One important aspect that makes bands like Manilla Road, Cirith Ungol, or Pagan Altar so special is the quaintness all of them possess. While sounding a little odd in the beginning, eventually, due to their unique and genius style, they have so much more to offer than most ‚ordinary‘ bands. In combination with their grand storytelling the have advanced to some of the, in my opinion, most legendary bands of all time. So when I first listened to a song by Starscape I immediately felt a certain charm and knew that I would enjoy reviewing a full-length album. Now the time has come and Starscape finished their debut album Colony. Did my instinct fool me or could this really be one of the most interesting albums I’ve listended to in a long time?
Formed in 2015 under the name Pilgrim by the Swedish multi-instrumentalist Anton Eriksson (Kaunaz, Ex-Meadows End), already back then the lyrical concept and vision of the band was clear. One wanted to play classical Heavy Metal inspired by bands of the 70’s and 80’s while telling stories about space and man’s relation to it. In 2017, Eriksson not only changed the name of the project to Starscape but also released an instrumental demo. The same year vocalist Per-Olof Göranson joined the project and in 2020 the duo released an EP called Pilgrim, whose two songs are now featured on the full-length album.
The skill and talent of Eriksson, who also writes the songs and lyrics, are undoubtable. Most songs have a progressive touch to it and the instrumental passages are very dominant. This gives him a lot of space to shine: He switches between different paces and styles easily. He has a great sense for melody and adjusts them wonderfully to the tone of the songs. He manages to convey different emotions thereby grasping the listener intensely. And last but definitely not least, his epic storytelling is superb running parallel to the different atmospheres of the song. But the album would not be the same without Göranson’s vocals. His voice suits the atmospheres perfectly and also carries a lot of emotions. Altough they seem a little crooked at times, they provide the songs with an ultimate charm, as they complement the partly unusal and proggy song structures brilliantly. The use of spacey special effects as well as narrated passages further emphasise the atmosphere. One can say that this is a pure sci-fi adventure through the stars and to different worlds.
Just as travelling through space and visiting all the different worlds out there, this record is an exciting and varying journey. While the almost eight-minutes-long opener, «Pilgrims of the Stars» has a mystical touch to it, it also introduces the following album relatively well, as it possesses an epic spirit of departure. The following track «Interstellar», which is faster than the previous song, starts with a thoughtful to some extent even melancholic atmosphere, which to the end of the song turns into an optimistic mood. This is also emphasised by the use of an organ played by Julian Eriksson. The amazing titletrack that follows is a very raw sounding, energetic as well as melodic song, which is a clear contrast to «A New World». This song is a beautiful and emotional ballad. In my opinion, Göranson’s vocals sound the best on this song, as his voice channels the emotions really well and releases them upon us! In «Not Built by Human Hands» this tone changes drastically, as this song is not only uplifting but also faster-paced with a powerful chorus. After a playful and progressive instrumental, the album closes with a ten-minutes epic. According to the duo «Towards the Unknown» is inspired by Iron Maiden as well as by Judas Priest, bringing together all key elements of Starscape’s songwriting. For me, those are: grasping, melodic riffs, energetic vocals, mystical, epic atmospheres as well as memorable and appealing choruses! A great finale to a very enjoyable record!
Conclusion: Pointing out a certain highlight is difficult, as I really enjoyed the whole album. It starts very atmospherically, gets very energetic as well as emotional in the middle section and finishes atmospherically again. The whole album is full of wonderful melodies that combine spacey and mystical atmospheres with epic sometimes even anthemic choruses. It reminds me a lot of the likes of The Lord Weird Slough Feg or Hällas, yet still it is very unique and thus irreplacable. As I already stated in the beginning, Starscape is very quainty. They have their own style, they do what they think sounds right and are not afraid of any boundaries. They want to tell a story and do that in the best way possible. The sound and the lyrics fit together perfectly and as I already mentioned a couple of times: Listening to this album is just as going on an epic adventure through space! It might not appeal to everybody, as it has its very unique style. But isn’t that what makes bands like Manilla Road, The Lord Weird Slough Feg or Cirith Ungol so great? For me, Colony is a highlight, regarding the music as well as the storytelling, and Starscape might be the «Newcomer of the Year»!