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Star One - Victims of the Modern Age CD (album) cover

VICTIMS OF THE MODERN AGE

Star One

 

Progressive Metal

3.71 | 192 ratings

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justaguy
4 stars Star One is one of the heavier projects of Dutch gifted multi-instrumentalist and composer Arjen Lucassen. After releasing the brilliant Gothic "Embrace the Storm" in 2005, together with his creation Stream of Passion, Arjen busied himself with some mellower side of the prog rock. He released "01011001" with his "home" project Ayreon in 2008, and made a side step with a completely new project Guilt Machine in 2009, which resulted in a not perfect, but quite good "On This Perfect Day". Both projects probably didn't completely satisfied the hard side of his musical personality.

That is probably why Arjen decided to go to his garage and clean dust from the space ship called Star One, stalled there already for quite some time. This ship took off for the first time in 2002, when the trendsetting Space rock album with a very fitting name "Space Metal" was released. Being mostly a studio musician, Lucassen still could not resist the enthusiastic reception of the space metal concept and went on tour with the complete Star One band, featuring 5 (!) vocalists: Russell Allen (Symphony X, Avantasia), Damian Wilson (Headspace, Threshold), sisters Floor Jansen (After Forever, ReVamp) and Irene Jansen (Karma) and Robert Soeterboek (Lana Lane, Cotton Soeterboek band). The old-time Ayreon staff supplied the space ship with all the fusion reaction elements, necessary for the intergalactic propulsion: Ed Warby on drums (Hail of Bullets, Gorefest), Peter Vink on bass and Joost van den Broek on keyboards (After Forever). You can still find the ship log of this flight in the stores. "Live on Earth" was issued in 2003 and contains two CD's and a DVD, full of energizing and in the same time tasteful material.

So, the Star One was refuelled again, the trusted old crew members called in. From the original crew only Irene Jansen and Robert Soeterboek didn't make it this time. Instead, Dan Swanö (Nightingale, Second Sky, Bloodbath, Edge of Sanity) was recruited. I must say, he is not the last one, who gives to this mix a quite heavy sound, with his growls and low vocals. The edgy rhythm guitars, powerful bass and busy drumming give the album an even more heavy metallic sound then the first Star One project. By the way, there are also some nice surprises on the second cd, that comes with the deluxe edition. I would definitely advise everybody to go for that one, otherwise, you will just miss a half of the fun.

Well, the ship could have been made heavier, it was not going very far this time. Just like in "Space Metal", all songs were written after a science fiction movie. But this time, the most of them are the apocalyptic films about a sad future awaiting the Mother Earth. Only two songs deviate from this concept: "Human See, Human Do" (Planet of the Apes) and "Earth That Was" (Firefly). This last one is directly one of the high moments on the album, not in the last place because of the pretty heavy, haunting rhythm guitar loop (ideal for head-banging!) and a really tasteful solo on the synthesizer, signed by the reliable old crew member Joost van den Broek. Bravo, maestro!

The lyrics are not too complicated, but they succeed perfectly to call the right associations at the right moment of the song. This effect makes the whole emotional appreciation of the songs even stronger.

Check the title song "Victim of the Modern Age", written after the classic sci-fi movie "A Clockwork Orange". You just see it before your very eyes again: rainy country side, uncontrollable Alex, breaking in into somebody's house, and you hear the melody from the famous "Singing in the Rain". Of course, it is not in the least the merit of the genius director Stanley Kubrick, who created such unforgettable images back in 1971 (!). But one have to give the credit to Arjen as well, it is very clever how he makes this concept work. Sometimes it is the use of the same lines or words, spoken in the movie. Sometimes it is creating of the just right image, the right association.

Let me tell you about one of the best songs to my taste here, "24 Hours". It is made after the movie "Escape from New York", an unforgettable creation of another super-director, John Carpenter. The slow and mean solo guitar and Damian's dark voice duet during the intro brings us already into the scene of the "crime-ridden city, confined within these walls, a place without pity, a place of sin?". Hearing the line "You've got 24 hours to change the course of the history, just 24 hours to trace our man and set him free" (thank you, Russell, you blow the veins from my body here, nobody could sing it better), I imagine vividly the one-eyed tough guy Snake Plissken, standing there, on the border of the ravaged New York, taking in the instructions, legs wide, head bowed, full of different counteracting emotions: rage, determination and doubt. Funny coincidence, Plissken was played by Kurt Russell, and Russell Allen is singing in this song (well, together with Damian and Floor). I checked the history. Russell Allen was born in 1971 and the movie was released in 1981. So it couldn't have been this movie, that inspired his parents to name him Russell, alas there goes my speculation :-) Or was it still the actor? He played in quite some movies before that one? But let us not wander off the path here.

Another high moment of the record, the heavy prog epic "It All Ends Here" is written after "Blade Runner". It is still one of the best sci-fi movies ever, however made back in 1982. With the first, Black Sabbathical, or doom-like, if you wish, accords, you get inside the future. It's dark and hopeless fate of the Nexus-6 humanoid robots that you are experiencing now. They are built perfect, beautiful and strong, clever and quickly learning, but made to last only 4 years. Because in these 4 years they gather too much emotions, and eventually become almost human. Or even more than human? On one hand, they can become an unfair competition for men. On the other hand, who has right to decide the future of a living, thinking, feeling and dreaming being, no matter that the origin of this being is a factory? The fate is just not fare for Roy Batty, now he has nothing more to loose. And my god, how Roy is played by Rutger Hauer in the movie, unearthly! Listening to the music, you will see him dying there on the roof, a rusty spike in his hand, talking about decaying dreams and "tears in the rain". Arjen, you are a genius, to use exactly these words here! And even more, for the outrageously beautiful solo in the end of the song!

Just a few words about the second CD that comes with the deluxe edition. As I already told, there will be some nice surprises for you there, besides the "Making of" video.

One of them ? another epic, "Closer to the Stars". Very Black Sabbath or Rainbow-like, in their Ronnie James Dio periods. And yes, Arjen has gone to some length here and got a real Black Sabbath singer: Tony Martin. This song is nothing less than a younger brother to the Rainbow's famous "Stargazer". Even some words associate perfectly, it's all about "going home", "children of the stars", "gotta fly"?

I also loved the only one song sang by Arjen himself, it is the sophisticated "Lastday", with a really nice guitar solo at the end.

The last surprise will also be the last song, the remake of the Emerson's "Knife Edge". Being one of the less symphonic numbers or the EL&P's first record back in 1971, it's funny how it stands here on it's own, becoming maybe one of the most proggy songs in the Star One reincarnation. I hope Arjen will go one time and make a whole record full of covers. With his arranging and adapting talent, it will be another "must have", I am sure.

Arjen Lucassen has many talents. Among them there is his commercial instinct and entrepreneurship. Did you follow the contest to guess the movies that inspired the songs from "Victims?" on Internet? If you have time, check on Youtube. Just type in the search screen something like "Star One contest". I guess it invoked quite a lot of attention from the rock and sci-fi fans in the pre-release period, well-done, Arjen!

Speaking of musical influences, they all can be found on various layers of Arjen's music. Some of them are easily traceable, some not. Just let me give you some examples. The title song goes all the way back to Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog", if you let me. The quirky synth tune and sleek and heavy rhythm guitars of the glossy "It's Alive, She's Alive, We're Alive" are clearly inspired by Rammstein.

Yes, The record is full of references, cinematical and musical. Take my advice, buy it and discover them all, and see how it all grows into something unique, something, that will become a reference to generations of musicians to come.

justaguy | 4/5 |

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