What people say about "The Guardians"

Heart Of The Rock.com


Jack Starr - lead, rhythm and 12 string acoustic guitars; Shmoulik Avigal - lead vocals and all harmony vocals; Joe Hasselvander - drums, percussion and rhythm guitar; Ned Meloni - bass guitar and b-bass

Let me stress from the outset that I'm reviewing a pre-mastered version of this album, so the production is somewhat lacking. Having said that, I can't wait to hear the fully produced album. 'Under A Savage Sky', the new album from former Virgin Steele guitarist Jack Starr, is fantastic. If you enjoy the sounds of early Riot and Tony Martin era Black Sabbath then you'll get a big kick out of Guardians Of The Flame. Bugger Nu-Breed metal, this is what it's all about.
Jack Starr has surrounded himself with some very competent personnel, including ex members of The Rods , Raven and Joe Lynn Turner . Included is vocalist Shmoulik Avigal. What a monster of a voice. This guy has got the goods. Definitely influenced by the greats such as Tony Martin, Ronnie James Dio and the odd Dee Snider moment, Avigal puts in a top notch performance. I'll confess that I hadn't heard Jack Starr play before this album, and I'd read comments that he was a little sloppy at times. Couldn't find any of that on this album. Actually I'm very impressed by his lead technique and tone.
'Under A Savage Sky' delivers a number of excellent unashamedly old school melodic metal tracks. A medieval choir opens up 'The Flame That Never Dies'. When the riff kicks in you could easily be mistaken for thinking that you're listening to Black Sabbath with Riot 's Mark Reale making a guest appearance. Absolutely love it. Jack Starr's stirring lead intro to 'Conspiratos Sanctos' is proof positive that he's far from sloppy. Wonderfully melodic, it leads into Tyr era Black Sabbath riffing. Another lead break ushers in 'Masters Of Fate'. Dark and brooding again like Black Sabbath . Big chorus.
The Dee Snider comparison is most evident on 'Cry For Dawn', a hard rocking track that could have come from the first Widowmaker album. It's instrumental time with the uplifting 'Anthem For The Nations'. Plenty of soaring lead breaks and a strong Mark Reale type melody. 'Sharon Of The Wood's' begins slowly into a potent riff and memorable chorus. A strong Celtic influence comes through in the riff for the title track. A full on rocker and another fine vocal performance. Can't wait to hear the proper version of 'I Stand Alone'. It's got such a cool chorus and riff. Great song. The final track is 'Personal Demons Dethroned', which has an early Dio feel and a soulful solo.
As I stated above, I am very eager to hear the final version of this album as I'm sure that it will sound even better when fully produced. At present I can only go on this pre-mastered copy and, production aside, 'Under A Savage Sky' is an excellent example of what old school melodic metal was is all about. There are some great galloping riffs and the vocals from Avigal are fantastic. A welcome return by Jack Starr.
Review By: Luigi Cisaria
URL - Cult Metal Classics.
Rating: 9.0
Pros: Fantastic vocals. High quality old school metal.
Cons: Wish I had the mastered version. Still an excellent album though.
Track Time: 56:04

Metal Only.com


Carmina Burana, I wonder if Orff´s relatives still get royalties every time it's used? The album takes off without imagination but then routine takes over. Jack Starr´s time with VIRGIN STEELE, Ned Meloni´s bass-ing with JOE LYNN TURNER, Joe Hasselvander´s drum bashing in RAVEN and Shmoulik Avigal´s vocal practices since the days of HORIZON and PICTURE. The accumulated potential is enormous.
Album opener "The Flame that Never Dies" adds a wondrous RAINBOW with Ronnie James Dio-feel. Jack must fancy Mr. Blackmore but a lot of influences, including his own stuff, from the seventies and eighties are in the air. The fact that Shmoulik isn't all that far from Ronnie´s hights doesn't make things worse. The band is firmly set in the past the entire album, lovely. Why don't I bestow them a ten-mark then? Two of the songs finishes around the eight minute mark and that's a bit on the far side. The instrumental "Anthem for Nations" is long and sometimes there's a bit too much focus on the guitar albeit Jack's good in his trade. BUT... everyone that's into 80-ies metal will rejoice! All kinds of great vocals, "old-fashioned" guitars etc. , trade marks that every hardrocker likes. More 80-ies, only 80-ies, shoot, I'm drooling again.
Review by : Miggo
URL - Cult Metal Classics.

