11 Sep 2021 - Daniel F.
Doomgaze | Release date: 10 Sep 2021
When the current lineup of Chicago’s Starless was solidified in 2016, it was on common ground. All bought into the same ideology, each member had a shared appreciation for the grim and mournful, and they collectively aspired to express the crushing gravity of a chaotic world through their music. Their 2016 debut Deadly Light went some way to achieving this, and now they are poised yet again to unleash their latest work upon the world. It comes in the form of a new LP, Hope Is Leaving You. It isn’t so much a continuation of their discography as it is a ‘next step’, seeing them reach towards a more progressive, rounded approach.
Generally, when supergroups like this are formed, the music can feel multidimensional. Each member will generally have their own approach, their own unique outlook on how music ought to be formed. It is perhaps for this reason that Starless are hard to pigeon hole, and it feels like one of their biggest strengths. From the outset, ”Pendulum” sets the overall mood. Bleak, crushing soundscapes dominate the early sections, featuring organ samples straight from a horror movie. then, Radiohead-esq vocals sweep in and give way to grungey riffs and an overall dejected mood. All this before the pace is whipped up and suddenly it’s a post metal track.
This polygamous approach becomes the theme, with the band never staying married to one idea, instead opting to search the deepest reaches of their collective experience to forge an album that feels dynamic, fresh and engaging. Albeit a little foreboding. ”Helvetii” opens up with a near two minute section of droning, distorted guitar before rushing into faster sections, dipping back into the thick set atmosphere in places to keep the track feeling flexible and multi-faced. ”Forest” is much more post rock. Here, violins sweep and the tone feels a little warmer. As the track ebbs and flows, the biting edge from previous tracks is kept at bay, instead offering a sound that feels much smoother and easy on the ear.
”All The Winter” again builds, proving once more that Starless are musical alchemists as they meld doom metal neatly alongside gazey riffs and slabs of screeching guitar. There are whispers of tremolo solos that climb behind the downtuned riffs, offering a stark contrast against one another. ”Devils” sees organ utilised again and a paceless introduction that conjures imagery of colossal chasms; huge, darkened space that is later filled by expansive guitar work and densely weighted vocal passages.
On then to ”Citizen”, a track that broods and inches through sinister landscapes, meandering though walls of post metal and much more sedate sections. “Hunting With Fire” closes the album with finesse, building a crescendo by way of ethereal violin work, gently thudding drums and seeping guitar that grows into a towering listening experience, heavy enough to crush with its sheer relentlessness.
Starless set out to write an album that would challenge our conceptions of heavy music. It focuses on the human condition, and the way in which that is manipulated by the colossal forces of nature. Music is open to interpretation of course, and as an album Hope Is Leaving You is one that we can all decipher in our own way, but ultimately, it is a success story for the band. Cavernous in depth, each track feels like its own entity, yet an integral part of a record that has been studiously calculated and expertly delivered. This record isn’t an easy listen, but for those that give it a chance, it is rewarding, unique and a gratifying listen.