Drops of Heart – Stargazers
Release Date: 22/07/20
Running Time: 59:21
Review by Steven Hooke
On paper, Russian outfit Drops of Heart seems to exist almost in spite of itself. Formed in 2008, the band continued for a little over two years before instability ravaged the band, forcing their demise. A few years later, vocalist Denis Fakhrislamov and the multi-faceted Vadim Nizamov breathed new life into the band, before finally self-releasing their debut album in 2014. In the years since, DoH have begun broadening their melodic death metal scope, incorporating electronica, metalcore, and even tinges of black metal, all in the lead up to their sophomore release, “Stargazers”.
“Stargazers”appears to live in a similar bubble to In Flames’ transitional period during the 2000’s, with the blending of dyed-in-the-wool Gothenburg melodeath and the more American and experimental alt metal scene. Thankfully though, Drops of Heart have opted for much more modern influences, immediately apparent in opener ‘Echoes’ which starts off with mood-setting harmonics, before erupting into an onslaught from drummer Artem Gabbasov. There are the first examples of the eerie electronic tinges added for an atmospheric edge to the album, as well as the choruses drenched in melody to blur that line between melodic death metal and modern metalcore.
‘Frost Grip’ is the first of the album’s guest appearances with The Unguided and former Sonic Syndicate frontman Richard Sjunnesson adding a more vicious kind of scream in the song’s pre-choruses before Soilwork’s Björn Strid enters the fray on ‘Starlight’, giving the already powerful song an added kick up the arse for good measure.
The album largely stays in its comfortable bubble of fast-paced, riff-heavy melodeath with added electronic flairs in an attempt to call it their own. This would otherwise be fine were it a 30-40 minute long affair, but clocking in just shy of an hour (exceeding an hour should you find the version with the ‘Starlight’ bonus track) makes this a bit of a slog towards the end in one sitting. Songs like ‘Escapist’, ‘Lull’, and the title track do their best to slow the pace down and incorporate more rock and groove elements, along with album highlight ‘Discoverers’ at the opposite end – with its twinkling tremolo lead riff, black metal tempo and atmosphere – but ultimately, “Stargazers” does bang a very familiar drum for far too long.
The ideas are there for the troupe to enhance their sound and offer something a little bit different to a genre that is experiencing something of a resurgence over the last few years with praised releases from Sylosis, Bleed From Within (both of whom etching further away from their deathcore roots) and The Black Dahlia Murder. DoH can offer an underground alternative alongside the likes of Torchia and Aphyxion as well as bring some much-deserved notoriety to a burgeoning Russian alternative scene, consisting of Supruga, Somn, WLVS and many more.
02. Frost Grip
07. Modern Madness
10. Death Lover
Denis Fakhrislamov – Vocals
Vadim Nizamov – Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Bass
Pavel Klimov – Guitars
Artem Gabbasov – Drums
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