Progressive power metal band Starbynary is going to release its debut record via Bakerteam Records on 1 December, 2014. "Dark Passenger" is inspired by Jeff Lindsay’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter and the press portrays the record as "intense, powerful and melodic at the same time" which made me curious about it.
I'm usually not a big fan of traditional power metal, I grant. I've always thought that this subgenre is too much about war songs, long held high notes and the always same rattling beat that naggingly slowly annoys the crap out of me. Having said that, there are indeed bands and albums that proved me wrong in this regard - Kamelot to mention one, a beautiful example for a melodic power metal band with progressive influences. That's why I often give power metal records a go - you never know what you get.
Indeed, "Dark Passenger" sounds very melodic and the Italian band actually tried to make the record sound rich in variety. There are progressive structures here and there, as well as some more modern effects. Unfortunately, there are only a few riffs, keyboard solos or melodies that really stand out - much material sounds flat. The beat bothers me the most, it's too run-off-the-mill in my opinion. I also don't hear where that so-called "intensity" is, I actually think that many songs are unnecessarily drawn out. The nearly 17-minute song "The End Begins" for example has its great moments but doesn't thrill the listener entirely. Track "...Dawn Of Evil" for example has (with scarce six minutes) an appropriate length. "Dark Passenger" is also one of the few ambient tracks that turned out really well.
Other than that, I really don't know when the majority of power metal singers out there will finally understand that one doesn't pit vocal abilities against good vocal technique, let's say preferably long held falsetto notes or "powerful" (read: compelled sounding) belting. No. A singer is required to further express emotion in order to make the listener feel the story he's telling with his vocals. Singer Joe Caggianelli has the required technique but his voice sounds dead and vacant. You can't expect every power metal singer to sound like Russell Allen, Jorn Lande or Roy Khan, but you should be able to expect more commitment from a vocalist.
So to sum of, the lack of expression in the vocals draws down the quality, sadly. The album's story doesn't get very clear this way. As conclusion, "Dark Passenger" is decent, but not a necessary listen.