If you were to try to pigeon-hole Four Star Revival’s sound, you’d have a hard task ahead of you. There’s thrash metal, NWOBHM and hard rock all glued together in one package. Except they also imbue it with melodic elements and groove.
Remove the last two elements and you should have a sound anyone interested in the heavier end of the rock spectrum would enjoy. Except, The Underdog misses its mark. Individually, the songs are great but wrapping them together with a nice bow and tag saying “This is our new EP” is its biggest shortcoming. It gives off the feeling of the band having an identity crisis. Unless that’s the intended purpose of the EP and the band looks at the reactions.
Lack of cohesion aside, the songs are well crafted and the band are at their best with the more straight forward rock tracks like the fist-pumping “Liar” and “Rumours”. The latter and “Broken” are reminiscent of Dio-era Rainbow with Jack Emrick’s powerful vocals. His lyrics offer hope and inspiration (none more obvious than on “The Garden of Good and Evil”), influenced by his, and indeed the entire band’s, Christian background.
Title track “The Underdog” can take you by surprise if you’re expecting rock, instead taking a thrashier tact which reappears on closing track “The Garden of Good and Evil”. The closer also brings in an essence of groove metal before it submits to an overt melodic bridge and then reverting back to a straightforward thrash sound.
Benny Bodine’s guitar is arguably the star attraction on the EP as the lone six-stringer. A versatile player as shown by the different styles on offer, his crunching and grinding riffs on the rock-based numbers are Bodine at his best. However as a thrash metal player, he doesn’t mess around, fleshing out his work with groove and sounding far less sloppy than some guitarists in notable thrash bands.
Paul Strausberg’s drums are ramped high into the mix, deftly working with Bodine to create each song’s individual sound and whilst a great drummer from a technical standpoint, he eclipses bassist Ed Girard. Sadly, it’s a mixing issue and what you can make out works well with what is already in place.
The Underdog is possibly the definition of a “mixed bag”. There’s not a bad song on the EP but it seems as a band, Four Star Revival are unsure of their sound, trying to do too much across its five tracks. It’s not chaotic by any means but can make for a jarring experience, especially if you’re not a fan of all the apparent influences.
The Underdog is out 13th January 2017