Published on February 2nd, 2017 | by Justin G.
Dark Star: Real to Reel
Yes, this is the same Dark Star that had the song “Lady of Mars” on the second Metal for Muthas compilation early in the famed New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) scene. They put out a killer self-titled debut album in 1981 but disappeared for long enough that most fans didn’t even know they released a follow-up album in 1987 called Real to Reel.
Real to Reel had 3/5 of the Dark Star debut lineup, but listening to it you’d never know it was the same band. They weren’t the only band to go from playing metal to radio-friendly AOR, but the difference between their approaches is striking. Real to Reel has a heavy keyboard presence, rocks about as hard as .38 Special did in 1987 and is as polished as can be. It’s more White Sister than Iron Maiden this time around. Now I’m an AOR fan, so a change like this is A-OK with me. It’s still hard to square what I’m hearing here with the “Lady of Mars” Dark Star I’m used to.
It’s a shame the guys didn’t release this under a new name, because they might have gone over better as a “new” act playing this kind of polished melodic rock. Instead Real to Reel came and went without much fanfare. It’s a really solid melodic rock album though, and one serious ‘80s rock devotees ought to hear. NWOBHM collectors will find it interesting as well, as long as they’re not expecting a metal album.
Reissue Notes: Real to Reel made it to CD for the very first time in 2016 thanks to the No Remorse label. The reissue features remastered audio and is limited to 500 copies. It doesn’t have any bonus tracks, and the booklet is kind of sparse, but it’s still good to finally see this album on disc.
Summary: NWOBHM gone AOR