Jack Starr’s Burning Star - Stand Your Ground - (7.5/10)
Published on October 8, 2017
Jack Starr is a bona fide heavy metal veteran, having been a founding member of the mighty Virgin Steele among other bands and forming the not-so-snappily-named Jack Starr’s Burning Starr way back in 1985. Stand Your Ground is the 7th album from a band with sporadic output, including a 20-year hiatus from 1989 and although it doesn’t feel like it, six years has elapsed since previous album, Land Of The Dead. The latter was a patchy heavy metal album, with some good moments and Stand Your Ground is a similar story, although this time the high points put its predecessor emphatically in the shade. The sound is classic 1980s heavy metal, which isn’t surprising given Starr’s background. A number of true heavy metal bands from that era spring to mind, most notably Thundersteel-era Riot and vocalist Todd Michael Hall does on occasion sound a little like the excellent Tony Moore and boasts a similar range, although stopping short of Moore’s most ear-splitting screams. Appropriately enough, Hall is also the current vocalist of that very band (now called Riot V).
Starr knows how to play heavy metal; a quick look at his back catalogue reveals a prolific guitarist with many albums to his name. However, at times Burning Starr’s music slips into the generic. Tracks such as “The Enemy”, “Worlds Apart” and “To The Ends” are fine, well performed heavy metal, but also quite formulaic and forgettable.
With metal anthems it can be a fine line between rousing and cheesy. It’s a line that Jack Starr’s Burning Starr cross on occasion with Stand Your Ground. The most obvious example of this is “Destiny” with its overly twee Power Metal-style chorus in the vein of bands like Rhapsody, Blind Guardian, etc, that really overdoses on the cheese. No offence to fans of those bands and you may well enjoy the track, but reviews are of course subjective and this one finds it to be the nadir of the album.
So far, not so good.
The title track is a huge, rousing heavy metal anthem, and by far the longest track at 10 minutes long. It features all the elements you might expect in a marathon metal track – a pretty catchy chorus, instrumental sections, some nice guitar work, plenty of Iron Maiden-style “ohhhh ohhhh ohhhh” chanting and doesn’t feel like a full ten minutes, which must be a good sign. Sadly there’s a slow section at the end of the track, which is twee, soppy and you guessed it, laden with cheese.
Still not great then. But…
“Hero” is a step in the right direction, with a powerful, catchy chorus, driving riffs and great lead guitar. Nice.
Towards the end of Stand Your Ground, Burning Starr really hit their stride with a run of great songs that grab the album firmly by the balls and drag it kicking and screaming ahead of many of its peers. “Escape From The Night” has an epic feel with some more of that Maiden-esque chanting, an infectious chorus and great guitars throughout. “We Are One” has a truly magnificent chorus, which is ridiculously catchy and promises to be an enduring earworm – but in a good way, not like those awful radio songs that you hear on the way to work and can’t get out of your head all day. The song suffers slightly from a long, drawn out and unnecessary ending, but that minor blip can be easily overlooked when we are treated to such a memorable chorus and awesome lead guitars. The final part of a terrific trilogy, “Stronger Than Steel”, is another heavy metal gem. It could be 1988, perhaps a bonus track from the Thundersteel sessions, although it’s good enough to have featured on even such a classic album. It has another really memorable, uplifting chorus. The slightly silly ending is presumably an in-joke and mildly irritating, but fortunately doesn’t ruin a great tune.
Another classic album that comes to mind when listening to this is Sword’s wonderful Metalized; in fact, the chorus from “F.T.W.” popped into my head immediately after listening to the album. Another good sign, and while Stand Your Ground might not quite reach the standard of that work of genius, with one exception there are no genuinely poor songs and there are a few absolute belters than definitely make this a heavy metal highlight in 2017.