OK, readers…I can’t lie to you. Before this copy of the new JACK STARR’S BURNING STARR album Stand Your Ground crossed my path I really didn’t know much about the man and his band. I knew that he was revered in metal circles for his guitar work, but I’d never popped on one his band’s records. Consider that a grievous oversight because I am all in on these guys from here on out. Blistering lead guitars from Jack Starr with help on the rhythm and harmony tracks from Kevin Burnes combined with the thunderous bass lines of Ned Meloni, earthshaking drums of Kenny “Rhino” Earl and powerhouse vocals from Todd Michael Hall (RIOT V) make for a metal fan’s dream come true.
Across 12 tracks the group takes us back in time to the Golden Days of Metal, when bands truly gave thought to what they said on paper and took the time to craft the songs right before putting them to tape. And speaking of tape, this record has a distinctly warm production courtesy of Bart Gabriel that is reminiscent of a bygone era, unlike now when so much sounds cold and detached. But make no mistake, this isn’t some cheesy project looking to cash in on nostalgia or anything. The songs here sound fresh and hold a rightful place in today’s heavy metal landscape, putting together catchy hooks with ballsy arrangements that will give you that extra get up and go.
The first tune to jump out at me was the 10-minute and change title track “Stand Your Ground.” Charging forward at a gallop propelled by Rhino’s drums and Meloni’s thick lines, Starr lays down a guitar line that gets stuck in my head and stays there for hours. Not to mention the chorus is simply majestic. Along the way there is a twist or two, and we even take a dip in an IRON MAIDEN-esque pool, which makes things even more interesting. I’ve said this before; an epic song that’s 10 minutes long shouldn’t FEEL like it is. When it’s done you’re supposed to be like, “It’s over already?” And that’s what happened with this one, so great job, gentlemen!
“Destiny” is another absolute standout, from that opening guitar part to the underlying melody Starr plays along the verses. And the chorus is to die for, Hall singing with such conviction that you’re ready to follow him like he’s the Pied Piper of Hamlin. Immediately following is “The Sky Is Falling” which should also grab your attention from jump while “Hero” will have you pounding your chest, sword and shield at the ready, preparing to ride off into battle to vanquish thine enemies, especially when that solo hits. “Stronger Than Steel” and “The Enemy” are both runners guaranteed to get the blood pumping and would be ideal for your gym playlist.
Even when the band slows thing down like they do on lone ballad “Worlds Apart” it’s hard not to be impressed with the results. “False Gods” has a killer groove and a vicious riff burning throughout while closer “To the Ends” reminds me of a song written late at night after inspiration hits. Our second epic comes in the form of “We Are One” clocking in at 8 minutes. This one musically is kind of ACCEPT-like, which is a good thing because I love that band. “Secrets We Hide” opens this disc in fine fashion, with Starr and Co. setting a tone that resonates throughout.
All told my first experience with JACK STARR’S BURNING STARR was excellent. Stand Your Ground hits in all the right places and checks off all the right boxes. You’ve got blistering solos, riffs for days, melody, punch, impassioned vocals, a drum and bass combo that pounds up your wazoo, and a bunch of really well-written songs that will get you headbanging and air-jamming, believe me. If you’re a fan of traditional, powerful metal, then this is the album for you. Stand Your Ground hits stores and online retailers August 25 via High Roller Records, so be sure and grab your copy ASAP! What else do you need me to do, draw you a map?? GO!!
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Stand Your Ground”, “The Enemy”, “Destiny”, “Stronger Than Steel”, “Hero”, “To the Ends”