Published on February 7th, 2019 | by Justin G.
Starbreaker: Dysphoria (Frontiers, 2019)
I can’t believe Tony Harnell and Magnus Karlsson made us wait more than a decade for a new Starbreaker album. I mean, sure, Harnell was busy rejoining (and re-departing) TNT, and Karlsson was busy with Primal Fear and his solo project (plus probably a dozen side projects I’ve no doubt forgotten). Still, there was such chemistry in those first two Starbreaker albums that it was painful having to wait so long for a follow-up.
We finally got the third Starbreaker album, titled Dysphoria, to help start 2019 with a bang, and fortunately it is well worth the wait. Dysphoria doesn’t sound like any other Harnell project, and it doesn’t fit squarely into Karlsson’s trademark songwriting style either. As I said, these guys have real chemistry together, whether that’s how the vocals and musicianship come together or just their overall songwriting partnership. And while you will hear elements of TNT and Allen-Lande in Starbreaker’s sound, that’s not all you’ll hear. Dysphoria is a melodic rock album, a heavy metal album and a hard rock album all at once, and it has some real depth that a lot albums in this arena lack.
Once you get past marvelling at Harnell’s vocal performance (which really is quite strong) and Karlsson’s instantly recognizable guitar tones, you come to appreciate how mature and diverse this album is. Leadoff rocker “Pure Evil” packs a metallic punch, while “Last December” has real heart and soul. “My Heart Belongs To You” is such a gorgeous and infectious melodic rocker, reminding me of the best kind of TNT songs, while the title track brings shades of Westworld to mind. The album closes, appropriately enough, with a blazing cover of the Judas Priest song that gave the band its name.
How many times does a band come back after a 10-year absence and deliver an album that’s actually worth the wait? That’s what Harnell and Karlsson have done with Dysphoria. This is a more than worthy addition to the Starbreaker legacy, perhaps even edging out Love’s Dying Wish, and is the first must-have album of 2019. Melodic rock and melodic metal fans, especially fans of TNT, Pretty Maids, Allen-Lande and Magnus Karlsson’s Freefall, should be all over this one.
Summary: Well worth the wait.