Evil Is Forever
posted on 3/2005 By:
In this scene dominated by blast beats, breakdowns and corpse paint, is there still enough room for traditional metal? For regular guys, who aren’t looking to disembowel anybody, but simply want to strap on a Flying V and slay a dragon or two? There is still room, of course, for quality metal from all genres, although few traditional metal bands have answered the call, and fewer yet are major players in the underground scene nowadays. Sweden’s Astral Doors aren’t likely to achieve metal domination this year, but should garner some attention as contemporary metal generalists. I don’t know about astral doors, but Evil is Forever should open some earthly ones for these Swedes.
Where Astral Doors succeed is in their ability to play a style that is quite obviously an homage to the metal of two decades ago, while managing to pull it off without sounding entirely dated or like a retro novelty act. Sometimes meat and potatoes tastes just fine, and that’s what this is—blue collar, no frills metal. Thankfully, the band eschews the flashy cockrock thing, preferring to bang out everyman metal in the style of early Dio and latter era Sabbath, although their musical lineage is easily traced back to template creators Deep Purple and Rainbow. Frontman Nils Patrik Johansson, also of Wuthering Heights and Space Odyssey, does a damn good Ronnie James Dio impression, even if his delivery occasionally has an oddly slurred enunciation. More impressive is his clean voice, which is used frequently and most effectively on the album’s glorious closer, the seven minute “Path to Delirium”, which sounds like the band's modern day answer to Mob Rules/Heaven and Hell era Sabbath. The band mixes up the tempo well, from upbeat songs like “Lionheart” and “Pull the Break”, to the broodiness of the title track and “Path To Delirium”, but most frequently hammer out mid-tempo headbangers like the Rainbow influenced “From the Cradle to the Grave” and the melodic “Stalingrad”. The musicianship is solid, with plenty of driving riffs and tasteful keyboard support. The band doesn’t completely sidestep the usual trappings of the genre, and there are moments that are a bit too cliché and/or dated, but to be fair, all genres have clichés, traditional metal’s are just more painfully obvious and lampoonable. “Time To Rock” is cool because it sounds like a 20 year old Dio song, but suffers for the same reason. Overall though, Evil is Forever is the album that you wish Dio released last year, rather than the somewhat lifeless Master of the Moon—and that’s high praise for this young band. Clearly, Astral Doors may be outside the lines for fans who don’t have a solid appreciation for the classics, but the band deserves a look for their doggedness in bringing forward a classic style with a contemporary honesty, rather than as a novelty.
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