» Blog Archive Astronoid Skip the Sophomore Slump -
Evan Conway Hard Music, News, Reviews

Flash back to Rockstar’s Mayhem Festival about ten years ago. Every year I would attend this all-day event and the tour would cycle in newer bands to open the show up. Sometimes you’d get lucky and some memorable acts would come out of this touring circuit, and yet some years you’d get a band that was only getting their time to shine for five minutes. If you were lucky they’d return another year or go on to do another tour with one of the headliners again during the fall, but that was a rare case. Such is the worry I had with Astronoid, as I’d feared that their first album would be the peak for the band. What with their dreamscape-style atmospheres and adrenaline-charged riffing, it was hopefully not going to be a fluke in the system. That’s in the past tense, mind you.

Air is a modern metal classic and one that I have sunk many hours into over since its release. The glory that was their debut is a unique entity that can only be compared to a select few albums, and even then the “dream thrash” brand the band crafted was unique unto themselves. Following it up was never going to be an easy option, yet the band have avoided the sophomore slump and came back with a change to the formula. Astronoid is a spacious and creative album that cements a new image for the band going forward, and as such it pushes them into a more progressive direction that works better in favor for the band instead of rendering them a one-trick pony.

It’s apparent from the opening track “A New Color” that the “dream thrash” label is only an aspect of their sound. There’s a melodic, almost alternative rock aspect to the band’s sound now that’s coupled poly-amorously with post metal and thrash metalisms that would make even Devin Townsend turn his gaze in jealousy. I never suspected the conservative nature of the thrashers to take a liking to Astronoid, so them progressing forward and building on what Astronoid can be is a welcome feat.. Even still, through the opening track, there’s plenty of double bass sections that are reminiscent of the first that allow the band to explore – holy shit – dynamics.

After melodies and harmonies, Astronoid have captured the rises and falls of tide in sonic form to the best of their ability. “I Wish I Was There While the Sun Set” materializes the ebb and flow perfectly as it is the most typical of an Astronoid song, but that makes it hardly their weakest as they saved one of their big guns for the later half. Truly, every song rings true and doesn’t feel slapped on to add to the tracklisting. For having a busy touring cycle with the likes of Periphery, TesseracT, and soon-to-be Between the Buried and Me, it’s incredible that they were able to come up with such strong material in the allowed time.

Yet a gripe of mine I had with Air still plagues the band’s sophomore release in that it features one track too many. Not that they’ve any bad songs, but rather it’s just that I feel as both albums hit a crescendo or a climax in their penultimate track. Namely, “Beyond the Scope” is an appropriately dynamic, beautiful song with a tasteful collection of melodies – as is the closer “Ideal World” – but it almost feels as if the album ends twice. I understand the notion of including both and just putting 9 great songs out there, but still… Pacing, man.

That aside, the guitar work on this album is the scene-stealer. I feel as if the drums on Air really pushed it the extra mile, but with the layering of harmonies in the back and the thrashier rhythm parts create a soundscape of layers that, while aggressive, aren’t an audible beating you’d expect from this type of music. It’s not “heavy” in the traditional sense but there’s riffs and there’s melodies and everything else you’d expect from a metal band, albeit perfected to a “T” and chiseled away like Michelangelo would as he took to a slab of marble. No note goes to waste and each one leads into another in a beautiful, emotionally heavy work of art.

So, at the end of the day, it’s looking like Astronoid are among the next metal bands to stick around in the scene with this accomplishment of an album. It’s deliciously and tastefully constructed and dream like in its execution, and with more variety in the writing and a top notch production, the band have opened up a beautiful future for them that will surely attract people to their larger-than-life scope of music.

Astronoid is available everywhere on February 1st on Blood Music. You can view the video for “I Dream in Lines” below.

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