As they approach the thirtieth anniversary of their debut, the Finnish group Convulse have a solid set of songs to show how far they’ve come with their song-writing. Running nine tracks long, at a trim forty-one minutes, Deathstar manages a blend of prog, heavy rock, and light death metal, capably combining hard edges with thoughtful arrangements.
Leading off with the instrumental intro of “Extreme Dark Light”, taking almost two full minutes to build atmosphere, the band shows its way with developing melodies and melding styles. Bringing together a hard/heavy rock groove with some touches of the band’s death metal past and some Pink Floydian synth polish, the album gets off to a strong start, with compelling riffs and good support between the three musicians.
As the album continues, the band continues to show off their skill at blending contrasts; a rough edge here, a smooth glide there, a rush of blistering percussion there, a string of delicate piano here, and so on. From song to song, it’s kind of an exercise in tweaking qualities of that main formula, with just a couple of tracks (“Make Humanica Great Again”, for instance) diverging from it by much. Most of the variety is found in the assorted break-downs and bridges of the songs, though drummer Rolle Markos puts in a consistently strong showing.
People who usually listen to metal on a surround sound system should be prepared for the volume of the vocals to drop drastically, or even just vanish. Not sure what sort of mixing choices might have led to such an effect, but personal testing has confirmed that unless you’re running it out as 2.0 stereo, you’re going to have some issues. Even then, the vocals are gonna seem oddly muffled, but I guess that’s the way the band wanted it, as they specify that it was “recorded and mixed in analog at JJ-studio with Juuso Nordlund… in the same twenty-four-track reel-to-reel analog studio with the same producer as the Evil Prevails album back in 2013.”
Technical issues aside, the band puts on a great show. The hooks are sharp and memorable, the instrument tone is clear and tastily resonant, the timbres are well-suited to the moods of the songs, and as much apparent similarity as there is from song to song, the band doesn’t feel like it’s in a rut, or starved for ideas, just that they’re in the zone that works for them. It makes for kind of a ‘comfort food’ album, with not much to challenge you, but a reliable and steady set of grooves to sink into when you’re in that mood. Hopefully a revised mix to fix the audio issues can be issued in the near future, but if you wanna blast this out of your laptop speakers, or grab a CD copy for your old stereo, you won’t have to worry about it.