From Aural Innovations #19 (April 2002)
Oh, some three years ago, in Aural Innovations #6 (April 1999, CLICK HERE to read), I wrote a fun article attempting to document all of the known musical artists in the world that chose some form of 'DARK STAR' as their moniker. Some attempted to make themselves distinguishable by altering the spelling, but in the case of Darkstarr this didn't actually work, because I eventually found two different bands doing the double-r thing! Anyway, I've now gotten around to putting together an audio compilation for you to more easily distinguish one from the other. Plus I've learned some new things about some of these bands, and others have done new things that I'll point out as well.
So let's get started...I'll go in the same chronological order that the tracks appear on the RealAudio show.
1. Darkstarr (New York, USA) - My Deepest Regrets
from Darkstarr CD-EP (197?, 1998) cosmiCDaze US #101
John Myers - Vocals, Dave Sestito - Guitar/Vocals, Paul Fisher - Bass, John Schillaci - Drums
Label releases obtainable through http://www.opaloceanrelics.com/
In the original article, I wrote in the addendum "A self-titled "Darkstarr" CD has recently appeared on the CDaze label in Holland. My guess is that this is a new band and not the Sci-Tek band above, but then perhaps I'm wrong." Well I was wrong here in several respects. What I was correct about is that this band *is* different than the 'Sci-Tek' band Darkstarr (No. 4 below). However, the label is in Florida, not Holland, and the disc in question is really a reissue of an EP-length private pressing by a very obscure late 1970s era US band (from what I can gather, hailing from the Rochester NY area). Even the folks doing the ltd. CD reissue had no contact with the band and therefore included on the CD tray card a 'shout out' (to any of them that might find it) to get in touch, since they weren't really intending to bootleg the material but were actually hoping to revive their memory and do them a service. To my ears the quartet Darkstarr were a solid garage-rock outfit that had some originality and enough energy to keep me interested.
2. Darkstar (Toronto, CN) - Into the Heartland
from Into the Heartland LP (1978) Ariel Records CN AM-102
(2nd LP entitled "Escape Routines" (1980) Ariel Records CN ARLP-110)
James Paul Cassar - Bass/Vocals, Peter Cassar - Drums/Vocals, Timothy Chipman - Guitars/Keyboards/ Vocals
I also wrote in the addendum, "I've seen this series of 45-rpm singles attributed to some Dark Star. I believe this may have been an old '50s era group.
"Holy Roller" 7" single (Lifesongs 45007?)
"Hit and Run Lover" 7" single
"Into the Heartland" 7" single
"Postcard from Jamaica" 7" single
"Won't Be Disappointed" 7" single"
Well, this turned out also to be false also, because I managed to find *both* LPs by this Toronto, Canada band (an alternate source of all these 7" singles) that featured the brothers Cassar, and who appeared to be interested in becoming the next Foreigner or REO Speedwagon, 'cause they were really amazingly bad. The title track from their debut LP here is by far the best track I could provide for you, and luckily it's one of the shorter ones too! Their attempt at a 'cigarette-lighter' ballad for that day (that never came) when they'd be playing big stadiums. Toronto is a city that I still really like, but my opinion of its music just took one step down after hearing this stuff! Yikes!
3. Dark Star (UK) - Lady of Mars
from Dark Star LP (1981) Avatar UK AALP5003 (OOP)
Rick Staines - Vocals, Dave Harrison - Guitar, Bob Key - Guitar, Mark Oseland - Bass, Steve Atkins - Drums
"Lady of Mars" was the one single that put this Dark Star on the NWOBHM map, and I managed to find a cheap-o CD collection of heavy tunes (Metal for Muthas, Vol. II) that included this one track. (Saved shelling out big $ for the original LP and then trying to digify it.) So here's all I've ever heard of this band...not bad, but not up there with some other contemporary bands IMHO. And oh yeah, before I claimed that the term NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) was coined by Metallica's Lars Ulbrich, which is untrue as it really came from Geoff Barton (Sounds), but still Lars helped popularize the genre by bringing old Diamond Head tunes to prominence in the US of A via Metallica cover versions. By the way, Diamond Head has reunited once again (with both Brian Tatler & Sean Harris) and has done a little touring around the UK. I think this Dark Star has disappeared into a wormhole with Ms. Mars never to return to our galaxy again. But what do I know?
4. Darkstarr (California, USA) - Future World
from Alien Invasion cassette (1984) self-released via RhythmNet USA CA-143-1
Don Wilcox, aka Don Drakker, Commander Raven, Dr. Nola Xela, and Lt. Commander Harddrive
From this strange self-released cassette, I chose the one and only track I cared for at all, "Future World," which (as I said before) featured a less-invasive drumbeat and some really interesting and playful synth melodies. Their website http://www.rhythmnet.com/bands/darkstarr/ seems to have gone dead now though RhythmNet still continues. DEMODR@aol.com was once listed as Don Wilcox' email - not sure if that's still working.
