I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Genre: Retro speed/power metal
Release: Stormspell Records, 2019
9 Tracks / Run time: 37:58
One of the cool things about being an amateur, wanna-be music journalist is occasionally getting to hear a new band when they're on their way "up." However, on the flip side, sometimes you wind up writing an epitaph for a band that's already split. Such is the case with Constellation, a posthumous odds-n-ends collection from Swedish retro-speed metallers Starlight, who called it quits in 2017 during pre-production for their debut album. According to the session notes from guitarist Valentin Papp (included in the CD booklet), the continued demand from Starlight's loyal fans inspired him to gather the remnants of the now-defunct band to finish up those rough recordings in 2018 and release them as a "thank you" for their support.
Thanks to the true metal specialists at Stormspell Records, Constellation finally saw the light of day in 2019, with three songs from Starlight's 2016 demo tacked on as "bonus tracks" to bring the disc up to album length.
The material on Constellation is admittedly not album quality stuff (Papp even apologizes for the disc's rehearsal-room production sound in the booklet), and for that reason it took me a few spins to fully connect with it, but in the end Constellation turned out to be a pretty cool collection of rough 'n' ready retro-metal.
Papp's liner notes admit that Starlight's main inspirations were Helloween's earliest, speed-metal oriented releases, like 1985's self-titled EP and 1986's Walls of Jericho full length. (The band's name is a nod to the lead-off track from that legendary EP). Song titles like "Starlight Warriors," "Speeding in the Sky," and "Planetary Doom" make it obvious that they're science fiction fans as well (So does the album cover, a way-cool retro homage to vintage sci-fi comic books like Mystery In Space or Weird Science).
Musically, well, if you've heard those first two Helloween releases, then you know what to expect. The early work by those beloved Germans was basically melodic NWOBHM-style metal, played with the gas pedal mashed firmly to the floor.
The catchy "Outbound Flight" kicks things off in a properly tight, riff-tastic fashion, and it even has a laser-blast sound effect from Star Wars randomly jammed in the middle that I'm sure the House of Mouse did not sign off on. From there, we blast into hyperspace with "The Bounty Hunter" and the frenzied "Fight in the Night." "Speeding in the Sky" sails along with the chug of early Iron Maiden, and the squealing guitars of "Starlight Warriors" and the mid-paced thump of "Planetary Doom" bring the first batch of tracks to a satisfactory close.
The last three songs on the CD are demo recordings of "Starlight Warriors," "Madness Rising" and "Too Drunk, Too Fast" taken from a 2016 demo session that served as Starlight's last recorded works before their implosion. Out of these three "bonus" cuts I particularly liked the party anthem "Too Drunk, Too Fast," which has a nice, thrashy, almost punk delivery, sounding a bit like a Motorhead/power metal hybrid. With that, the Constellation CD comes to an end, leaving listeners to ponder what might have been if Starlight had hung around long enough to give us a "real" full length album, with actual production and vocals that didn't sound like they were recorded in a broom closet..
Summing It Up
It took a few spins before it finally clicked with me, but then Constellation began bringing back pleasant, fuzzy memories of the demo-tape trading era of the '80s, when teenage metal heads would constantly try to out do one another by being the first to get their hands on the newest or most obscure demo tapes by unknown, up and coming metal bands. If Starlight had been around in 1986, those kids would've been all over this material.
Constellation certainly doesn't rewrite the speed-metal history book but their affectionate homage to metal days (or should that be "daze?") gone by should ignite the flames of nostalgia in even the most jaded old-schoolers.
Starlight's fans who clamored for the release of this material should be pleased to finally have this CD in their hands, and it should also garner some interest among collectors of ultra-obscure heaviness in general. R.I.P. Starlight, we hardly knew ye. Take to the sky!
"Too Drunk, Too Fast"
© 2019 Keith Abt