Derek Walborn has been steadily guiding Ghostfeeder along an upward evolutionary trajectory, and although the industrial edge of past releases has been traded in for slicker and more polished production values, his songwriting and melodic sensibilities remain as strong as ever on 2019’s STAR BEAST. Having toured with the band the previous year, Julien-K members Amir Derakh and Anthony “Fu” Valcic assist on the production and mix of this record, which has undoubtedly helped Walborn to sharpen his own musical abilities… and he certainly has. Where STAR BEAST truly stands out from past Ghostfeeder releases in how much it embraces the melodic pop qualities of ‘80s-inspired electronic and synthwave – so much so that certain tracks take on an especially cinematic quality. For instance, the closing “Heaven” could easily play as the soundtrack to a neon-lit cyberpunk feature as the rapid fire arpeggios add a subtle urgency to the slow burn of the verses, the chorus erupting into an anthemic release of harmonious synth and vocal layers; with rebellious lyrics and shimmering guitars, the song is only surpassed by the earlier “Gunfire Light,” the handclaps not only evoking the primitive drum machines of the ‘80s, but also the “gunfire” of the title, while the crooning and rhythmic guitars amid pulsating atmospheres and poignant lyrics like “As long as you die saying you were right” would help the song fit right in on an episode of Miami Vice. The same can be said for the instrumental title track, on which icy keyboard and guitar lines with some reverberating percussive effects make for a celestial ambience. Throughout STAR BEAST, Walborn’s subtle incorporation of electronic effects on his already excellent vocal performance add to the robotic sonic environment of the album, his sense of pop-friendly melodies remaining a high point of Ghostfeeder’s sound. Ultimately, while this writer’s taste for synthwave has long since waned to such a point that it was difficult not to notice stylistic similarities to other luminaries of the genre like Power Glove and Scandroid, STAR BEAST is regardless an excellent evolutionary step forward for Ghostfeeder as the hallmarks of effective songwriting and strong production values are ever present. If Walborn can strike a balance between these qualities with the grittier aspects of his past work, Ghostfeeder’s next outing could mark the artist’s creative pinnacle.