5. darXtar (Korgsberga, Sweden) - Voices of My Dreams
from Daybreak CD (1994) SBm SW CDA 001
Commander K.Sören Bengtsson - Vocals/Guitar, Darklord Sören Mårtensson - Keyboards, Captain Juba Numenniemi - Bass/Vocals, Patric Danielsson - Drums, Fredrik Sundqvist - Violin
Contact: SBm Records,Växjövägen 55, 57010 Korgsberga, Sweden
Well, after going completely dormant for several years while a record company that will remain nameless screwed around with their new album, "Tombola" did finally appear this past year and darXtar has jumped back to life in hyperspace. While the new progressive concept album approach worked wonders for me, let's go back awhile and pull out one of their classic stompin' space numbers from the mid-90s. This is a 'space-rock' 'zine after all! With luck, I'll get to Copenhagen this summer to see darXtar live. Check out their new website for more.
6. DARK STAR (Fribourg, Germany) - Eject!
from Travelogue II CD (1994, 2000) Soleilmoon US SOL 086
Wolfgang Reffert - All instruments, with guests Edward Ka-Spel (vocals/keyboards) and Phil (Silverman) Knight (samples)
Since my overview, Soleilmoon in Portland OR reissued Wolfgang Reffert's 1994 Travelogue CD with new graphics and several new recordings (and the designation "II"). One of the original '94 recordings "Eject!" features two members of Legendary Pink Dots (based in Holland), and provides the connection to the Soleilmoon label, as they are the US home of most LPD-related works. A pretty spacey affair I must say...a better track than what I was introduced to via the Music & Elsewhere compilation where I first heard one of Reffert's purely solo pieces.
7. Darkstar (Pennsylvania, USA) - Dark Star
from Darkstar CD (1995) New Chaos US DS714
Nick Drake - Vocals, Tim Chito - Guitar, Bob DeGeorge - Bass, Michael Floyd - Drums
Well, the website seems to have gone dark, so I can only imagine that this local amateurish rock band from (virtually) my old hometown in western PA has either called it a day, or else didn't have the money to pay the monthly server fees. Whatever the case, here I offer what was undoubtedly their best original song from their lone CD release, entitled (you guessed it!) "Dark Star." They chose the two word version for the track, but the one word version for their band's name. Why not, I suppose.
8. DarkstaR (San Diego, CA/Germany) - Darkstar
from Marching into Oblivion CD (1996) Institute of Art Records GR RTD 397.0017.2
Dan Rock - Guitars/Sequencing, Siggy Blasey - Keyboards, Oliver Werner - Drums, Martin Iordanidis - Bass
Since last time, Dan Rock did complete the "Heart Of Darkness" CD and you can get yourself a copy through the website above. In addition, you can get a homemade CD-R version of the first album (Marching into Oblivion) which is where this eponymously-titled track appears on disc. The better of the two albums IMHO, the track "Darkstar" shows off the more laid-back side of Dan's excellent metal-ambient hybrid that he launched in the mid-90s following the breakup of Psycotic Waltz. A third DarkstaR CD is apparently in the works.
9. dark star (London, UK) - Gracedelica
from: Twenty-Twenty Sound CD (1999) EMI UK 497 2012
Christian Hayes - Voice/Guitar, Laurence O'Keefe - Bass/Voice, David Francolini - Drums
http://www.dark-star.co.uk now leads directly to Virgin's homepage so they've taken it down.
The London-based Dark Star (that was spawned by the break-up of the Terry Bickers-fronted band Levitation) have themselves now apparently split up. Guitarist/Vocalist Christian "Bic" Hayes is starting a solo project under the name Mikrokosmos, while drummer Dave Francolini is now involved in a band called Dragons from what I understand. Bassist Laurence O'Keefe was seen recently playing in the band Sofia when supporting Mogwai on their last tour. Here is the really cool blanga-space track from their one and only full-length CD, called "Gracedelica."
OK, there you have it... nine tracks from nine different homonymous artists (I swear - I did *not* make up that word!). "Mirror, mirror, on the wall... Who's the darkest star of them all?" I asked myself that question hypothetically to start off the earlier review. Now you can decide for yourself by having a listen! It should help you to distinguish the bands sonically from one another at least, and I've also put together this logo collage you see here to further help you pick them out from amongst the crowd...the crowd of albums in the used bins of your favorite store that is.
(Thanks to Dan Witt for some analogue-digital translation that has allowed
you to hear several of these artists today.)