|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Headstone||Country Of Origin:|
|Year Released: 2017||Artist Website: Four Star Revival|
|Tracks: 5||Rating: 80%|
At the intersection of traditional metal and power metal sits Four Star Revival. The group draws upon the former by joining the clear-cut muscle to its guitar sound with the thumping bass, searing leads and unambiguous drumming to match. In terms of the latter, Four Star Revival eschews the European form (with its emphasis on symphonic elements), epic type (characterized by classical overtures and choir vocals) and progressive facet (in terms of lengthy songwriting and technical prowess). Rather, the Dayton, Ohio based four piece grasps the classic US power metal variety with its stripped down and rawer approach in which crunch heavy guitars remain the focal point with keyboards and commercial elements correspondingly downplayed. I can see those into Judas Priest, Saint, Armageddon and Atkins May Project (former) in addition to Inner Siege, Zaxas, Jacobs Dream and Oblivion Myth (latter) embracing what Four Star Revival brings to the table.
Four Star Revival gained initial renown for its 2014 Aztek Records debut full length Knights of The Revival, an 85% Angelic Warlord graded work that ‘adds up to as fine a debut as you will find in which consistent songwriting, solid production and able musicianship allow Four Star Revival to shine in what is a crowded current power metal scene’. Returning in January of 2017 with its Head stone Records follow up 5-song sophomore EP The Underdog, Four Star Revival maintains its penchant for the traditional and power metal side of things while sustaining the high standards in the aforementioned areas of songwriting, production and musicianship.
A good measure of the group’s success attributes to continuity in that (for the most part) it has preserved its core line up of veteran musicians between albums. It begins with front man Jack Emrick (Life After Death) and his mid-octave vocal style that (again referencing the Angelic Warlord review) ‘ranges from the smoothly reverberant and robust (in which he goes for the occasional high note) to dogged grit and determination (that finds him cutting loose with the periodic aggressive scream)’. Emrick helps Four Star Revival to separate itself and form its own unique identity within a hard music scene awash with a few too many sound alike high-end crooners. It would be sufficient to say that those into the likes of Halford (Judas Priest), Kramer (Saint), Clark (Philadelphia) and Vance (Armageddon) will identify with his abilities.
It is not all Emrick, however, in that guitarist Benny Bodine (WarMinister) maintains his robust presence, whether it is fixed harmonies and staunch guitar riffs or soloing that ranges from the biting and bluesy to that reflecting an expedited feel. Ed Girard (House of Jason) returns his weighty bass presence and aligns it with the hard-nosed timekeeping of newcomer Paul Strausburg (World Gone Wrong), whom replaces the departed Eddie Ling.
Albums opening title track proves a good indicator of the Four Star Revival classic to power metal abilities. “The Underdog” comes roaring out of the gate fast, pointed and focused, with turbulent rhythm guitars leading the dogged way as Girard’s astute bass lines uphold the low end. I particularly appreciate how the song slows to a near crawl for quietly played guitars prior to the torrid soloing that carries its instrumental section.
The fast-paced emphasis carries over onto “Liar”. Albums shortest at three and a half minutes, “Liar” stands out as a non-stop barnburner by cementing guitars to the front of the mix (for the acerbic verses) and repeating its title in heated fashion (throughout the keyed up refrain). Bodine returns with a generous stretch of incendiary lead guitar work. This one perfectly captures the high-energy spirit of Knights Of The Revival tracks “Red” and “Broken Man”.
“Rumors Of War” plays up similar levels of heaviness but in a mid-tempo package. The song exudes an anthem-like feel, making a concentrated statement as guitars sear and bite its length but also proving contrastingly melodic from the engaging aspects to its heartfelt refrain. Emrick distinctly shines, with his earthly flavorings aligning with the lower register feel at hand. Am I out of line to suggest comparison to “Perfect Life” and “Shine” (also Knights Of The Revival)?
“Broken” also takes a mid-paced heading. Interestingly, this one interweaves some modern guitar flavorings within a classic metal framework, with the upshot a laid back and melancholic track in comparison to some here (observation and no way a critique). Occasional time signatures present themselves accordingly, as “Broken” transitions between quieter moments in which lighter guitars hold sway and others that take the more forthright heading.
