Album Review: 5 Star Grave – Drugstore Hell (Massacre Records)
5 Star Grave are an Italian metal band currently signed to Massacre Records. The album Drugstore Hell was released on this label in May 2012 and is their second full length release. Their first release, Corpse Breed Syndrome, was self-published so this is their first album release with the backing of a label. They are widely regarded as being part of the melodic death metal genre although I personally think that it is quite difficult to pigeonhole these guys into one particular area as there are many, many different elements at work throughout.
Throughout the release I found myself picking out so many different musical elements such as 80’s rock, glam, melodic death, horrorcore (in electronic sampling) and a lot of punk but it thankfully melds together well without every feeling confused. While categorised as a melodic death metal band, I often felt that the punk element stood out more than the death so would personally describe it more as melodic punk metal (crossover thrash). There are 11 tracks in total coming in just under 40 mins in total length with each track averaging around 3 mins and 40 secs in length. There are no 7 or 8 minute epics here, this is all about 3 and a half minutes of jumping around.
In slightly unorthodox fashion, the frontman, Claudio Ravinale, is the vocalist and does not play an instrument but at the same time Andrea Minolfi, who plays bass is also a second vocalist and I don’t mean just backing vocals as he takes over lead vocals for many lengthy parts of each track. The dual singers sounds great but it can seem odd in live situations where the front man steps back with little to do while the bassist leads. It doesn’t detract from the music though so isn’t a complaint, just an observation. The rest of the band is made up of Thierry Bertone and Alessandro Blengino on guitars, Roberto Gaia on drums and Hervè De Zulian in charge of synth.
Track 1, Terminal Bedroom, starts off with some catchy 80’s horror sounding electronic effects that build atmosphere before a few drum taps signal the start of the vocals. Vocally it sits just between shouting and death when the lead vocalist sings but as the song progresses and the bassist joins in the vocals edge closer to death metal. The chorus is catchy and brings the synth volume up a little so that all instruments are going a once and it sounds great. There is plenty of aggression and screams in this track with real fast paced drumming and relentlessly paced vocals despite the song never feeling fast due to the slow, hypnotic synth in the background.
Track2, Death Put A Smile On My Face, starts off with a spoken quote “I am the devil and I am here to do the devil’s work” which has been falsely quoted as a Charles Manson phrase but is accurately quoted from the Rob Zombie movie The Devil’s Rejects. The song keeps a blistering pace throughout and has a real punk feel to it. Another catchy and easy to sing chorus leads into a very 80’s feeling short guitar solo all while moving at a million miles an hour. This is a really enjoyable track.
Track 3, Love Affair with the Beast starts off with some straight out of the 80’s rock groove. There is a less aggressive vocal style even though the swear words are easier to hear now. Short muted guitar notes and a slightly more aggressive singing makes up yet another catchy chorus. Probably the best chorus so far actually. The song picks up from the sleazy pace for the last 30 seconds to a more thrash pace before an abrupt ending.
Track 4, Daddy is a problem. The track itself is fantastic and possibly the best track on the album but the lyrical content is uncomfortable to hear and too sing along too as it references a history of child abuse but from the angle of “poor Daddy, being teased and flirted with by that young boy. It must be the child’s fault”. It is important to understand that the band doesn’t actually believe it to be the child’s fault in a child abuse case and (according to the internet) the child being referenced is a band member so the song oozes sarcasm but that doesn’t change the words you are singing such as “Daddy, Daddy, your so cool, Daddy, Daddy I want your tool”. The song itself is great. So well put together and very catchy with another 80’s horror synth intro before chugging guitars join in, a guitar solo intro and rhythmic singing through the verses. The chorus has a multitude of singers join in and sounds brilliantly like listening to a small metal choir that includes female vocals.
Death Times Eleven is the punkiest sounding song on the album to me. Really catchy and rhythmic throughout and played at a now typical fast pace packing a couple full verses, multiple choruses and a decent guitar solo into 3 minutes of song. An enjoyable, fun track although it strays quite far from “death metal”.
No Devil lived oN comes next and is the most electronica heavy song so far with an intro that has a very “industrial” style. It has very slow paced, deep sung lyrics over electronica for the verse that switches to death metal lyrics, a faster pace over guitars for the choruses. A good song that shows the band has the ability to mix things up and not become repetitive.
Dead Girls Don’t Say No is track 7 and again has an intro that could sit comfortably on an Anthrax album back in the day. The verses are sung with aggression and the pace is really stepped up. Pretty basic, repetitive chorus of just the title repeated. A decent track but probably the closest we have come to filler so far.
Boy A is up next and starts with more electronica before being joined by the guitarist in a style very similar to Rammstein, even the opening singing sounds like them. The switch to death metal lyrics makes it stand out though and there are some great joint vocals with the high and low tones at the same time. A really solid track that again shows a real ability to diversify.
Track 9 is called If and is very much in the melodic death metal camp. Similar to Children of Bodom in sound it is heavy, fast and sung agressively while being backed by clear sounding melody from the lead guitars. This is one of my favourtie tracks on the album.
When The Lights Go Out is the penultimate song and is slightly less pacy then the previous song and probably just qualifies as the second filler of the album. Despite the shouted lyrics, it sits very close to the Rock rather then Metal side of the fence although it is a very catchy and fun rock song.
The final song is called Lemmings and starts with a peculiar classical/jazzy sound before drums and guitars squash that and it turns into one of the best songs on an already solid album. Everything works here, the lyrical tones are mixed up, the drums and bass are addictive and the in/out short guitar melodies are exciting. What a fantastic song to close an album on!
There is so much good to say about this album. It is fun and it gives you the feeling that the band is also having fun. They are technically skilled, have a great production quality and are so far from mundane and generic it is unreal. So many different elements have been brought together brilliantly. I do think it needs to be a little longer. 40 mins with 2 tracks I deemed filler is not very long at all and I also feel it is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Chances are, with so many different genres at play within each song, that there are going to be elements you would not normally want to listen to however I highly recommend you try this album, especially those looking for something a little different.
5 Star Grave - Drugstore Hell (Massacre Records)
The Final Score - 8/10