Darko (US)
Starfire


3.8
excellent

Review

by Simon K. STAFF
June 7th, 2024 | 31 replies


Release Date: 06/05/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An excellent third album that tries to give you too much.

There’s a recurring theme in modern Western entertainment, a theme that appears to recoil when the word “editing” is mentioned. Movies now obstinately drone on for well over 2 hours; video games artificially extend their playtime using humdrum sandboxes and offer a wealth of banal fetch quests and eye-wateringly dull collectable hunts; and in recent memory, a lot of artists are releasing ambitious albums – seeing Combichrist and Slash, right through to Sia, Justin Timberlake, and the queen of pop herself, Taylor Swift, dropping behemoth albums the likes of which would make Dream Theater proud. Frankly, I find this approach to album making fascinating, but ultimately, especially in the case of big pop artists, it’s down to the streaming model which allows more revenue to be generated the longer the album is. Yet, for those who aren’t thinking in this way, it’s a big risk on their project. After all, with a little bit of internal reflection and pragmatism, you could edit a twenty-track album down to ten and have a barnstorming, no-frills banger on your hands; conversely you could take the plunge and risk watering a great album down to an average one because you weren’t willing to sacrifice any of your children on the alter. As such, I’m a firm believer that having more of something isn’t always a good thing – and indeed, more often is the case, it becomes pernicious in the overarching scheme of things.

In the case of popular metal music in recent years, there is a pattern metastasising where bands throw as many arbitrary ideas as possible at the wall to see what sticks, with a tendency to keep the editor out of the room while doing it. Bring Me the Horizon most recently dropped a near-sixty-minute assault on the senses, using a pick ‘n’ mix of trendy TikTok styles planted firmly atop a boilerplate metal framework; some of it worked, but for the most part its sensory overload approach felt forced and surprisingly shallow, considering how many styles were being presented on it. Couple those issues with a very flabby runtime and it only magnified the problems further. So, as you can imagine, when Darko announced that their third album was going to be seventy-one-minutes long, I groaned at the self-harm they were bestowing on Starfire. Since Darko already have a track record with pacing issues, it was going to be interesting to see how it flowed. Predictably, the album is its own worst enemy and hinders a lot of the momentum with an unnecessarily crowded roster of songs. On top of that, the album is guilty of embracing modern-metal’s current precepts – overstimulating the listener with a trough of other genres outside of their deathcore sound, including drum and bass, pop, classical and synthwave, to name a few, but I will also concede that Darko integrate these elements much more naturally than their peers do.

In short, Starfire is immensely fun to listen to overall, however, this only adds to the frustrating lack of editorial control, because Starfire offers some of the band’s strongest material to date – retaining and even intensifying their crushing heaviness on tracks like “Pleasures”, “Atomic Origin”, “Death Charge”, and “Chrome Moon”, while their experimental urges shine through excellently on “Virtual Function” which integrates hip-hop and beautiful string arrangements with surprising efficiency. The band also continues to use their distinct intergalactic-sounding electronics and unrelenting deathcore brutality with ruthless proficiency, no more evident than on “Rampage”. It’s no surprise Starfire is at its best when it’s being bone-crushingly heavy, so you can imagine where I’m going with this. The softer tracks on here range from fine to utter ambivalence. Admittedly, they do form pockets of respite from the album’s cacophony of wretched borks and trouncing riffs, but the vocals just lack character and the music overall is generically one-dimensional. “5D”, “Cry Baby”, “Sora”, “Finding Love in a World Full of Tragedy” and “Teardrop Sunshine” all contain the same kind of generic post-hardcore twinkly guitar passages and faceless clean vocal work, and it doesn’t gel well with what the rest of the album is doing. Ironically, these songs are consistent with each other and would have worked well as a standalone EP, but if they had been set aside for the rest of the tracks to shine, we’d have a very fun, hilariously heavy record on our hands.

It's not that the softer tracks are bad either, just that they fail to assimilate with the strongest aspects of Starfire. On this album, Darko have definitely found the best attributes from their previous two albums and unleashed this unrelenting monstrosity onto us, but the album’s total willingness to give too much detrimentally takes away from and dilutes what works so well – which is ripping your face off. Is the drum and bass “Sora” fun to listen to, and would it work well in a live setting? Yes it is, and yes it would. Nevertheless, it’s these aforementioned tracks that clip Starfire’s wings. While you could just omit whatever tracks don’t work for you on your own playlist, it’s a shame the band didn’t take this measure: to step back and analyse what’s best for the project overall. That being said, Starfire is still an immensely enjoyable record, a big improvement over their last album, and certainly one of the strongest metal releases this year.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Arked
June 7th 2024


159 Comments


19 tracks. Nineteen. About to get a swing at it.

Hawks
June 7th 2024


89494 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Feel like I will hate this but also feel obligated to czech it out lol.

Relinquished
June 7th 2024


48797 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yea Hawks give it a chance, if I like there’s a high chance you will too

Hawks
June 7th 2024


89494 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good point. Will give it a shot this weekend.

Purpl3Spartan
June 7th 2024


8695 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice rev homie gonzo. You pretty much summed up where I’m at with it. Solid release

TheTripP
June 7th 2024


4546 Comments


I can't tell if I enjoy this or not...

cloakanddagger
June 7th 2024


735 Comments


This album is insanely long and all over the place stylistically but I kinda love it.

Purpl3Spartan
June 7th 2024


8695 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nothing off this tops donna or come home but some great cuts here

Hawks
June 8th 2024


89494 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Here we go. Bout 2 jam now. M///

artiswar
June 8th 2024


13678 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

omg Hakws you're going to love the riffs on this so much, I'm super stoked to hear your take! They are a veritable riff machine

Hawks
June 8th 2024


89494 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Definitely digging this. Its nothing mindblowing but its a super fun listen and does indeed riff ahrd. Good stuff.

artiswar
June 8th 2024


13678 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it does riff hard but certainly not on guitar. They be doing that Josh Travis shit

NudeTayne
June 8th 2024


945 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

cannot believe hawks isn't completely shitting on this

artiswar
June 8th 2024


13678 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ngl I expected a 'Shitfire' post from him m//en



sometimes Hawks surprises. Like when he still hasn't heard the last Katatonia album and it's 2024

Hawks
June 8th 2024


89494 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I can get down with fun. Stuff like this isn't amazing by any means but its still a good time.

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
June 8th 2024


18338 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

i only got into the band last year, so i don't know a great deal about them, but why don't mainstream outlets review darko albums? are they politically incorrect or something? haha seems like they have a pretty intense fanbase

NudeTayne
June 8th 2024


945 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

that's what this album really is, to me, is fun. Really dark and goofy and fast fun.

Hawks
June 8th 2024


89494 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I like the kinda background ambience they have going on here too.

NudeTayne
June 8th 2024


945 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

"i only got into the band last year, so i don't know a great deal about them, but why don't mainstream outlets review darko albums? are they politically incorrect or something? haha seems like they have a pretty intense fanbase"



they're just one of those love them or hate them sounds, plus they do their own thing and it's always experimental and they don't do live shows so they don't get a ton of publicity

artiswar
June 9th 2024


13678 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The review here makes a fair point, they could have just released this as a double album and grouped the melodic songs together. I guess I just love this band, and I kind of like how schizo the mood shifts are on this thing. It can be jarring I guess, but everything about this band is jarring lol



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