Review Summary: Deathstars work on their musical formula and produce a sound which is definitely bigger, but not necessarily better, than before.
Ever since they formed in 2000, Deathstars have defied the wide divide amongst those who love their metal glossy and “pretty” and those who favour the rawer, grittier side of the same genre. It's no small secret that with each successive album the band have striven for a more optimistic, ambitious approach to perfecting their symphonic, industrial-tinged metal sound, and latest album The Perfect Cult
adheres nicely to that particular musical formula. However, whereas on the band's first three albums the “metal” portion of Deathstars' core sound was just as prominent as the symphonic/industrial effects spiralling throughout the production, the fourth album seems to be flooded with poppy, symphonic material which far too often overshadows everything but the vocals.
This, essentially, is both the best and worst thing about The Perfect Cult
. The thing is, no matter which song you're listening to, the results can often be bittersweet. Songs like opener “Explode” and the title track are so deep in magical, symphonic soundscapes that you really wonder if the band even have a guitarist anymore. It's not until the chorus comes around that you quickly realize there is, but even then the guitar work is left to plod along to the industrial rhythm rather than shining through as an independent instrument. Yet despite this, it's hard not to toe-tap or nod your head along to each song, doubtlessly infectious and self-indulgent all the time but never losing its consistency. Some songs do have a heavier atmosphere, and this is where the rare existence of the rhythm section becomes useful to the band's growing sound. “Ghost Reviver” and “Temple of the Insects” are the sort of songs which fall into that aforementioned rawer, grittier side of metal, and at times even manage to pull off the sound of an early Marilyn Manson recording croaking violently through the stereo. It's just a shame that these two songs are the only ones which utilize this rawer sound, since everything else just feels overproduced and forceful.
The usual Deathstars elements are here in spades too. The vocals are as mundane and croaky as they have always been from the start, but what they do well is fit the darkness and mournful nature of the musical tone. Again, it is an aspect of the band's sound which sometimes works very well and other times feels forced and overdone. Whiplasher makes for a riveting listen when he can perfect his vocal chords, tuning them to suit the upbeat nature of “Fire Galore” and “Bodies”, but it's really when he tries to make it flow with the heavier side of the band's sound that things just don't take off as easily as they should. As a result it, unfortunately affects the likes of “All the Devil's Toys” and downbeat closer “Noise Cuts” in such a way that the sound is made monotonous in the end.
However, this isn't to say that The Perfect Cult
is bad, because if you can actually take the time to listen to each song and see where it's going, the impression is somewhat better. People should have made their minds up now as to whether Deathstars' core sound really clicks with them, and the previous albums should have served as great decision-makers. If you're new to the band, any album will do, because there is nothing on The Perfect Cult
that you won't hear on the likes of Synthetic Generation
or Termination Bliss
. It's just that on their fourth album, the band have taken this core sound and tried to make it bigger-sounding than ever before, so much so that it wouldn't be a surprise to see the band headlining arenas around the globe anytime soon. All in all, if you fancy a new guilty pleasure and don't mind leaving your Darkthrone playlist for an hour or so, this album should do the trick.