posted on 4/2011 By:
I’ll be honest: I had never heard of the Dutch band Starve before giving Wasteland, their debut album, a spin. Based on the cover art, I was half-hoping for some post-Axis Of Perdition bleak industrial black metal; instead, I’m treated to a) a pretty bad record, and b) one of the more perplexing uses of the Laveyan sigil of Baphomet in a band’s logo.
So, I’ve claimed this is a pretty bad record, but what I really mean is that it’s kind of a weird record. The main reason for this is that the vocals are an incredibly odd match for the music. That’s a pretty rare complaint from me, but the general approach by Starve throughout Wasteland is a very bluesy, almost jazzy style of not particularly distorted doom (think some inbred relation of Sleep – circa Holy Mountain – and The Sword), so much so that I keep expecting the bass to drop some straight-up swing walking basslines. The opening one-two of “This Town Is Dead” and “Preachers Without Faith” demonstrates this jaunty style, and cries out desperately to be put in a different record, or be given a different singer.
You see, the vocalist actually has a pretty good tone, and is remarkably understandable, but these hoarse harsh vocals would be infinitely better suited to a much dirtier style of sludge, or perhaps even to some proper old-school metalcore, like maybe pre-Until Your Heart Stops Cave In. With the almost funky doom jams that populate Wasteland, I would much rather hear a clean, reedy doom voice (think The Wounded Kings, though this music is light-years distant from that), or, for fuck’s sake, put Danzig on these tunes. The disconnect between vocals and music is not just initially jarring; it’s constantly distracting.
Another problem throughout Wasteland is the drumming. Apart from the cymbals being quite a bit too splashy, the drums are paradoxically both too busy and not busy enough. That is, with most legitimately down-tuned sludge expeditions, the drums need to be methodical and sparing, keeping a relentlessly morose tempo, but also maintaining a minimal presence so that fills and purposeful off-time beats make a relatively greater impact. The drums throughout are much busier, and too often come across like a beginner’s rock drumming practice tune. Once they’ve called such attention to themselves by being over-busy, they then proceed to disappoint because they are so pedestrian.
Starve is most effective when kicking out slow, single-minded bruisers like “Stuck” and “Wasteland,” and it’s on these songs that the vocals seem less at odds with the music. Still, even these more traditionally-structured sludge songs would benefit endlessly from a scuzzier, more dangerous-sounding production. Nevertheless, the title track is easily man of the match, and while presenting nothing particularly revolutionary, an album patterned on its approach would be a much more listenable affair (though the 45 seconds or so of silence at the song’s end is somewhat inexplicable). If you’re a ravenous connoisseur of all things vaguely doom, you might like to tune in to Starve’s channel; otherwise, you might just try your own experiment: mix James LaBrie’s vocals from the 16-minute “A Nightmare To Remember” atop the entirety of Wormrot’s Dirge. See how that tickles you.
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