Behind The Veil.com


Jack Starr is a name that woke up a lot of good memories to the friends of the classic epic metal sound. The co-creator of Virgin Steele's first 2 albums (which are considered to be classics), after many years of abscence, strikes back with his new band "Guardians Of The Flame".
"Under A Savage Sky" in my opinion has all the qualities needed to an album to become classic as time passes by. You will listen to some extremely good melodies that will be carved on your mind. The vocals are exceptional and a great work has been done in the guitar section (we couldn't of course expect something less from Jack Starr!). An album that will bring to your minds the first 3 albums of RAINBOW, BLACK SABBATH's "Heaven And Hell" and of course the solo works of the divine "short" of heavy metal (Yes! I am talking about Ronnie James Dio!). An album that has personality and will satisfy even the most demanding. I've listened to it very carefully and I couldn't find anything that was done wrong or badly! I don't have to say that this release is a must for every metalhead who is proud of his collection.
Time, which is the biggest judge of all will prove if I am right or wrong. My congratulations to the "Guardians Of The Flame"!!!
Finally, it's great that such an amazing album was released by a Greek label!
Favorite songs: "The Flame That Never Dies", "Anthem For The Nations" (instrumental), "Under A Savage Sky", "I Stand Alone"...ohh fuck!!! Just let me tell you one last thing: This whole album kicks ass!!!
Review by : Nick "William_Kidd" Parastatidis
Rating :*9/10
URL - Cult Metal Classics.


GUARDIANS OF THE FLAME – Under A Savage Sky /Cult Metal Classics.

Jack Star of Virgin Steele fame is back with a new band and a new album that will bring memories of the 80s to our older readers and will teach a lesson of how classic metal is played to the younger readers.
To be absolutely honest I don’t like the fact that he decided to name his band after his biggest hit with Virgin Steele but I can’t deny that the music in the album is absolutely great.
The band is a fine example that you don’t have to be fast or super technical to release a good album. They are heavy, they have an amazing sense for grooves and Jack has written some killer riffs for the album. They have a vocalist who’s a true metal beast and the rhythm section is simply adding to the heaviness with their steady pounding.
The man is the living proof that if you have metal in your blood there’s no way you’ll ever forget it, it just comes back every time you need it and Jack has simply released a beast of an album of classic 80s American power metal. Fans of Virgin Steele and not only should invest with their eyes closed and without a second thought.
Rating :*9/10
URL - Cult Metal Classics.

Let It Rock - DME.com

"Under A Savage Sky". Cult Metal Classics 2003.

A fire still burns, and a metal master is back to claim his fame.
Jack Starr, whose first success lay with VIRGIN STEEL, kept quite a low profile since mid-'80s, yet his legend loomed larger and larger with every passing year. Now, given a chance by Cult Metal to cut another album, he called old friends, bassist Ned Meloni and drummer Joe Hasselvander having played in his BURNING STARR, to arms, so the return is glorious.
What may seem bombast, as signalled by the choir lead-off, turns out clever and dynamic, with no needless compression to spoil an attack and shoot down Shmoulik Avigal's vocal flight.
Don't go no further than the title track: stylistically speaking, there's nothing new to this classic heavy metal, yet who needs novelty with melodies so poignant in the opening "The Flame Never Dies" and magnificient in Gary Moore-ish instrumental "Anthem For The Nations" and energy oozing out of every guitar note? Scorching.
Rating :***3/4
URL - Cult Metal Classics.



