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In the two years since Huntress released 2013's Starbound Beast, frontwoman and songwriter Jill Janus has been through some very scary stuff. She was diagnosed and surgically treated for uterine cancer, and revealed that she has been battling various mental illnesses -- including bipolar disorder -- since her early twenties. Huntress have also undergone more personnel changes. Tyler Meahl (guitarist Blake's brother) is their new drummer. Also new to the fold is Holy Grail guitarist Eli Santana. In the wake of all this, the band could be forgiven a middling album, but that's not what Static is; it's a step forward from Starbound Beast. Huntress have never been ashamed of their influences and they freely indulge them here, with NWOBHM, thrash, death, and doom among them. Janus employs her entire four-octave range on these 11 tracks that were co-produced by Paul Fig and James A. Rota. Opener "Sorrow" offers manic Meahl guitar riffs and an anthemic, fist-pumping chorus. First single "Flesh" recalls Rhandy Rhoads with a strutting riff that becomes a chugging sprint. The hook is so catchy it could be a Mercyful Fate single. "I Wanna Wake Up" is another furious cruncher. Janus transforms the band's meaty, squalling riffs into a transcendent chorus. Starbound Beast carried little of the doomy occult appeal that their debut Spell Eater offered. Here, the nearly nine-minute "Mania" picks up on the feel and mood of the earlier album's "Eight of Swords." Commencing with a gentle, melancholy melody (via beautiful open-hand fingerpicking), its slow, epic power thunders in a minute later and only relents briefly in the bridge. The headbanging Motörhead-esque gallop in "Four Blood Moons" is exceptional, while the furious urgency in the title track is underscored by an unhinged guitar breakdown. And speaking of fury, "Fire in My Heart" is the only place here where Janus lets her semi-unclean growl out of the box. A pummeling bassline hums through the throbbing guitar vamps, making the tune punchy as hell. Static closes with the bonus cut "Black Tongue." It's a studio version of a concert favorite. (An homage to Jägermeister, Janus does a shot of it after singing the words: "Hunt down the dark elixir and give away your mind.") There is but one small complaint about Static. Fig's and Rota's instrumental production is stellar, miles above what most modern metal recordings offer. But one has to ask why then, they would partially conceal a vocalist as powerful and technically gifted as Janus in their mix? The lyric sheet shouldn't even be necessary, let alone elemental, but it is. Criticism aside, Huntress' vibrant, unrelenting energy on Static, as well as their songwriting variety and old-school American metal swagger, make this their most consistent and confident effort to date.

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