I’m all for a bit self promotion – if you think you’ve just recorded a great album then that’s a fabulous thing and you should promote this. Let the world know that your album is pretty bloody good and then wait hopefully for people to agree. Jack Starr (guitarist on the first two Virgin Steele albums, then numerous solo and Burning Starr albums afterwards), upon the completion of his brand new album “Stand Your Ground” states, (and I quote) “In my opinion, it is one of the best metal albums in the last twenty years. I think that if we could go back in a time machine and put out this album in 1988, it would sell millions of copies but even though it is 2017, I think it will still do very well”. Now, I don’t want to have a big rant about hindsight or 30 years of musical evolvement, but…Really Jack? If this album is nothing less than spectacular then why set yourself up for a fall with such a statement?

And I really wanted this album to be great, regardless of that statement, so I pressed play, as many will, and sat back waiting to be impressed. But I wasn’t I’m afraid. This isn’t a bad album at all, the musicians involved do a fine job with the songs they are given, but it’s certainly not one of the best albums of the last twenty years – although it might be one of Starr’s best. The claim that if this record was released in the 80’s it would sell millions of copies is also off the mark too I think, but it’s certainly the era it emulates. Sound-wise, it has much in common with the sound of Riot’s “Thundersteel” (no massive leap given Burning Starr vocalist Tony Michael Hall also being the singer in Riot V), some Virgin Steele, a bit of Mad Max and smatterings of other 80’s bands – it’s a decent, competent Hard Rock/Metal album.

I’ve heard many albums by reformed/rekindled/re-branded/resurgent Metal bands in the last twenty years and it stands up OK, better than a few and not as good as others. None of the guitar-work particularly stands out which was disappointing and the lyrics are a little simplistic, but the vocals are delivered with a great note-perfect range (as you would expect), and the drums/bass are tight and energetic. With the album’s overall approach akin to Axel Rudi Pell in style, the opening track has some good elements of classic Priest, and the aforementioned complimentary nods towards Riot in tracks like ‘Stronger Than Steel’, ‘False Gods’ and ‘Hero’ are among the album’s highlights. On the downside, the 10 minute title track sounds a little bit scrappy and awkward in it’s transitions, plus it has an awful ballad section near the end which jars completely. ‘Destiny’ though is a terrible nursery-rhyme style track that sticks out as way too cheesy and would have sounded just as bad in the 80’s, before there’s any claims that it’s “retro”.

So unfortunately this album and I didn’t really mesh at all, but it’s all a matter of personal taste and I’m sure there will be much to please fans out there of sturdy, no-nonsense 80’s/Power/Heavy Metal. It was a bit of a strange and over-ambitious claim to make about this album by Jack Starr, but as always I’ve tried to be fair and objective despite that. Sometimes an album just doesn’t click with a person for whatever reason, and this just happened to be one of mine.

(6/10 Andy Barker)