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Starring Janet Leigh - "Spectrum" (CD)

Starring Janet Leigh - "Spectrum" CD cover image

"Spectrum" track listing:

1. Noire (4:43)
2. Mistress (5:33)
3. Decay (4:55)
4. Ex You (2:43)
5. Odium (5:43)
6. Spectrum (8:06)
7. Creation (3:45)
8. Fingertips (4:46)
9. Wrath (7:16)

Reviewed by on July 4, 2009

"After repeated spins the album begins to make sense, with disparate pieces melding in the mind."

Janet Leigh was an actress in major motion pictures from the 1940s through the end of the 1990s, with the height of her career In the 1960s. She famously played Marion Crane (the woman in the shower) in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” Starring Janet Leigh is a progressive jazz-technical death metal band that has just recently released its first full-length album on Ironclad Recordings, which is a division of Metal Blade. Just like the moment with Marion Crane in the shower, “Spectrum” is a scary and confusing album, and one that never offers a hint of what is coming next.

Progressive jazz-technical death metal is quite the moniker, but it fits here. Starring Janet Leigh relentlessly mixes extreme death metal with jazz. “Noire” starts right away with extreme metal. It has blast beats and crushing drums fills from Aaron Pozzer and screams, shrieks, and growls from vocalist Matt Nimmo. Meanwhile the guitars of Matt Zadkovish and Chris Sokoloski grind away furiously with precise, light-speed riffs. Suddenly, after exactly 56 seconds, a quick jazz bass line plays alone for one measure. Then it’s back to the extreme metal crush, but 30 seconds later there is another quick jazz interlude, this time with the guitars. And then another minute later a full blown jazz section interrupts again.

The music is not just simply a strict dichotomy of jazz and technical death metal. The jazz influences the metal, and the metal influences the jazz. Instead of the standard wall of sound and constant crushing guitars and drums, the death metal features complex rhythmic and melodic themes constantly intertwining and changing. Each instrument can be heard weaving in and out of the others, and the moments when they all come together are pure bliss.

The softer, jazzier portions also incorporate the metal. Instead of falling into a standard jazz break the melodies and riffs are decidedly hard, but they are played in a progressive, almost curious way that any jazz musician would be pleased to hear.

Starring Janet Leigh explores every corner of the combination, placing absolute extreme death metal cacophony directly next to a pleasant jazz jam. Other times a more mellow metal section will be compared to an aggressive, menacing jazz riff. These pairs are the essence of the album, as the band continuously looks for the relationship between these two complete different styles of music. Somehow, amazingly, it works.

This album is not for the novice metal fan. The death metal can be completely atonal and rhythmically bereft, seemingly a brutal abortion of the genre. Once the jazz sections get mixed in, the whole thing is a headache inducing mess. But that is the point – pushing boundaries, mixing music genres, and challenging the listener. After repeated spins the album begins to make sense, with disparate pieces melding in the mind. “Spectrum” will never be played at a party or in the convertible with the top down, but it has more going for it that it seems at first listen, and ultimately it becomes a very satisfying album.

Highs: The jazz/death metal combination is challenging, but ultimately satisfying.

Lows: It takes a long time to get into this one, and some parts are almost inaccessible.

Bottom line: Listening to this album is a project, but it can be a very rewarding experience.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 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)