WildeStarr - Beyond the Rain

WildeStarr Beyond the Rain cover
Beyond the Rain
Scarlet Records
Anthony Bourdain, the World renowned chef and author, once said never trust your stomach to a restaurant named after its owner(s) but the husband and wife team dominating WildeStarr lay any musically correlating fears to rest as far as its third release, “Beyond the Rain”, released last month under Scarlet Records, is concerned. In other words, Dave Starr, of Chastain, Vicious Rumours and Lääz Rockit fame and his wife London Wilde deliver their latest CD on a silver platter, he on bass and guitars, she on vocals and keyboards, with fellow heavy metal journeyman Josh Foster (ex-Mourn No More and Kristallnacht) filling the gap on drums.
First of all, don’t put too much stock in the trio’s “melodic power metal” labeling (and fantastical cover art/logo for that matter); while in the beginning I was like “Oh, brother!”, I readily changed my tune upon first listen as “Beyond the Rain”’s ten tracks, which average a re-assuring four minutes, are much more along the lines of mid-tempo classic metal painted over with a fresh coat of grunge/alt rock nuances bringing to mind mid-90s acts such as Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, with perhaps a touch of Smashing Pumpkins’ signature dourness. As well, allow me to wear the egg a trifle longer for initially figuring the expressively rendered vocals as male – evidently, Wilde’s voice possesses a stout timbre devoid of telltale female inflections and tones; I mean no offense but for the most part her singing sounds very androgynous. In spite of this, it fits the music perfectly. The choruses are especially profound and resonating, the verses rise and fall with powerful eloquence and grace while effortlessly coasting along to the slight tempo shifts and riff changes. In fact, my first impression of the vocals was a meditative cross between Wolf’s Niklas Stålvind and AIC’s Layne Staley, but yes, when listening closely, you’ll notice certain higher pitched inflections prove 100% feminine.
Starr’s guitar tone is crisp, his bass lines clearly audible, if not overwhelming, and the production is standard – professional but not overdone in any way. Alas, Foster’s drums sound very brittle in the mix but provide fluid support throughout, with some interesting fills popping up at times, such as on the hard-driving albeit melancholic, Alice In Chains evoking “Undersold” and “From Shadow”.
Overall, I fail to grasp the “power metal” element but rest assured WildeStarr is definitely melodic while also accessible upon first listen. The short one minute instrumental “Metamorphose” does a fine job of introducing the title track’s slick sliding guitar riff and bouncy progression as well as its revved up, cranky successor, “Pressing the Wiles”, with its catchy, fulminating rhythms, kick-ass, Wolf style chorus and wicked, rock-ish leads. “Double Red” and “Rage and Water” are further highlights; the former definitely adheres to a bluesy, alternative rock feel while the latter starts in ominous and grimy fashion before Wilde steers it towards grungier, Pearl Jam-ish climes. On the other hand, “Down Cold” and “Crimson Fifths” are skip-able, Extreme (ugh!) sounding ballads which drag this vessel beneath the water line. Thankfully, the last three songs redeem “Beyond the Rain” to an acceptable level as they pick up where “Rage and Water” left off. Closer “When the Night Falls” is another commendable track thanks to a neat flurry of incepting leads and magniloquent verses. As a reminder, the lead guitar and vocals are undoubtedly the album’s strong points (both so endearing on “Pressing the Wiles”, “Rage and Water” and “When the Night Falls”).
To be honest though, a few leisurely spins is all it took for the novelty to wear off. It’s a decent enough release which will possibly appeal to Chastain fans but steadfast metal heads might want to invest in something a little choppier and less epically drawn-out. As far as female fronted fare is concerned, allow me to recommend the likes of Tower, Rock Goddess, The Lizzies and Jenner, perhaps? If not that or a return to Starr’s headier ventures, fill your boots with WildeStarr...