Monday, April 9, 2012

Stellar Corpses - Dead Stars Drive-In

This review should actually be titled Welcome To My Nightmare. Not because of the previous Stellar Corpses album with the same name, but because of how I've struggled to write a solid review. I'm not saying it's a bad album, it's great. However, the Stellar Corpses just don't have what they once did. I first heard the Stellar Corpses pretty much just after they started up - their guitarist Emilio was a big fan of Gotham Road (check them out if you've been living above ground and listening to pop music for the last 10 years) and I interacted with a lot of their fans back then. The first chance I got to see the Stellar Corpses was when they supported Rezurex here in the UK - I missed that chance and I will forever be kicking myself for doing so! Two amazing bands that I missed and whilst I've seen Rezurex numerous times since I've never actually seen Stellar Corpses live. So what does all this have to do with reviewing Dead Stars Drive-In

Well, I loved Stellar Corpses. I bought badges, patches, stickers, the ep, and when it came out I bought Welcome To My Nightmare. I met a good friend at Bedlam Breakout in 2008 because we bonded over a Stellar Corpses badge I was wearing. We both loved how raw the Respect the Dead EP was. When "Welcome To My Nightmare" came out I was just a little let down that they'd lost their raw aggression and the album just seemed more filler than killer. I still think they have some good songs, but it's starting to take the exact same form that Tiger Army did. The production is getting more polished and as a result the music seems to be twisting towards more of a mainstream audience.

Dead Stars Drive-In actually features backing vocals from members of AFI (exactly as all Tiger Army albums did) and this is notable on the album's main single Vampire Kiss which features Hunter Burgan. The video for which came out a fair while ago now and whilst I, along with many horrorpunks, love the Lost Boys I just felt perhaps I was the wrong target audience for it. Maybe if I was 16 years old again and I wasn't such a heterosexual male, I could get into it. Lots of shots of Dusty looking pretty and even an Incorporeal style candle blowing out at the end (I'll stop making Tiger Army references now).

But as much as I try and hate on this album because they just aren't the same old Stellar Corpses I fell in love with, I still think there are some good songs and if you're into horrorpunk, you probably should own a copy. My copy came with a cool coffin case, the Vampire Kiss single and some patches and pins. This band has always had cool bonuses so the merchandise is definitely worth checking out. But let's watch the album track by track: 

Evil Dead: The album opens up straight away with a fast track full of classic horrorpunk 'whoa's and a great subject matter for the lyrics. What I loved about this was the creepy organ. It sounds just like a Ghastly Ones track or something. If the vocals were different it could easily be a Demented Scumcats track.

Vampire's Kiss: I've already talked about this. I think it's catchy but a little camp. Maybe the video made me feel like this? I skip this track now though.

Dead Stars Drive-In: The slap bass at the start is great. It's what sets the Stellar Corpses apart from a lot of the horror bands out there and I personally think they should make the slap a lot more prominent more often like it is on this track. Often it gets lost in the mix but here it sounds great. The lyrics are witty and this is a good catchy song...a little teeny pop in the chorus but a cheesy sing-a-long that I'm sure goes down well when played live.

Be Still My Heart: This starts out slow and I guess would be the ballad of the album. Personally I'm not a big fan, but I'm sure some people are into this side of Stellar Corpses and music so fair enough.

Death Ray Vision: Now this song sounds just like it could be off the first EP. Sample at the beginning and end, along with gang vocals and all.
Great track.
Steel Butterfly: Again a nice double bass intro into a faster paced track with some great melodies in there. Another good track

Twisted Fantasy: Now by this point, there's been some good tracks on the album and although it's not old Stellar Corpses (nothing stays the same, get over it) they're still a good horror band producing a good album. When the second verse comes in you'll notice a voice that's familiar to just about everyone in this genre. I hadn't been told Michale Graves was on this album so it came as a surprise to me as it may have done to you when reading this. Well, he doesn't disappoint. I honestly believe he transforms this track another album filler to a really strong seller. Mike's great and if you're his fan in general his performance is reason enough to pick up the album. However, and here's when I realised something big, when this track finished: I wanted to switch the album off and go listen to Graves.

Blood Red: By now I'm sort of begrudging having to listen to this album in full when I'd rather be listening to something else. And it doesn't help by this track having that same old tired rhythm. Nice chorus but I'd have to say this is possibly the weakest track on the CD.

In Stitches: Now it gets good again. Hope you stuck with it because this is another track that's familiar to the Respect the Dead EP. Apart from the high end guitar that's thrown in after each line this really could be from that 2007 CD.

Pins & Needles: Slowing it down slightly again and this track reminds me a lot of a Gorgeous Frankenstein one. Not the actual sound but the riff.. just like it. Anyway. It's alright. Again probably not my cup of tea but it's catchy so why not?

Train Wreck: Starts off with a storytelling intro which according to the CD inlay is done by David Sheehan. Then we get hit with some St Anger style guitars before given a decent psychobilly song. I say Psychobilly because the chorus is gang vocals shouting 'wreck' which I could imagine fans doing whilst they play this live. The steel guitars on this track are cool and fit the vibe well.

War of the Worlds: The last song on the album actually really reminds me of The End Song by Insides Out. It's the final track on their album too and starts off acoustic singing about the end of the world. Also ends with the self recorded news report. This Stellar Corpses track is probably a good way to end the album. I don't mind this track, it's not a bad song, it's just not what I loved.

And that's how I feel about this album. Stellar Corpses were one of my favourite bands, now after these two albums they're just another good band. Definitely worth checking out, definitely worth purchasing the album, but personally, for me, the old stuff was better. A lot of people will like this as it's easier to listen to with perfect recording and sound quality, but I just feel the aggression has gone from the band and with it a lot of their sound that drew me to them in the first place. Overall I'd give this album 7 out of 10. It might sound like I have been negative about it but the first EP was 10 out of 10 so if you haven't heard that - start there first.

 7 from 10 Tombstones

Tracklist: (Lenght: ca. 37 minutes)

Evil Dead 
Vampire Kiss
Dead Stars Drive-In
Be Still my Heart
Death Ray Vision
Steel Butterfly
Twisted Fantasy
Blood Red
In Stitches
Pins & Needles
Train Wreck
War of the Worlds 

Review by C.P.

1 comment:

  1. I both agree and disagree. I enjoyed all of the corpses early work, but I think on some levels this does outshine the previous album and EP. The sheer range and variety in the songs on DSDI to me is what really makes this record work. Welcome to the Nightmare was a great, but pretty standard horrorpunk record, certainly reminiscent of older Blitzkid and Calabrese with some Tiger Army thrown in. Dead Stars Drive In is truly the wiser,wittier and more mature than any of their previous offerings, and that is to be expected after three years. If the Stellar Corpses had churned out another Welcome to the Nightmare I would have been disappointed, not that I don't LOVE Welcome to the Nightmare and the Respect the Dead EP, but I would have expected them to progress in style, musicality and wit. If they don't, they'd end up like the Nekromantix, who have churned out the same record for over ten years now. I'd give this record a 8.5 out of 10; reasons being I do agree that the same rhythms and same beats do seem to get used over and over (check the sound and structure between Dead Stars Drive In and Blood Red and you'll see what I'm saying), and as I said that was one of my complaints with Welcome.