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Star One - "Victims of the Modern Age" (CD)

Star One - "Victims of the Modern Age" CD cover image

"Victims of the Modern Age" track listing:

1. Down The Rabbit Hole
2. Digital Rain
3. Earth That Was
4. Victims of the Modern Age
5. Human See, Human Do
6. 24 Hours
7. Cassandra Complex
8. It's Alive, She's Alive, We're Alive
9. It All Ends Here

Reviewed by on November 2, 2010

"'Victims of the Modern Age' is a refreshing revival of the Star One project, employing various metal heavyweights..."

The lyrics to “Earth That Was” include the line, “A desperate need to find our place in the emptiness of space.” It’s safe to say that the mainman behind Star One, Arjen Lucassen, already found his place in space with the six albums he put out with his main band, Ayreon, all of which are set in space. For that reason, Arjen decided to do an album centered on Earth this time, with a set of darker lyrics and a heavier feel. The follow up to 2002’s “Space Metal,” “Victims of the Modern Age” is a refreshing revival of the Star One project, employing various metal heavyweights alongside Arjen Lucassen, who actually writes the material.

As with the first Star One album, the cast of vocalists consists of Russell Allen (Symphony X), Floor Jansen (After Forever/Revamp), Dan Swano (Edge of Sanity, Bloodbath), and Damian Wilson (Threshold). Other musicians on the record are Joost Van den Broek on keyboard solos (After Forever, Sun Caged), Gary Wehrkamp on guitar solos (Shadow Gallery), Ed Warby on drums (Hail of Bullets, Ayreon), and Peter Vink on bass. This time, the instrumentation is a bit heavier and less bluesy than it was on “Space Metal.” Also, there is less of a “spacey” feel to the album, likely because the lyrical content is centered on post-apocalyptic films or series’ set on Earth. Some of the films that influenced the lyrics on the album are “A Clockwork Orange,” “Escape From New York,” “Planet of the Apes,” “Logan’s Run,” and “Firefly.”

As the album begins with “Down The Rabbit Hole,” a reference to Alice in Wonderland, some classic synthesizer lines introduce a main melody for the next song and trail into “Digital Rain,” with a wild Hammond B3 organ frantically whirling into the beginning. The off-beat anthems of “Digital Rain” make for a stellar song, with some of the finest recorded performances from the vocalists. The bluesiest part of the album is the solo section in the middle of this song, with an undeniable drum groove behind the solos. “Earth That Was” has some monster guitar riffs introducing the track and flows into a song rife with all sorts of synthesizers and rising melodies. As with the first Star One album, you can get the impression that “Victims of the Modern Age” is all about guitar riffs and synthesizer lines.

The title track to the album has what may be one of Russell Allen’s best performances ever recorded and a main oppressive melody befitting a song based on “A Clockwork Orange.” By far the most bluesy, Arch Enemy-like metal anthem is from “Human See, Human Do”, with some phenomenal drumming paired with tight guitar riffing. “24 Hours” is the spaciest track, with clean guitars and Damian Wilson’s bright voice creating an eerie atmosphere that flows into a fiery passage of guitars and Russell Allen. There are some noteworthy heavy instrumental passages on “24 Hours,” “Cassandra Complex,” and the eerie slower-moving leviathan track, “It All Ends Here.” The latter boasts a soon-to-be-classic clean guitar solo full of feel. “It’s Alive, She’s Alive, We’re Alive” recalls some good moments from the first album, “Space Metal,” with anthem-like vocal lines from all members of the cast.

Ayreonauts will not be disappointed and may even find more in common with the latest two Ayreon albums than the first Star One record. The production on the album was handled by Arjen himself, and boasts his best mix to date. The rhythm section has a guitar sound both modernly heavy and classic in tone, bright and leveled drum sound, and thick synthesizer sound. For heavy metal fans searching for iconic vocalists, a unique mix of styles, and the gratuitous use of synthesizers, this is just right.

An interview Arjen Lucassen did with MetalUnderground.com about this Star One album can also be read at this link.

Highs: Powerful vocal performances, riff-based anthems, gratuitous and fat synthesizers.

Lows: You really have to love keyboards to love this album.

Bottom line: Both pleasing to modern metal fans and classic metal fans, “Victims” dares to boldly go where no prog band has gone before.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls


Key
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)