Guitarist JACK STARR released 4 solo-CDs in the 1980s, and also was an original member of VIRGIN STEELE, with whom he recorded their first 2 albums, which were recently re-issued onto CD. Jack also recorded an album as STRIDER and BURNING STARR, but those were Melodic Rockalbums in the BON JOVI/EUROPE style. His real roots are settled in typical 80s US Melodic Metal which can clearly be heard on the new CD of JACK STARR, yes, you read it well! ‘Under a savage sky’ is a complete new CD of JACK STARR, with Jack on guitar and on lead vocals the long-time-lost-but-now-found lead singer SHMOULIK AVIGAL (who sang on records by PICTURE, HAMMERHEAD, THE RODS, HORIZON).
This CD is from start to finish high class 80s US Melodic Metal and will attract fans of the early VIRGIN STEELE records and of course JACK STARR fans. Especially opener “The flame that never dies” recalls of fond memories of the 80s classic US Metal style. Other highlights on the new CD are “Cry for dawn”, “I stand alone” and “Masters of fate”. This is an album that will attract all 80s Metal freaks! Also very impressive is the booklet, which comes with beautiful artwork and extensive liner notes, written bu Jack himself. The CD has been released on the Greek label CULT METAL CLASSICS, whom already released 11 CDs so far, which I hope to do a label special on soon.
Rating : 8.5 out of 10
URL - Cult Metal Classics.

Lords Of Metal.com

Jack Starr’s Guardian Of The Flame - Under A Savage Sky
Cult Metal Classics

Horst: About one year ago we published an interview with Jack Starr in LoM. In this interview the American guitarist – once with Virgin Steele – reacted one some statements made by Virgin Steele frontman David DeFeis in an interview also published in LoM (check our archives for all the juicy details). At the same time Jack also mentioned his new project/band: Guardians Of The Flame. Well, this band recently released ‘Under A Savage Sky’.
My colleague Ferdi asked Jack how this new musical adventure would sound like. Jack answered that he was very much in love with Metallica’s ‘Black Album’ and the stuff Black Sabbath had put out through the years, and therefore Guardians Of The Flame’s music would be something like a mix of those. Well, I guess it would have been enough if Jack had said that the album would be plain early 80’s Heavy Metal, for ‘Under A Savage Sky’ is no more and no less than that. Do I mind? Hell no, as long as it is done the right way I don’t give a toss about the fact that I already have heard every trick in the book that is done on this album.
It is a fact that Jack knows this brand of metal like no other. I even dare to say that this dude was himself responsible for a bit of development within this genre. And he doesn’t come alone, no Sir. He surrounded himself with some other guys who also are no stranger to the old shit. On drums there is Joe Hasselvander (Pentagram, Raven), and bassplayer Ned Meloni did some stuff before with Jack (Burning Star) and was also active with Joe Lynn Turner (ex-Rainbow). And to boost up the ‘old-boys network’ factor even some more there are guest appearances from UFO’s Paul Chapman and Mark Gallagher from Raven. But the biggest surprise where the vocals. I mean, as usual I had put the CD on without reading the biography first, but in no-time I was back in 1984.
February 11th 1984 to be exact, at the IJsselhal in Zwolle (Holland), in which the Aardschok-day was held that year. Our bus arrived too late, the pre-ordered tickets where missing, and only after some long discussions with the staff we could get into the hall, halfway the first band of the day. And that band was Horizon. Now Horizon was one of the few Dutch metal bands those days that actually had a great singer: the Israeli Shmoulik Avigal. As far as I can recall Shmoulik did a great job that day, and we all thought this band could make it big. Well, if I am not very mistaken all that was achieved was one lousy album, after which Shmoulik again left a band (before Horizon he also ditched Picture after one album) to get his kicks somewhere else. That somewhere else became the USA, where he started singing with The Rods. Now I doubt that that was very successful, because in the last 20 years I heard only sporadically news from both band and singer. And now he is back. With a voice almost the same as so long ago…
So, in essence we’re dealing here with dudes who should be able of delivering some cool old school heavy metal. And so they do. After the cheesy intro – ‘Oh Fortuna’ by Carl Orff, also know as the intro music for Ozzy gigs - ‘The Flame That Never Dies’ blows from your speakers. A typical mid-tempo headbanger which immediately makes the connection between old Virgin Steele with Picture vocals, with a traditional build-up, lots of guitar solo’s and strong riffs, the blueprint for a cool heavy metal tune. ‘Conspiratos Sanctos’ slows things down a bit, with lots of eastern melody lines (like Rainbow did years ago with ‘Gates Of Babylon’). ‘Cry For Dawn’ is a fucking cool up-tempo heavy metal tune (double-bass all the way, hell yeah!) with a deliciously long guitar solo, something which you don’t hear very often these days. In mean, in an age where too many guitar players are only riffing like madman this is really a treat for the ears. ‘Anthem For The Nations’ follows, an instrumental with some influences out of Classical music.
The next seven minutes are reserved for ‘Sharon Of The Woods’, but alas this tune is as weak as the title itself. A crappy tune that just does not work, and I got this feeling both singer and guitarist are each doing a different song at the same time. Luckily ‘Under A Savage Sky’ makes up for this mistake: mid-tempo heavy metal, supported by the constant battering of the double-bass, catchy guitar licks and a nice melodic chorus. ‘I Stand Alone’ is good for more than eight minutes of different tempo’s, breaks and lots of room for Jack’s wizardry on guitar. Next on the list is ‘Personal Demons Dethroned’, and this one reminded me a lot – also because of the ‘feel’ – of metal Iron Maiden produced on ‘Piece Of Mind’. ‘Masters Of Fate’ – again an eight-minuter – for the main part is rather slow, but never becomes dull or boring. The tune is well composed and full of clever melody lines and catchy chorusus, which invite one to shamelessly singing along. ‘Return From The Ashes’ puts an end to this album, but it does not impress me much. Jack is doing a solo thing here, supported by drum and bass, but it all sounds a bit too cliché, and adds nothing whatsoever to the record.
Well, I guess in the meantime you pretty much will get the picture when it comes down to the music on ‘Under A Savage Sky’. It is old school heavy metal, everything you hear has been done already, and if you are only interested in renewing kinds of music you’d better leave this album alone. On the other hand, fans of this particular metal niche should definitely check it out. And if not for the music, than certainly to hear Shmoulik sing some other tunes for a change than the good old ‘Rock n’ Roll Mind’ or ‘Message From Hell’…
Rating: 86/100
URL - Cult Metal Classics.


