As much as Italian label Frontiers is well known for being a paragon for quality hard rock, it is always good to see the label bring something a little different out of the shadows of the underground and onto its considerable platform.
Sick N’ Beautiful is an Italian band that has released two albums – 2015’s Hell Over Hell and 2018’s Element Of Sex – two albums that are not exactly easy to categorise in terms of their style – anything from punk to alternative, hard rock to electro pop, grunge to industrial – and this may sound a tad messy and a band that does not actually know what it wants to be and throws caution to the wind in the hope that something will stick. The reality is quite different. Sick N’ Beautiful is a very focused act that is really about stretching the limitations of rock music and looking to explore and blend. And along with a very stark and visually abrupt image, there is no doubting as to how eye catching this band is.
The third album does fit the same profile musically and it is not to say that the previous two albums were bad in any way but Starstruck really does strike more of a chord with its sense of focus and leaves a glorious noise in its wake. Led by the visually striking Herma Sick (real name Greta Di Iacovo) – also of Frontiers all female group Venus 5 who released their self titled debut earlier in 2022) Sick N’ Beautiful goes for the throat as to their origins as to being “intergalactic nomads and performing our numbers for all species that we meet on our travels…” which does sound a lot more interesting in comparison to meeting up in a bar somewhere. As well as fronting the band, Herma is also a production designer so she knows exactly what she is doing in melding together sight and sound.
There is of course a ‘style over substance’ rabbit hole but Sick N’ Beautiful does avoid that and Starstruck is one of those albums that is eminently playable but one that does not reveal all of its glory immediately, it does take a few plays to be able to get to grips with the variety of styles. In fact, one its positive points is that the continuous plays drags out the details and brings the songs out. It is easy to miss the cool guitar solo on Pray Tell Me and how that knits with the keys. There is a lot going on, it is not that each song is the same and it is just a beautiful voice fronting it, there is very clearly a journey and places to visit with the album. Opener Tonight We Go To War is an ear basher, full on industrial assault which takes out the legs with the title track then handing out a bit of an extra kicking. What is to love about the song is that with its “Hollywood…” opening vocal line but then takes a very sinister turn on the chorus “Starstruck…fucker’s getting fucked…” is one to dive into the lyric book for. Drop It To The B is keyboard heavy and is another one where Herma’s voice has a delightful sheen which then moves around the staccato beat with a chorus that jolts and bounds around like the Duracell bunny on a particularly bad acid trip. This Is Not The End is a slow burner with some excellent moves on the different vocal styles and the drums (courtesy of Evey) are – no pun intended – out of this world. As much as Defy The Light sets the neck hairs on end with the vocals, the solo is so sweet that in context, every single corner has something in it to bring the song together.
To say that Sick N’ Beautiful is all out Industrial is doing them a disservice because there are so many styles that are placed together and shuffle around each other so seamlessly. Think Kiss or Rob Zombie, throw in some Lady Ga-Ga, Sick N’ Beautiful is all about the journey over the destination. For a band that makes all of their own gear and considering recent live images where there is no let up and the sparks really fly, this is a band rammed with talent that want to take it places and is not holding back as to putting on a show. Along with the album, the band crowd funded for an accompanying movie so the group are not just thinking big, they are thinking huge.
Starstruck is one of those albums that will stand the test of time because it does not necessarily follow any trends. Rather than a continuation, it does feel like a new beginning and the world needs bands that has the ambition and drive because therein lies the desire to succeed and bring quality. Call it ‘uneasy listening’ call it whatever you like but Starstruck is one of those albums that bounds over genres and makes it impossible to place a thumbprint on what it actually is – there is much to delve into and creatively its cup does overflow.