Lewis Norman checks out the first studio release from “turbo-mental” Exeter quartet DeathStar Disco.
“It’s essentially Exeter’s answer to Spinal Tap, just a little bit more PG-rated.”
DeathStar Disco vs. the Universe
14 July 2015
[dropcap size=small]F[/dropcap]or three years DeathStar Disco have been unquestionably the most entertaining live band in Exeter. Gracing every stage they can get their sweaty palms on, Deathstar are renowned for energetic live performances, outrageous attire and stage debauchery. Cooking up a blend of glam and blues rock with a dashing of metal here and there, DeathStar are arguably the most unique band that Exeter has seen in the past few years and probably had the most recognisable sound of the lot.
Considering that the four lads have now finished their degrees, it would have been easy for vs. the Universe to feel like a swansong; an indulgent ode to a band that has been an intrinsic part of Exeter for the best part of three years. But vs. the Universe doesn’t sound like this at all. In fact, vs. the Universe sounds like the work of a band that are just getting started.
So, what exactly is DeathStar Disco’s sound? It’s complicated, to say the least. You’d be forgiven for thinking that DeathStar drew their inspiration from the founders of thrash metal in the opening bars of ‘Abattoir Bed’ but much of songwriting is actually pure pop veiled in heavy overdrive. The whole thing reeks of Muse’s Matt Bellamy (and that isn’t a criticism, trust me). DeathStar Disco’s signature sass and their falsetto ooos in nearly all the tracks contribute a deliciously camp edge. It’s essentially Exeter’s answer to Spinal Tap, just a little bit more PG-rated. Not too PG-rated though, the screams in the middle of ‘Pulling Coraline’ demonstrate perfectly how genre-fluid these guys can be and it verges on terrifying.
It’s in the album’s poppiest moments that DeathStar Disco shine. This isn’t really particularly surprising when you consider the nature of the band. What use would ridiculous costumes and whimsical harmonies be if the songwriting didn’t match the mood that they were trying to set? This is most obvious on track ‘Stomin’ Norman’. It’s a pop song, plain and simple. But it is a song presented with bravado and vigour, blasting through the narrow expectations of pop and streaking down the road. The harmonies at the end are fantastic too; it really does say a lot when all four members of the band have a crack at acapella. I haven’t even seen a student band connect in the way that DeathStar Disco do and I doubt I ever will.
I will admit that production as a whole is a little rough around the edges. It’s often quite difficult to hear what lead singer Ben Connor is actually singing due to the breakneck speed of the lyrics and the dense overdrive and distortion slathered all over the guitar. This is most noticeable in the heavier tracks: ‘Children of the Sod’, ‘All Alone’ and ‘Astronaut’. Having said this, they are students. Considering the budget, this is an impressive record and the band maintain this level of quality throughout the album. Final track ‘Jesus’ is one of the record’s finest moments, swashbuckling through four and a half minutes of glam rock frills before tapering off into vocal harmonies again.
At the end of the day, what were we really looking for in a DeathStar Disco album? We wanted the boys to be able to translate their breathtaking live performances into an equally captivating debut album. Have they managed it? I’d have to say that fuck yes they have *fist pump*.
Lewis Norman, Science & Tech Editor