Rubicon – Demonstar
Rock City Music Label
Release Date: 16/07/2021
Running Time: 59:53
Review by Simon Black
We don’t get too many things to listen to from Russia. A quick look at the major contributors to the genre over there quickly reveals part of the reason why…English is not widely used as a language within the community so many bands seem to stick to their native tongue. Although that should not be a barrier to international recognition (Rammstein being the most notable example of what happens when you stick to your guns regardless), international record labels might think otherwise and without them it’s damn hard to self-produce and promote outside of your native market. Consequently, Russia is still something of a closed Metal shop about which the rest of the world hears far too little. What’s also not helped is the few, that have crossed my desk in recent years, have suffered somewhat from production values that leave something to be desired. If Metal bands themselves are thin on the ground in a given market, then it follows that producers and studios with the right equipment and experience to bring the best out of their music are even more so. Which is what makes this record so refreshing to listen to.
Although Rubicon have been banging their particular blast beat driven drum since the year 2000 it took until 2018 and three years of recording effort for them to get an album released (“Welcome To Wasteland”), making this sophomore piece seem positively exuberant in its haste to follow on. First off, this record shows their twenty years of experience really clearly, even if studio recording is a relatively recent extension to their repertoire. You wouldn’t know to listen to it – as this sounds rich, professional and thoroughly well-crafted…and yes, it’s in English!
The sound is a mixture of Modern Metal, with elements of Power and some quite Industrial motes in the harmonics. Contributory to this, no doubt, is that their bassist Dmitry “Belf” Safronov is an established producer in his own right, which is clearly visible in the amount of pre-production to the arrangements that have gone into this. Not to mention that with a French guitarist and an American session musician in the mix, this really is an international project which has added much more to the richness.
And rich it definitely is, with almost a full hour’s worth of brutally efficient and powerfully delivered Metal that rushes you along like a small, helpless mammal strapped to a white water raft. That pace and momentum isn’t all about brevity and three minute wonders either, as over half the tracks clock in at five plus minutes, showing a maturity and technical ease to the song-writing and structures that hold the attention, peppered as they are with carefully restrained instrumental virtuosity. Pulling off these sorts of long and complex arrangements is a challenge to many bands, who usually save that for ‘obligatory epic album closer’ but Rubicon achieve it at least three times on this record without sounding boring or repetitive.
In guitarist Bob Saliba, Rubicon, have a highly skilled player, who can power the riffs, shred the solos with breath-taking ease and who also finds moments to deliver some beautifully delivered Spanish acoustic guitar that add depth and variety, counterpointing perfectly Safronov’s orchestrations (which presumably will involve a full blown keyboard player when they come to do this all live). Front and foremost in the mix however are Ivan “Ian” Bulankov’s roaring and dark, yet soaring and engaging vocals. As the driving force behind the band, he clearly has a robust vision in his mind, but his delivery is powerful, broad and thoroughly charismatic with a really good range. This is rich and layered but has a surface appeal that easily engages the listener from the get-go. One to watch…
‘Demonstar’ (Official Lyric Video)
02. Neon Gladiators
03. Last Floor Of Hell
04. Down The Darkness
05. Speed Of Night
06. Snake King
07. If It Bleeds
08. The Darkness Machine~
09. Robot God
10. I, Immortal
11. Line Of Dreams
Ivan “Ian” Bulankov – Vocals
Bob Saliba – Lead & Acoustic Guitars
Dmitry “Belf” Safronov – Bass, Arrangements
Katerina Pobedinskaya – Keys
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