Cult Metal Classics May 16 2003

More than 20 years after ex-Virgin Steele guitarist Jack Starr helped define the sound that eventually melded into modern-day power metal, he returns with an album that could compete with some of the bands his old group helped spawn.
Under A Savage Sky, the debut from Jack Starr's Guardians Of The Flame, is steeped in straight-ahead traditional heavy metal with lyrics about "unholy alliances made in the dark" and "defenders of the realm". It sound familiar because these veteran players -- Starr, singer Shmoulik Avigal, drummer Joe Hasselvander, and bassist Ned Meloni (both early members of Starr's mid-80s band, Burning Starr)-- know what they're doing by targeting current power-metal listeners as much as longtime old-school metal fans. Stand out track "the Flame That Never Dies" even begins with a choir that recalls Rhapsody's recent symphonic-metal epics.
At their essence, songs such as "I Stand Alone", Masters Of Fate" and the title track, with anthem like choruses, heavy power chords and rousing melodies, will likely remind listeners of what drew them to metal in the first place.
Throughout the record, Starr's solos soar, and the two instrumentals that bookend Under A Savage Sky's other eight tracks sound as good as, if not better than, some of the songs with vocals. (Those would be "Cry For Dawn" and "Sharon Of The Wood", which come off stale and perpetuate genre stereotypes.)
Starr deserves credit for dancing along the fine line between remaining loyal to his roots and embracing today's current sound.
Many other artists have tried and failed to achieve such balance. What's more, with Under A Savage Sky Starr comes closer to Virgin Steele's original sound than anything his former band has released in recent years.
Review By: Michael Popke.
URL - Cult Metal Classics.

