STARBREAKER – Dysphoria

Singer Tony Harnell’s ride with his former band TNT has been a bumpy one – and the some. In fact, his whole career the last few years has been something of a roller-coaster ride. TNT split up for the first time in 1992 but reunited in 1997. In 2006, Harnell quit the band but reunited with them in 2013 only to leave again one year later. He then fronted Skid Row for five minutes. He came back to TNT in 2016 and a talk of a new album began but in 2017 he decided to jump the ship again, this time for good. In his time outside of TNT, Harnell made records with side-projects as Westworld, Morning Wood and most recently with his own projects Tony Harnell & The Mercury Train – who recorded an album, Round Trip (2010), which consisted of acoustically rerecorded songs from his career – and Tony Harnell & The Wildflowers featuring Bumblefoot. He also released an EP called Cinematic from his website in 2008.

And then there was Starbreaker. Starbreaker were (and still are, I guess) just a side-project, put together by song-writer and guitarist Magnus Karlsson, a guy responsible for a million different bands and constellations. Today his main focus lies on German Power Metal act Primal Fear but he is also behinds bands/projects such as The Ferrymen, Allen/Lande, Midnight Sun, Last Tribe Magnus Karlsson’s Free Fall and of course Starbreaker. Starbreaker saw the light of day back in 2005 with their self-titled debut album which also included drummer John Macaluso and bassist Fabrizio Grossi. A second album, Love’s Dying Wish showed up in 2008 with bassist Johnni Lightfoot replacing Grossi. With Harnell out of a day-job, it was a good time for third effort, this time with Anders Köllerfors as the drummer. I have always loved Harnell’s voice but I must admit that neither of Starbreaker’s albums have made a huge impression on me. Ok but not more. Let’s see where this one takes us, then.

Opener “Pure Evil” does its best to rip your head off going off like a wounded bear looking for vengeance. It’s fast, heavy and aggressive – Heavy Metal done the classic way. Tony Harnell shows us that his voice still holds for a fierce Metal track and the guy’s vocal melodies are both striking and even catchy, the way a band like Judas Priest are catchy. I can’t say I’m floored but I like the song. First single “Wild Butterflies” is slower in pace but also pretty heavy. The tune holds a clear Metal vibe but at the same time it moves quite far into Melodic Rock territory. The tune is by no means cheesy or sugary but it’s catchy, very melodic and direct – a very good song. “Last December” is more of a plain Hard Rock tune, yet still heavy. It’s a mid-tempo tune that brings on a big main-melody and a catchy TNT-like refrain that really sticks. A tough, chunky riff gives the catchy melodies a good ground to stand upon. Man, it’s a great riff. Very good song.

“My Heart Belongs To You” smells like a single-to-be a long way. It’s an uptempo pop-metal track with a million hooks. This is a Melodic Rock track that’s very direct and distinct and it holds a pop-laden refrain that will stick with you forever whether you like it or not. Great! “Beautiful One” is a big power ballad, very bombastic with a big sound-scape. It holds some stripped piano parts that brings on a Beatles vibe, great for the dynamics of the song. It’s a mellow track but at the same time quite powerful and it holds a huge refrain that catches on after first listen. Good tune. The title-track is punchy, bouncy and riff-happy with a beefy Hard Rock groove. The song also comes with a striking metal vibe, especially in the chorus which slow things down song but also shows Karlsson’s Primal Fear day-job with some heavy parts. I can see this one going down great if played live.

“How Many More Goodbyes” starts out soft starts off on a softer note, as a ballad. However, the tune speeds up and turns into a mid-paced Melodic rock tune with Hard Rock twists. The softer parts brings TNT to mind – which is a good thing in my book – but the rest of the song comes off as pretty standard melodic Hard Rock. Not good, not bad – ok but mediocre. “Fire Away” is upbeat and quite punchy where Melodic Rock meets Hard Rock. The tune holds a decent groove and come to think of it, decent is a good way to describe this track. A filler. “Bright Star Blind Me” is upbeat yet with some laid-back verses and style wise it lands somewhere between The Ferrymen and TNT with a hint of Melodic Rock. It’s a good song, pretty catchy with Harnell delivering the goods vocally. Closing track “Starbreaker” is a cover of the Judas Priest tune that gave this band its name. It’s a killer originally and Harnell/Karlsson really does it justice. Harnell proves that he knows his Metal and totally nails the tune. It stays true to the original but the guys put their stamp on it. It’s without a doubt the heaviest – and best – song on the record.

While I surely enjoyed listening to many of the songs here, it’s at the same time hard to deny the fact that most of this record is way too standard and even the really good ones fades from my memory when they’re done. Catchy without being catchy. On the good side, Harnell really proves himself here and shows that age hasn’t put many limits on his vocal-range or strength and the fact is, it’s Harnell’s that saves this record from being just another mainstream Hard Rock/Metal album out there. I mean, when a cover is the stand-out track on an album, that kind of speak volumes. But just to make it clear, this album is not bad, it’s a good album that never really goes past good but with too many fillers. Sonically, the album sounds good and brings on a good punch with razor-sharp guitars and thunderous and bouncy rhythm section and all the participants does a faultless job. I just can’t make the album stick.

5/10

Tracklist:

1. Pure Evil
2. Wild Butterflies
3. Last December
4. My Heart Belongs To You
5. Beautiful One
6 Dysphoria
7. How Many More Goodbyes
8. Fire Away
9. Bright Star Blind Me
10. Starbreaker

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