StarFinnish bands often do melody very well, and this debut album from Star Insight, who have been around since 2005, is no exception.

As this driving force of an album got going, I quickly realised that “Messera” is an amalgam of many styles. By the third track, I’d drawn mental comparisons with Graveworm, Bodom, The Kovenant and Crematory. I’ll add the band’s own references to Shade Empire, Nightwish, Tool and Dimmu Borgir to complete or maybe confuse the picture. There’s a clear symphonic element in the lumbering but choral and melodic opener “Limbo” and indeed everything that follows. This switches to a more cyber-oriented sound on “Emanuela”, which has a progressive side too. The songs are well-defined, to be fair, but I’m not sure all these stylistic strands did it that many favours. The growly vocals ensure we keep away from power metal jollity which some of the electronica seems to be encouraging.

The album really got going for me from “Night with Fever”, the fourth track. From mechanical beginnings, there was a sinister eeriness yet continuity which I would associate with the likes of Malsain. I felt a tinge of the black metal which goes with some of the band’s publicity. “Frozen Rise”, which follows, was even better and as well as being bouncy, has a superb Arabic-sounding and for this reason enticing guitar section. Overall, I wasn’t convinced however that this album was punching its way to glory. The electronic-inspired sympho-metal of “Oath” reinforced my view that there are just too many sides, and that Star Insight weren’t making coherent musical sense of them. The vocals of “Raven and Hell” are laughably awful at one point, sounding like karaoke which has gone wrong. Having tried it once, I know the feeling. Musically the song is ok and this time has an air of Rage Against the Machine but it lacks the fizz that any of the aforementioned bands might provide. There’s nothing like ending an album on a note of gothic gloom, and this is what “Poem of Misery” predictably manages to deliver. The female vocals are very evocative. With a matching mood of melancholy from the instrumental section, this is a very good song but a very dark final track. It seemed out of place in the context of the previously more aggressive output, and came across as an incongruous bonus track sometimes does when added to the end of an album.

I didn’t dislike “Messera”, and in fact appreciated its quirkiness and some of its musical qualities. That said, I didn’t think it had the right balance of ingredients or sound, and I found it hard to decide what Star Insight were trying to do with this collection of songs.

(5/10 Andrew Doherty)