Jack Starr’s Burning Starr — Souls Of The Innocent (Global Rock Records)
There’s no mistaking the Starr of the show on this thunderous power metal throwback.
But credit to the main man for surrounding himself with some seriously heavy hitters.
It’s almost 40 years since Virgin Steele founder Jack Starr jumped ship to plot his own riff-fuelled course.
And the fourth record of Burning Starr’s second coming is all killer and no filler.
That’s thanks, in large part, to the canny recruitment of hard rock screamer Alex Panza.
If Ronny Romero ever refuses a gig (as if that will ever happen) then Burning Starr’s new frontman should be next in line.
When it comes to delivering breathless, brutally effective vocals, the piledriving Panza has plenty in the tank.
And if Jack’s very much the lad as commander of this retro-fuelled metal crew, then he’s found the perfect foil in a singer ideally suited to bringing back the glory days.
When Burning Starr reformed in 2008, expectations were universally low.
And 2009’s dreary Defiance did little to raise the prospect of captain Jack releasing a record rivalling mid 80s cult classics No Turning Back and Blaze Of Glory.
But follow-up Land Of The Dead and 2017’s Stand Your Ground hinted that Burning Starr could still blaze a glory trail for fist-pumping power metal.
And the Panza-fuelled Souls Of The Innocent will have red-faced critics running for cover.
It’s full throttle, flame-grilled, fire-starting metal fusing Painkiller-era Priest with Virgin Steele’s shinier side.
Starr Rises After The Ascension
Starr sets out his stall with intriguingly fleeting instrumental The Ascension.
Guitar lovers everywhere will surely feel cheated, such is the succinct nature of this brief but brilliant scene setter.
Starr shines brightly throughout the crisp, catchy and frequently sublime Souls Of The Innocent.
Trad metal, horn-raising anthem I Am The Sinner harks back to NWOBHM’s pomp with its Maiden-meets-Saxon thrust.
Panza explodes into action after a somewhat subdued debut on Demons Behind Me.
And it’s no stretch to imagine Burning Starr’s newest recruit bringing Bloodstock, Wacken or even Download’s main stages to life.
River Of Blood turns up the power — supercharged by a standout Starr solo and a relentless turn from former Manowar tub thumper Rhino.
Long-time bass player Ned Meloni (also credited as co-producer) completes a line-up worthy of Burning Starr’s often overlooked 80s legacy.
And Souls Of The Innocent stands toe to toe with any of that landmark decade’s power metal classics.
Interestingly, given Panza’s outstanding performance, it’s set closer and bonus track When Evil Calls that steals the show.
Riot V frontman Todd Michael Hall, who helmed the first three Burning Starr ‘comeback’ records, pops up as the voice behind the best song here.
Perhaps it’s Starr’s way of keeping Panza on his toes.
Or maybe When Evil Calls, Burning Starr’s new boy just isn’t nasty enough. Yet.
Either way, when it comes to class acts behind the mic, fans get two for the price of one.
Souls Of The Innocent? It’s your new guilty pleasure.