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Starkweather Croatoan

Starkweather - Croatoan
01. Wilding
02. Taming Leeches With Fire
03. Slither
04. Bitterfrost
05. Hushabye : Goodnight
06. Vespertilian
07. Machine Rhythm Confessional
08. The Infinity Coil / Silken Garotte
2006 Candlelight Records

Reviewed by: Michael Gluck   //   Published: 10/12/2006

Influential and superior hardcore bands continue being overlooked in favor of their flashier successors. This is especially true for virtually unclassifiable bands like Starkweather, Deadguy, Rorschach, Breach, and more recently Turmoil. It has also taken a year for Croatoan to get reviewed on Lambgoat, so it seems the curse of legends continues even in hardcore circles. The reality of Starkweather's landmark 1994 debut Crossbearer being one of the best albums of the decade, not to mention arguably the strongest release ever released by New York's ineffective Too Damn Hype Records, sadly remains unheard of by the legions of modern-day Converge fanatics.

Croatoan, their sophomore full-length, has thankfully and finally earned the light of day, on an increasingly active and very metal Candlelight Records (Daylight Dies, Vader, Crowbar, Dismember, 1349). It should come as no surprise that Starkweather have delivered a metal album, but one so progressive and inventive that they cannot be accused of conforming to modern trends. The band's most appropriate production yet, executed by the band and Pierre Remillard (Cryptopsy, Gorguts) at his isolated Wild Studios in Quebec, gives Croatoan a life all its own.

Evolving their sound further by carrying the doom components introduced on Into The Wire and their songs from the Definitely Not The Majors compilation, and the vocal hooks that made Crossbearer so memorable, all within their trademark linear, storytelling style of songwriting, Starkweather retain that rare distinction of sounding like no other band, period. While "Bitterfrost," "Hushabye : Goodnight," and "Wilding" feature Rennie's clean, twisted melodies breaking apart the sludge riffs, the album as a whole is admittedly more abstract and slower than their Crossbearer and Into The Wire. Starkweather use the increased room to maneuver skillfully, playing just the right amount to avoid being accused of flashing, but not too little to be considered boring in the least bit. In the first section of "Wilding," cult sludge band Iron Monkey comes to mind as well.

New passages and riffs appear anew with each listen. Around two minutes into "Vespertilian," Starkweather (and likely Jim Winters, if going according to style) break into a nineties transition that brings to mind the band's earlier days, but soon disappears in favor of more constant, repetitive, mid-paced passages and Rennie's maniacal crooning. One notable exception aside, the creative core of Todd, Harry, and Rennie remains intact, meaning this is authentic Starkweather through and through (Harry's brother Vincent replaces Michele Eddison on bass). Even the elusive architect of nineties metalcore, Jim Winters (Turmoil, The Promise, Conviction), contributed some ideas to the writing of Croatoan making the album all the more special.

Had Starkweather benefited from better record labels and displayed some, any, activity since releasing Into The Wire on Edison in 1995, they would probably in the driver's seat of the chaotic hardcore movement currently spearheaded by Bannon and his accomplices. Out of the darkest basements in the City of Brotherly Love re-emerges Starkweather, on a label that finally suits their needs. Not that Edison Recordings, with a former roster boasting respected and significant bands like Overcast, Coalesce, Acme, and Systral wasn't the right fit, but they sure weren't a label with the biggest advertising budget. And most new music buyers these days have to be informed of a band's legendary status in popular metal publications if they are to accord any dollars (or respect) to the band in question.

This generation's Dan Seagrave, Paul Romano, gives Croatoan the artistic identity it calls for: Death imagery, concrete tones, antiquated feel, and a conceptual layout overall, with no song titles on the back or band lineup. The goal of this must be to remove any points of judgment for the sake of the music. Old fans will get it, and new ones may not, but then again Starkweather aren't aiming for the stars (a la Mastodon) so they can be as unorthodox as they damn well please.

Bottom Line: With Croatoan, Starkweather make a compelling argument to be seeded much higher in the ranks of Revolver and Decibel popularity than they currently are. If a band is to be accorded credence in the U.S. metal scene today, it seems as though uniqueness and unencumbered artistry are two virtues fans look for. Whether today's hot bands still embody those virtues or have instead sold out to major label pressure to streamline their sound is another discussion. Metal, hardcore, noise, and hardcore influenced bands that defy labeling are still holding strong and brutalizing listeners. Playing Enemy, Blessing The Hogs, Turmoil, and Unsane will keep doing their thing. And the band that opened the floodgates to artistic freedom in hardcore, Starkweather, has made another compelling and very metal statement. Unsurprisingly, they are still miles ahead of everyone else. Expect this record to gain momentum ten years from now.

anonymous   posted 12/23/2011 6:43:23 AM
Its hard to pin point what Croatoan is? Death Metal? Progressive Hardcore dont know? Dont matter! this album rip from beginning to the last track its not for everyone, but if your open minded and sick of cookie cutter heavy music outthere check this mutha out!
anonymous   posted 12/23/2011 6:30:45 AM
Its hard to pin point what Croatoan is? Death Metal? Progressive Hardcore dont know? Dont matter! this album rip from beginning to the last track its not for everyone, but if your open minded and sick of cookie cutter heavy music outthere check this mutha out!
moron_   posted 10/19/2006 7:47:53 PM
didnt read the review, but the album is incredible.
thereapersson_   posted 10/18/2006 5:58:05 AM
I saw this f*cking coming a mile away. Cave the f*ck in and listen to this already!
anonymous   posted 10/15/2006 7:04:16 PM
awww ya? how would you know that penis licker? suck my dck.

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