Live Gig Review and Photos by: Zenae Zukowski
Late last year, while sipping a beverage and carelessly scrolling through Facebook, an announcement appeared in my newsfeed, surprising me that I nearly splashed my drink on my laptop. It was unexpected to see, considering I just saw Chicago metallers Starkill not too long before when they kicked off the tour with Dark Tranquility, Swallow the Sun, and Enforcer in NYC on November 4th, the same day Shadow Sleep released via Prosthetic Records. However, something looked different about this particular announcement. I said to myself, “I don’t care what it takes, I’m going to be there.” The flyer revealed “STARKILL” in big headlining letters, marking it their first headlining North American Tour with heavy metal labelmates Spellcaster from Portland Oregon for direct support. Their stop near me was at one of my favorite intimate venues, Blackthorn 51 in Elmhurst, Queens on February 8th, 2017, one day after my return from the biggest Metal cruises, 70,000 tons of Metal. Embarrassingly so, I remember wearing my Starkill hoodie during the entire trip as a reminder not to miss the show.
For those who are unfamiliar with Starkill, they are one of the most hard working bands out there. Shadow Sleep wasn’t easy for them to release, especially since they formed a crowdfunding site, leading to their signing with Prosthetic Records. While many are still digesting their new album, Starkill is already writing new tracks for a fourth release. Additionally, they managed to book quite a few tours. Look at 2016, they supported bands Epica, Ne Obliviscaris, and Dark Tranquility. Secondly, it seems that Starkill does everything themselves. They are their own drivers, merch handlers, lighting techs, and organizers. It didn’t take me long to notice, especially that night at Blackthorn 51. Their dedication and ambition is something many artists should look into. I should also mention their music, it keeps getting tighter after each release. They are not afraid to test metal waters while, somehow, remaining true to themselves. Shadow Sleep, is the turning point for the group, leading to bigger and better opportunities.
Although their headlining tour ended, I do suggest seeing them next time they enter your town. The tour consisted of fifteen stops across North America, it kicked off on January 25th and concluded on February 11. A few Starkill devotees who went to 70,000tons of Metal also managed to see them that includes the Chicago stop (their hometown) on 1/25, and their show in Washington DC on 2/6. A friend of mine who was running on no sleep for 6 days straight, flew from Ft. Lauderdale to Maryland and somehow, magically made it to the DC show. I believe one gig after the Queen’s date, someone baked a Starkill cake. Bottom line, fans are dedicated to them.
At their Blackthorn 51 date in Queens on 2/8, it was your typical New York winter day. The weather forecast read snow, and by no surprise, the news terrified fans from attending. Schools and a few transits closed before a single snowflake hit the ground. Luckily, it was on and the turnout ruled.
Warming up the evening were three local NYC acts Dishonest Escape, Dead City Crown, and Spectral Voices. Each act presented a unique sound along with an energetic crowd who endlessly headbanged, moshed, and raised their beer and horns. Many were there for progressive/melodic death metallers Spectral Voices, celebrating the release of their EP A Bleak Existence. It was a unified moment for all, even Spellcaster and Starkill members seemed to enjoy them.
After a short break, it was time for Spellcaster to take the stage promoting their new album Night Hides the World. Their style and presence remind me of a recipe consisting newer thrashers Warbringer and Enforcer mixed with a hint of Steel Panther glam. If you haven’t seen them yet, you should as they will make you move, no matter how little sleep you had.
Finally, it was time for Starkill and that’s when all lighting changed. All acts used the house lights, however, Starkill had their strobes. If you haven’t seen them live before, this isn’t anything new and the band seems to do everything themselves, which is commendable. It was well after 11 pm on a Wednesday night, right before a supposed massive snowstorm and a decent crowd remained. Fans moved as close to the barricade as possible, reaching out to Parker Jameson (lead guitar/vocals), Tony Keathley (guitar/backing vocals) and Shaun Andruchuk (bass). I didn’t see Spencer there on drums so my focus was on the three shredders, and yes, Andruchuk plays the bass like a guitarist and I mean that in terms of greatness. I enjoy this particular lineup, there’s something about the three of them live together, probably why I keep making sure to see them and you should too.
As the lights flickered, changed color and fog smoke floated into the air, none of the guys really cared. They shredded in darkness, pink, purple while making room for crowd interaction. We were able to hear their new songs “Burn Your World,” “Cloudless,” and “No Savior,” and a few older tunes including the title track of their debut album Fires of Life. Despite the crappy weather, Starkill managed to hang out a bit with their fans at the end, willing to take photos, talk and giving Merchandise deals such as buying their CD for only $5 after buying a shirt. One thing to note is, Starkill will return. However, Parker announced they will be back sometime this spring. The date and who they are touring with remains a mystery but, they will be back and that’s when you should go and see them!