CORSAIR – “Alpha Centauri” CD EP ’10 (Private, US) – Funniest thing anybody ever mailed me anything in was a cereal box. And not just any old cereal box, mind you. It was a CD sent to me by a cat in Japan about 15 year ago. He’d packed that bad boy up in a single-serving-size box of whatever the Japanese version of Cocoa Puffs is. Here’s this yellow cardboard thing with an illustration of a bright-eyed Japanese child eating his wholesome breakfast doused in milk and on the inside was a recording of caustic black metal. Talk about false (but cool!) advertising! Anyway, it’s been awhile since a package gave me pause right as it came out of the mailbox. CORSAIR’s did. Now don’t get me wrong, this was no Oriental breakfast food, but when you’ve seen as many brown padded envelopes as this old soul has, it stood out. Basically it was a CD-sized object, but wrapped in green construction paper so bright I wasn’t sure if it was radioactive or just the product of an overzealous Irishman early for St. Paddy’s Day. Glued to the front was what seemed to be a purposely oddly-cut mailing label. My instincts immediately told me “These guys are different.”
Upon opening the striking parcel and playing it’s contents, I amended that prediction slightly: “These 3 guys and a lady are different.” CORSAIR are from Charlottesville, Virginia and are made up of: Paul Sebring – guitar & vox, Marie Landragin – guitar & vox, Jordan Brunk – bass & vox and Leigh Ann Leary –drums (Aaron Lipscombe took up the drum stool some time after this recording). The former 3 were members of a Black Sabbath tribute band called Mass Sabbath and being able to crank out the Tony-written riffs is surely a jumping-off-point. Believe me, however, that’s not the half of it.
“Alpha Centauri” opens with the instrumental “Skykrakken” and with it’s myriad changes, it serves as a sort of overture for what will follow. Beginning on a rawkin’ riff laced with harmony lead flourishes, it then segues into a groove worthy of Thin Lizzy’s “Don’t Believe A Word” before morphing to Sabbathy plunder just bathed in melody. Fellow VA natives Valkyrie come to mind in the rustic overtone here.
Without skipping a beat, CORSAIR advise us to “Beware, The Black Fleet.” This one starts on a heavy Southern rock-style crunch and throaty vocals that combine for an early Point Blank feel. Think “Free Man.” Yes, it’s that good. A way-cool rhythm shift points the way to a lead guitar trade-off where Sebring and Landragin each adopt clearly distinctive tones, just like Glenn & KK in the old Priest days.
If CORSAIR don’t have you hooked by this time, it’s now that they’re going to…and reel you in like the helpless metal mackerel you are! “Last Night On Earth” begins subtly, in the tradition of all the great dark metal ballads, with masterful acoustic work and vocals draped in feeling. A poignant tale about an astronaut bidding a final farewell to his home, it features a chorus so friggin’ emotional that the hairs will stand up on your arm. If that isn’t enough, however, the entry notes into the guitar solo are just beyond-ridiculous heavy and the lengthy lead itself gives a nod to the classic handed down by Tipton in “Beyond The Realms Of Death.”
Next comes “Space Is A Lonely Place,” obviously the next chapter in the concept of “Alpha Centauri.” Having it’s birth in a haunting, yes, spacey intro, it then explodes with a kick-ass Lizzy-styled riff, angling into a slower burn with more searing twin guitar harmonies. The individual soloing to follow is devastatingly plaintive, again alternating between a sharp Gibson bite and the sweet liquid tone of a Strat. Why am I thinking of Priest’s “Run Of The Mill?!”
CORSAIR bring their voyage to a close with the instrumental “Starcophagus.” Somehow, they manage to combine guitar lines that are both dazzlingly intricate and yet super catchy all in one impressive package. Again, I’m reminded of Valkyrie’s “Man Of Two Visions” here. The eerie spoken-word section at around 3:45 only serves to heighten the depth and mood.
Without a doubt, CORSAIR’s “Alpha Centauri” is the biggest out-of-left-field surprise of the year so far. But don’t think my admiration stops there. It may also be early 2010’s best overall. Now, where are those Cocoa Puffs? I’ve worked a hell of an appetite with this one! Highway Corsair