Everything about Swedish quintet Deathstars comes off as watered down and safe, from the image that draws heavily from Japanese visual kei (a growing trend in Scandinavia) and Marilyn Manson sans the provocative quality, to the unimaginative industrial metal arrangements that feel like overtly polite interpretations of Nine Inch Nails and Rammstein. What’s truly mind-boggling, though, is this band’s pedigree, as several members have roots in the Swedish black metal scene of the early 1990s, drummer Ole Öhman and guitarist Emil Nodtveidt former members of the highly influential band Dissection, with Öhman having played on the classic records The Somberlain and Storm of the Light’s Bane. Extreme metal is the furthest thing from these guys’ mind this time around, however, as their third album continues to pander to the teenaged, H.I.M.-worshipping goth crowd with boring, crunchy riffs driven by dance-like beats that are underscored with lavish synths, frontman Whiplasher Bernadotte spewing cartoonish lyrics with a ludicrous, unintentionally hilarious voice that would be better served doing voice-overs for monster truck commercials. That said, we do get a couple of glimpses of some good ideas, as the keyboards on “Babylon”, “Death Dies Hard”, and the title track come close to evoking the pomposity of symphonic black metal, but the band’s ham-fisted, humorless approach and complete lack of nuance ultimately renders the entire eleven-track album pointless, not to mention unbearable.
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