BLACKSTAR — Barbed Wire Soul (review)

BLACKSTAR — Barbed Wire Soul album cover Album · 1997 · Death 'n' Roll Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
"Barbed Wire Soul" is the debut full-length studio album by UK heavy metal act Blackstar. The album was released through Peaceville Records in September 1997. "Barbed Wire Soul" was released through Metal Blade Records for the American market, but under the Blackstar Rising monicker, because the band found out that another act had the rights to the Blackstar name in the US. Blackstar formed in 1995 after Carcass disbanded and features 3/4 of the lineup, who recorded "Swansong (1996)" (which was released posthumously). Guitarist Bill Steer went on to other projects, but bassist/vocalist Jeff Walker, guitarist Carlo Regadas, and drummer Ken Owen opted to stay together and form Blackstar. The lineup is completed by second guitarist Mark Griffiths, who among other things had a stint with Cathedral as their bassist in the early 90s.

Listeners familiar with "Swansong (1996)", know that at the end of Carcass original run, they played a 70s influenced death´n´roll style which actually had very little in common with what came before. "Barbed Wire Soul" pretty much continues that style but sheds any death metal element which was left on "Swansong (1996)" (and those elements were arguably few). So the music is basically a 70s influenced heavy rock/metal style, with Jeff Walker singing/snarling in key instead of snarling slightly in key as he more or less did on "Swansong (1996)". The tracks are vers/chorus structured and easy to follow. The playing is organic yet tight and Walker´s new and less extreme vocal approach suits the material well. He reminds me of a combination of mid-90s Mille Petrozza from Kreator and Dave Mustaine from Megadeth on some of that band´s most hard rock/heavy metal oriented material.

The overall musical direction of the material is generally not a major revolution of sound but it´s solid and relatively entertaining. The most progressive aspect is probably the occasional use of saxophone, but other than that it´s pretty basic vocals, bass, drums, and two guitars hard rocking heavy metal. The album features a well sounding production, which suits the material well. So upon conclusion "Barbed Wire Soul" is a decent quality release by Blackstar. It´s not necessarily the most memorable nor the most interesting release in the genre, but it´s definitely a great listen while it plays. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is deserved.
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