Release DetailsLABEL Candlelight
RELEASED ON 8/9/2005
The Astral Episode
posted on 11/2005 By:
Keyboard wizard Richard Anderson (Time Requiem, Majestic) has delivered the second effort from his Space Odyssey project, the space themed The Astral Episode. Fans will know exactly what to expect from an album like this, but for the uninitiated, a glance at the cover art will probably bring you up to speed. Progressive power metal with considerable neoclassical overtones is the order of the day, and all of the strengths and liabilities of the style are represented in spades. Anderson has assembled an impressive team of musicians, and although he is the star of the show (no pun intended), The Astral Episode is less keyboard centered than one might guess. The stage is wisely shared with a capable foil in guitarist Magnus Nilsson, who trades solos with Anderson with a dizzying proficiency. Nilsson also assumes bass duties, partnering with burgeoning drum talent, the 17 year old Andreas Brobjer. Finally, Wuthering Heights and Astral Doors frontman Nils Patrik Johansson adds his gruff, incredibly Dio-like vocals, giving the bright, clinical material some much needed heft.
Make no mistake, these boys can play. The lengthy compositions are bulging with sweeping solos and speedy runs that often overshadow the structure of the songs they support. Some will label them as self indulgent, but lets be honest, the shredding is what’s really on display on these affairs, so I’m willing to give them all the time they want to trade fret/key blistering displays of technical ability. During the verse and chorus sections the band usually slows to a beefy mid-paced but buoyant gait. The songwriting in these sections is varied, ranging from very respectable power metal to little more than trite place holders that mainly function as bookends for solos. During most songs, the band manages to include both the tendencies I’ve criticized as well as the ones I’ve praised, making The Astral Episode an uneven listening experience, although on balance the band gets it right more than otherwise. At the end of the day, it will boil down to the listener’s appreciation for this style, as fans will be forgiving of some of these complaints, whereas a general audience might not get past them. At its very best, The Astral Episode is a jaw dropping display of sweeping technical mastery, topped by the rare partnership of lower than usual, gritty, talented vocals. At its very worst (see the instrumental “Presence of Mind”), the album could be Muzak for a Star Trek convention. And although parts of album closer “The Seventh Star Fantasy” have a darkened thick crunch, the folkish tone of others brings to mind dwarves dancing around a mis-scaled replica of Stonehenge. But overall, The Astral Episode easily provides enough of what fans want for me to be able to comfortably recommend it to fans of the genre, many of whom will prize this highly.
Register to post comments.