Starsoup sounds like the next big thing from Campbell’s, but it’s actually a progressive rock project from Moscow and they released their second full-length album Castles in the Sand back on November 20, 2017. I had a chance recently to check out the album and it’s pretty damn good. It’s got a little bit of something for everyone in it, so let’s check it out.

It starts off with “The Catcher in the Lie” which has become one of my favorite song titles of recent years, and while it’s true that just because the title is awesome doesn’t necessarily mean the song will be good, that isn’t the case here as the song is pretty damn good. It blends the rock opera sound with thrash metal riffs and some pretty sick drumming. All in all a great opener to the album. Things slow down for the second track “Into the Woods”, which has a soft rock sound to it that’s easy to chill out to.

“Brother’s Plea” is an homage to 80’s thrash and power metal jams with some folk elements mixed in which just makes the whole track sound completely epic, as if the track would fit into the soundtrack of some metal-inspired fantasy story. That same feeling carries over to the next track “Your World is Dead” which leans a bit more heavily on the folk elements and has a slower tempo overall, but is still a pretty great song that has some sweet riffs and a pretty cool solo in it as well. There’s even a female vocal piece in it that ties the whole thing together.

The next track “Rumors of Better Love” is a ballad which I’m not usually big on but I can’t really fault it here because it just fits with the rest of the album really well, and it sounds really good by itself as well. It really is a very well written tune that you just have to hear for yourself, and I found myself listening to it a few times in a row just because it’s that damn good. “Escapist” is definitely heavier than the previous few tracks on the album, mixing keyboards with crunching guitar riffs and speedy verses, and throwing a melodic chorus in there for good measure. It does follow the old ‘verse chorus verse’ formula of songwriting a bit too closely, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing because they just make the formula work here, and there’s something to be said about sticking with what works.

Starsoup slow things down again with the next track “Winter in Shire”. This is another one that I think would fit a fantasy genre soundtrack, as it sounds very much like it was inspired by Lord of the Rings, and there’s even mention of a ‘ring to rule us all.’ I feel like this is a song that a bard in Middle Earth would sing in some inn or another, and that’s very much what it sounds like. “Castle” is just a long instrumental, but it has a really good blend of moody and heavy that keeps it from getting boring. It starts with a sound clip of a thunderstorm and goes into a brooding guitar riff from there, and there’s a pretty sick solo in it as well. Some faint and incoherent voices that sound like children chime in from time to time giving the whole thing a really spooky vibe, and the keyboards work to tie it all together. I feel like it would be great background music while playing DOOM or something similar.

“The World That Has Moved On” is a haunting duet that opens with moody keyboards and melodic female vocals, which are soon joined in by the male vocal counterpart. The only flaw I can really find in this song is that it’s entirely too short, coming in at just over a minute and a half. It’s a really well written song that has a beautiful feel to it, I just wish it would’ve been a bit longer because just as you’re starting to get into it, the song is already over. Fret not though because “Light Up the Stars” is a beautiful song as well. Opening with an acoustic guitar, this is a power ballad that could definitely hold its own against some of the great power ballads of back when.

“Moon on the Shore” is an almost five minute long piano piece over a faint sound clip of waves crashing on a beach, and while it is really pretty and not all that bad to listen to, it’s just kind of boring. I think the real fault of this track is its placement, as it is the second to last track on the album and I just think it would’ve been better had it been put in the middle of the album to serve as an interlude of sorts. Placing it this late on the album just seems kind of odd to me. The final track of the album is “Road to Sunset” and it kind of sounds like a lounge piece. It’s pretty simple – just vocals and piano – but I think that’s kind of its genius. It’s actually a really fun song to listen to and I think it’s a pretty great way to close out this album.

Castles in the Sand is very well put together and aside from one or two places where it does fall a little flat, it’s a pretty great album as a whole and it’s definitely worth picking up. There are two versions of the CD available: a standard jewel case with 12-page booklet, and a deluxe digipack with 24-page color booklet, a Starsoup guitar pick, and stickers. The CD versions also include two bonus tracks (“Light Up the Stars” and “Road to Sunset”).  I really wish I knew who did the female vocals on some of these songs because the woman has an incredible voice, but for the life of me I could not find the names of the other members of the band, only Alexey Markov who does guitar and male vocals. Now that I think about it I’m pretty sure this is one of those bands that changes members all the time, as a quick look at their Facebook page states that their aim is to “invite different cool musicians and make some good music,” and that’s fair enough but I still would’ve liked to know who did what on this album. Final score: 4 out of 5 axes.

Tracklist:
The Catcher in the Lie
Into the Woods
Brother’s Plea
Your World Is Dead
Rumors of Better Love
Escapist
Winter in Shire
Castle
The World That Has Moved On
Light Up the Stars (CD bonus)
Moon on the Shore
Road to Sunset (CD bonus)

Lineup:
Alexey Markov – vocals/guitar

Check out Starsoup online:
https://www.facebook.com/Starsoup

 

Written by Mitch Ellerbrock for Bloodrock Media on January 25, 2018