The Metal Observer.com

Cult Metal Classics May 16 2003
Isn't it funny? During his time in VIRGIN STEELE I could not stand the guitar play of Jack Starr. BURNING STARR I could not stand at all. And now JACK STARR'S GUARDIANS OF THE FLAME are there and "Under A Savage Sky" is in my player. And what should I say? I like it! Did he change that much? Not really, traditional Heavy/Power Metal of the Eighties school, somewhere between the European and American kind (although more on the American side) still is the law, but for some reason Starr's guitar play is less "annoying" to my ears and sounds more in the song than before. So that is maybe the main thing that works in his favour as far as my taste is concerned…
As said before, the music is deeply rooted in the Eighties, very deeply even, actually "Under A Savage Sky" could just as well have been released back then, but that still makes it not sound outdated (ok, some passages and songs do, I admit it). Maybe also because his crew is really tight, especially drummer Joe Hasselvander lays a great foundation for the sound of this troop that also has a powerful singer in Shmoulik Avigal, whose name I never had heard before, but who formerly apparently had been with Dutch PICTURE and THE RODS. He might not be the most elaborate of his kind, but with his power he fits the sound very well (and a good voice he has, too, definitely)!
Anyways, JACK STARR'S GUARDIANS OF THE FLAME (did he HAVE to pick such a short and handy name?) have a few damn good tunes in their repertoire, the quartet of "Cry For Dawn", "Anthem For The Nations", "Sharon Of The Woods" and the title track "Under A Savage Sky" is among the best four songs in a row I have heard in that style in a while (meaning the heavily 80s influenced material) even! Sure, there have been better albums overall, but those four songs alone are already worth it to get this album.
So how is the rest, you ask? Well, it definitely is far from bad, in the worst case it is solid Power Metal of the more American kind, but it cannot fully compete with the mentioned four songs (also because sometimes Starr's guitar sound that I do not like comes through as well, as at the beginning of "Masters Of Fate"). The cover art is also very much in the style of the genre and the logo, I think that TIERRA SANTA had used this kind of lettering before or at least a similar one, but I could be wrong, of course.
In any way, if you are a fan of the style and also have a certain affinity towards the sound of the Eighties, then I suggest that you check out "Under A Savage Sky", like I said, those four songs alone should already make you get your wallet out, so don't say you have not been warned! (Online July 9, 2003)
Review By: Alex.
Rating: 7.5/10
URL - Cult Metal Classics.

Heavy Metal Universe.Fr

Cult Metal Classics 2003
Here is the new album of the new band of guitar-player Jack Starr (ex-VIRGIN STEELE, ex-BURNING STARR) who gathered here some talentuous musicians like Joe Hasselvander (PENTAGRAM, RAVEN) on the drums, Ned Meloni (JOE LYNN TURNER, BURNING STARR) on the bass, and a singer called Shmoulik Avigal (PICTURE, HORIZON, THE RODS). The result is a very traditionnal music, some very well-played classic heavy metal which sounds like the good old 80's with cool guest musicians such as Paul Chapman (UFO) and Mark Gallagher (RAVEN) who come to make one guitar-solo each. Moreover, the solos are the main argument of this album that contains plenty of them, and even if the vocal lines and rythmics sometimes sound like dèjà-vu despite the excellent quality of musicians and singer, solos will probably attract the attention of the most closed among you. In spite of some tedious passages here and there (I stand alone, Master of fate), the album appears to be very pleasing, and it's quite cool to see that since the first listening we already have the feeling to listen to some classic album of the style, just as if we heard some old album found in an old forgotten drawer... the name of the label couldn't fit better GUARDIANS OF THE FLAME, and Jack Starr makes a very honorable come-back, good enough to make us forget the mediocrity of the three last productions of his original band (this last remark is only my own opinion for I didn't like the successors to VIRGIN STEELE's 'Invictus').
Review By: Seb.
Rating: 4/6
URL - Cult Metal Classics.