vink,  Joost van den Broek - keyboard (Ex-After Forever) and Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery). The music here is mostly closely tied to heavy metal, but there is a lot of progressive rock and other sounds to be found, too. The lyrics are all based on science fiction movies and one TV series. It’s a great disc overall, and there are no weak tracks. It never seems flat or repetitive, either.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Down the Rabbit Hole

Ambient sound effects lead off this instrumental, but then keyboards enter and the piece is essentially a progressive rock keyboard solo that serves as an introduction to the album.

Digital Rain
Coming out of the previous piece, this fires out with a definite heavy metal fury. The keyboards create a texture that’s a bit like a more metallic form of Burn era Deep Purple, but the vocals are more metal than that. The musical hooks really do feel quite a bit like Deep Purple, though. The lyrics are based on the “Matrix” films. The cut is almost completely heavy metal, but there is a smoking hot instrumental section that’s more prog-like. There is a cool section later in the piece with multiple layers of vocals in an acapella format.
Earth That Was
This comes in even heavier than the previous piece. It drops back to a more stripped down approach for the verses and that section calls to mind Deep Purple quite a bit. Keyboard on the chorus bring in a more proggy approach and at times this comes near the progressive rock levels of Dream Theater. I’d still consider it more metal than anything else, though. That said, there is a segment that’s more space rock like and we also get a killer (and quite prog oriented) keyboard dominated instrumental section later. After that, though, we’re taken into a purely metallic guitar solo segment. There’s a cool keyboard and vocal based section later that again makes me think of Deep Purple. It powers back out to the song proper from there, though. The lyrics are about a group of people exiled from Earth searching for a new home in the stars. Apparently it is based on a television series called “Firefly.”
Victim of the Modern Age
Coming in extremely heavy, there are keyboard laden mellower movements to this track. It calls to mind a heavier and more modern version of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow to my ears. In many ways, though, there is a lot of world folk music built into the arrangement. There’s also an almost operatic element to it. There is a line of death metal vocals later in the piece. The closing section is incredibly powerful. The lyrical nod to “Singing in the Rain” is unexpected. I knew before reading Lucassen’s  explanation, that the lyrics to this piece were based on “A Clockwork Orange.”
Human See, Human Do
There is a bit more of a hard rock and roll element to this, but it still falls into the territory of proggy, epic metal. There are no new thresholds crossed here, but this is a strong piece in keeping with the types of sounds we’ve heard to this point. The lyrics are based on “Planet of the Apes,” and the original Charlton Heston version.
24 Hours
The lyrics to this one are based on “Escape From New York.” The verses are in a powerful progressive metal balladic motif. It powers out to some serious symphonic progressive metal. This song is a bit of a change of pace, and one of the highlights of the set. The contrast between mellower verse and heavier chorus is nice. The cut shifts to some more operatic treatments later and then goes out to one of the most fully progressive rock oriented sections of the whole album. They infuse more metal into that part of the track as they continue, though.
Cassandra Complex
The lyrical reference here is the movie “12 Monkeys.” The music makes me think of a heavier, more involved version of Whitesnake. This is quite accessible and catchy, but still very powerful, too. There’s an incredibly cool ultra-heavy segment later in the number, too.
It's Alive, She's Alive, We're Alive
Lucassen says that the lyrics to this cut are based on the film “Children of Men.” He also said (in an interview at progarchives) that the opening riff was influenced by Rammstein. The main music here, though, is much more melodic than that. There is a killer keyboard solo and some great vocal hooks. This is one of the stronger cuts on show. While there are definitely some proggy moments, particularly in the keyboard soloing, this is not really prog. It’s not really metal, either, though. I’d consider it more hard rock than either of those other categories, although there is some of each of them here.
It All Ends Here
Based on “Blade Runner,” this is slow and very heavy. It’s got a definite doom metal texture built into it, but there are also quite a few bits of progressive rock laid over the top of the arrangement. There is a more melodic section midtrack that resembles the more balladic side of Queensryche or Pink Floyd.
 
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