The Underdog saves its best for last with “The Garden of Good And Evil”. What we have here is a return to upbeat territory, as the song expeditiously launches itself from the start to agile guitars and plunging that set the peremptory tone alongside understated vocal melodies. Initiative briefly decelerates halfway in to an ominous passage carried by stilly done guitars only to vigorously return as Bodine unleashes another furious stretch of soloing. Impression left is that this is the albums most power metal influenced track.
Whereas production to Knights Of The Revival was quite good, The Underdog tightens things with a cleaner mix to the low end: bass literally breathes in the backdrop, while greater separation allows drums to further stand out. Of course, guitars continue to make the decided statement demanded of the classic and power metal segments. Packaging improves as well, with the ‘black knight holding a pair of flaming swords’ artwork better at catching the eye than the plainer black and white Knights Of The Revival cover.
Four Star Revival describes itself in its press material as “four veteran musicians (who) were brought together by a mutual love of Jesus and a desire to use their talents for His glory”. Groups prose continues to uphold this unequivocally. Albums title track talks of persevering in the face of all odds:
Where there’s a will there’s a way
I never fake it and won’t start today
I don’t care what they say
Fair weather friends like the weather they fade
And it’s on through the night, heavy the fog
Word to the wise, don’t be surprised
When this underdog, he puts up a fight
Subject to “Liar” is self-explanatory:
If you’re looking for trouble
You’ve come to right place
I’ll get up in your face
If you’re looking to rumble
To fall and to stumble
Just throw it all away
I’ll get deep inside you
I’ll try to confuse you
And fill you full of doubt
I’m gonna mislead you, and try to deceive you
Then steal your soul away
“Rumors Of War” touches upon Revelation based themes:
Calling all the soldiers home, the storm is growing near
Angels sing and spread their wings, the devil runs in fear
Fire falling down like rain, the moon is turning red
Stars are falling from the sky,
He’s calling home the dead
Chariots of gold they ride, with warriors at the helm
Nothing will be left alive, send the demons back to hell
Fear and loathing fill the air, the gnashing of their teeth
The lake of fire is burning hot, for those that won’t believe
The greatest story ever told, the Truth is here so now behold
The greatest story ever told, the Truth is here
“The Garden Of Good And Evil” also reflects apocalyptic feel:
Break the seven seals
Sound the golden horn
Let the riders ride, let the riders ride
Break the seven seals
Sound the golden horn
Let the riders ride, let the riders ride
Let them ride
I created all you see
What have you done for me
Love will overcome hate
In the end I am all that remains
In the garden of good and evil
It can prove problematic reviewing EP releases due to the fact I grade them on a tougher scale (as opposed to full-length albums). For example, in my opinion it is easier for a band to put together 5 to 6 good songs in comparison to full-length releases that often encompass at minimum 10 to 11. Whereas the five The Underdog tracks equal the 12 of its predecessor in terms of quality, I decided on a grade of 80%, keeping in mind the final score would be in the 85% to 90% range if Four Star Revival had added 5 or more equally good songs to turn it into a full-length effort.
Those whose musical tastes trend towards classic to power metal territory, or at the very least enjoy Knights Of The Revival, would be well served by making The Underdog a priority purchase. If anything, Four Star Revival has upheld the momentum from Knights Of The Revival reflected in the high standards in the areas of songwriting, production and musicianship. The group, as a result, has opened its career with 17 straight songs (counting the 12 from the debut) without a single skip button. Lone problem, of course, is that common to EP’s, The Underdog only wets the listener’s appetite and leaves you wanting more in terms of a full-length release. If past behavior is any indicator to the future then I see Four Star Revival easily possessing the ability to return with a full-length offering made up of 10 to 11 worthy tracks.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “The Underdog” (4:29), “Liar” (3:38), “Rumors Of War” (4:07), “Broken” (5:16), “The Garden Of Good And Evil” (5:01)
Jack Emrick - Lead Vocals
Benny Bodine - Guitar
Ed Girard - Bass
Paul Strausburg - Drums