Review by Lynxie on November 28, 2023.
Well well well, the man’s done it. Anyone who’s been following Dragonforce avidly will know the band has a tendency for video games (Remember Shadow Warriors?) while most of their peers from the same era aimed for fantasy. This seems to be cultured even more with the entrance of their second and much-disputed mike wielder. So is it really a surprise that Marc Hudson would come to release his own solo project of a mixture of power metal and anime OSTs? Hmmm... not really.
My surprise came from how detached Starbound Stories actually sounds from Dragonforce itself on the whole. I dunno why but I had been expecting some sort of resemblance. Yet aside from 'Astralive' and 'Freedom Heart' the debut leaned more on the typical melodic power metal side, albeit with a stronger Japanese vibe. That was looked for though, when Hudson announced Ryoji of the Japanese melodeath band GYZE and our favorite shredder Syu from Galneryus on the guestlist. Also, considering the Gloria cover in his profile, the closer 'One More Sight Of The Sun With You' was semi-expected; I’ll leave it up to the Japanese to judge at how good Hudson’s Japanese is. It was too fruity for my likings speaking purely from the music stance, the title track would pack a bit more punch and end shits on a high note if it was closer. Yeah, I was talking about washing this debut down with insulin from the first track. I don’t think I’ve heard a cuter synthline and a more lighthearted melody like those on the title track since Freedom Call’s 'Dimensions'. While the ballads, 'Stars' and 'Swansong', definitely checked all my boxes of annoyance too with the mid-paced cadence and the overflowing syth. Oh, and did I ever mention that Hudson’s voice is just overly sweet when it comes to ballads? Two ballads in one album is plainly one of my bigger red flags.
Still, the general mindset I’d recommend to anyone preparing to dive into this debut is just treat it as an anime OST compilation and some of the speedier, more headbanging-worthy songs like 'Dracula X!' or 'Astralive' will come off as surprises as well as making your journey way way more enjoyable. Don’t hold any expectations, and you’ll never be disappointed. On the contrary, You might even be impressed; after all, The Siren is just about uplifting enough with the bouncy rhythm section and cheesy syths to make me happy – it’s upbeat at the just right moments, almost reaching for those early Sonata Arctica styles as the solo progresses, but also keeping to the right length on the whole without wearing down my patience. I guess I don’t mind the guitars blazing along the keys. The 8-min 'Call Of The Martyrs' was quite a fun ride in itself too, no dull points, all the right hooks, and Stevie T and Azure’s Galen Stapley’s cooperation was impeccable. Marc Hudson shows excellent songwriting abilities in such songs, just not quite consistent when you consider the whole album.
I guess Starbound Stories is not a bad album per se, just different from what most would expect as a solo project. It’s definitely far lighter than most power metal even, and gets boring when you’ve overplayed it. But as one of my favorite musicians puts it, why should one be forming a solo project just to play the exact same style as their main band? If the songs were not good enough for their main bands, why should we take in the garbage through the solo stuff? At least Marc Hudson is definitely writing with his anime dreams in mind. Judging by the new songs Dragonforce has put out these days, I might take this debut over their next release – at least I hear passion.
Highlights: 'Dracula X!', 'Astralive', 'Call Of The Martyrs'
Rating: 7.4 out of 10236