Starkweather – This Sheltering Night

Unconventional is an appropriate term to describe Starkweather’s fourth album, This Sheltering Night. Ever since they surfaced in the early 90’s with the underrated Crossbearer, the band has been a major influence on acts like The Dillinger Escape Plan. They have been labeled as metalcore, but to leave it at that is doing the band a great disservice. This isn’t like Avenged Sevenfold or Atreyu; there are no cheesy sing-along choruses or processed clean vocals. This Sheltering Night is a doom-paced juggernaut posing as a metalcore album that deserves attention from mainstream metal fans.

For their entire career, Starkweather has been lying so low in the underground that you need a spotlight just to get a brief glimpse at them. It makes sense why this is once This Sheltering Night begins; none of the songs are traditional or constricted into a tight structure. There is a loose, jam-like atmosphere that is enthralling to listen to. Drummer Harry Rosa exemplifies this motif, never sticking to one beat for long and utilizing every inch of his drum kit. His jazzy fills bring a level of technicality that easily raises the bar for the rest of the band to reach for, which they do with relative ease.

The band has always been known as epic songwriters, with songs lengths in the double digits. While none of the songs reach that on This Sheltering Night, most of them lie in the seven-to-nine minute range. For tracks that long to maintain the interest of the listener is not always easy, but Starkweather handles it with class and maturity. “Broken From Inside” is a split between heavy-handed aggression and light tones that clash on multiple occasions. The surprise here is the lush clean vocals that add a layer of melody to the bleakness that the rough production gives off. “All Creatures Damned and Divine (Inducing Motion Sickness)” is another winner with a deliberate pace that is heightened by a brutally slow ending.

Ambient soundscapes are stuck in throughout This Sheltering Night for a cohesive feel to the entire album. Some of them are quiet and low-key, while others pierce the darkness with horrifying mechanical noises and searing abominations of pain. Piano and distorted clean guitar make “Receive” the best interlude out of the five. The song-to-interlude ratio is about even, which may disappoint some who rather have full songs instead of random breaks in-between. Considering the length of most of the songs, there is definitely a lot of music to tread through.

This small detail may turn some away, as This Sheltering Night is not an album to be taken on face value alone. At over an hour long, this is one meant for the repeat button on the stereo. One play-through will barely graze the surface of what Starkweather has pieced together here. Gritty, raw, unkempt, and progressively challenging are the key words to this album. If any of those words, especially the last one, pip your interest, then This Sheltering Night might be an album worth investing some significant time in.

Rating: 7.5
Label: Deathwish
Web site: http://www.myspace.com/starkweather666

By Dan Marsicano


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