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Starsoup - "Bazaar of Wonders" (CD)

Starsoup - "Bazaar of Wonders" CD cover image

"Bazaar of Wonders" track listing:

1. Angels (6:33)
2. Ain't no Superman (4:24)
3. Try (4:22)
4. Cradle of War (7:02)
5. Rumors of Better Life (3:33)
6. Past Bites (3:33)
7. The City and the Stars (3:05)
8. Bazaar (5:41)
9. Voices of the Wind (2:38)
10. Road to Sunset (3:58)
11. Perfect Loser (4:55)
12. Rain in the Desert (4:55)

Reviewed by on December 20, 2013

"Varied and multi-faceted, “Bazaar of Wonders” offers a nice glimpse into what Russia has to offer in the realm of prog rock and metal."

A newer Russian outfit, StarSoup is about as odd a group as the name would suggest. Likewise, “Bazaar of Wonders” is a fitting title for the band’s debut album, as there’s a hodgepodge of varying elements to be found all crammed together into one space. Although more rock overall than headbanging metal, the album does have a lot to offer for fans of prog bands like Haken or Dream Theater.

The album starts off promising with an aesthetic and sound that will appeal to progressive metal fans on “Angels,” and while it’s more of a ballad, there are some heavier sounds. Following track “Ain’t No Superman” shifts into radio hard rock, and then third offering “Try” morphs into melodic power metal with a prevalent piano element.

This is an album that doesn’t like to sit still and remain in the same sound spectrum for too long. When you think you’ve got it pegged down, “Bazaar of Wonders” changes the formula again. There are soulful parts, galloping guitar-driven segments, acoustic strumming, and even an a capella outing in “Voices of the Wind.” The album offers everything from wind instruments for a folk feel on “Rumors of Better Life” to energetic tracks like “Past Bites.”

On the less heavy side are songs like the straight rock ballad “The City and the Stars,” or the smoky and bluesy strumming of “Road to Sunset” that almost crosses into the dreaded realm of country. Oddly enough for a prog outing, the funky bass lines don’t show up until 11th track “Perfect Loser,” a song that brings to mind Freak Kitchen in its oddity. Of course the sax also makes an appearance on “Cradle of War,” along with some deeper and harsher vocals.

Varied and multi-faceted, “Bazaar of Wonders” offers a nice glimpse into what Russia has to offer in the realm of prog rock and metal. It’s not a perfect album by any means, as it frequently feels restrained and could have a bigger impact if it went a bit further into full heavy metal. But even though it’s not mind-blowing and won’t dethrone any of the prog gods, this debut album is entertaining and worth giving a spin or two.

Highs: Brings to mind Haken, Dream Theater, and Freak Kitchen in its better moments.

Lows: Much of the album is too restrained and radio friendly to work for the metal heads who want something with energy.

Bottom line: This new prog outfit bounces between rock and metal, offering up a different style on just about every song.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)