Deathstar

Deathstar

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It's a testament to Deathstar's ability to pummel that the tinny production values of the band's self-titled 10" vinyl EP fail to shackle the trio's Chapel Hill-venerating, hyper-melodic noise. Guitarist/vocalist Kelly Bauman seems to be singing from space on these tracks, as his vocals are wedged deep in the overall mix. However, this presumably purposeful production technique works surprisingly well, pushing Jim Rizzuto's blistering drumwork and Bauman's own titanic riffing to the fore (a practice the production-obsessive guitarist would later continue with the North Magnetic and Arnica Sync). The main element lost in Deathstar's black-hole mixdown, however, is Ken Lovgren's bass, the absence of which renders a top-heavy sound akin to what you hear out of the dashboard radio speaker in your Uncle Elrod's restored 1963 Corvair. The unfortunate de-emphasis of Lovgren's undulating foundation -- which proves itself crucial on the band's other EP, 1997's mammoth-sounding Strikes the Earth -- lowers Deathstar's overall thump quotient somewhat, but its songs still manage to resonate forcefully enough. "Stride Rite"'s colliding riffs and furious pace fall directly in line with Deathstar's other noise masterwork, Strikes the Earth's "Realms of Gold," while Bauman's reflective guitar intro on the winkingly titled "Undersea Odyssey" belies the song's mid-tempo surge. But just as the version of "16-Bit" here lacks the crunch of its fraternal twin on Strikes the Earth, Deathstar's Polvo-luted 10" vinyl slab still manages to pack plenty of sweetly cacophonous wallop over the course of its half-dozen songs. With only a mere ten songs to its mini-oeuvre, it's hard to not wish that this northern California trio would have set more music to disc than just a pair of stunning EPs throughout their brief tenure.