Testament of Rock - The Best of Astral Doors
posted on 1/2011 By:
Sweden’s Astral Doors was founded with the stated purpose of revisiting and reviving the trad-metal sounds of Dio, Rainbow, post-Ozzy Black Sabbath, et al. And that sums up their sound in more succinct fashion than any more-verbose description I could give. I’ll admit that, at first, I was a bit dismissive of Astral Doors, finding them little more than a competent but not compelling rip-off of all things Ronnie James. But in listening further, I’ll also admit that I was wrong, a bit off-base—sure, it’s Dio-tastic in every way, from the vocals to the riffs to the epic melodies to the dragon art, the whole deal, but it’s a respectful homage, and either way, this best of it is done with such undeniably grin-inducing skill that I simply can’t not like it.
Vocally, Nils Patrik Johansson (also of Wuthering Heights) is what would happen if Ronnie James Dio and Cher had a baby—at times, he’s a dead ringer for the Demon Dwarf, but he also has that marble-mouth, back-of-the-throat slur that characterizes Cher’s delivery. His leathery bluster is the primary factor in the band’s homage, but it’s far from the only thing that ties Astral Doors to their influences—the vast majority of these riffs and melodies are straight-out Holy Diver / Headless Cross. Astral’s later attempts at a more streamlined, slicker sound (mostly those tracks from 2007’s New Revelation) exhibit more “power metal cheese”-styled sonics, but even those are grand, and with nary an outright clunker, Testament Of Rock does, in fact, rock.
Tunes like the opening “Cloudbreaker” and the stomping chorus to “Time To Rock” show the band at their best—the tracks from their first two records (2003’s Of The Son And The Father and 2005’s Evil Is Forever) dominate the playing order, with a full half of the record. The remainder includes remixed versions of two tracks from 2006’s Astralism, two from Revelation, and two from last year’s Requiem Of Time, plus one previously unreleased number “Victory,” which is among the weakest tunes on hand. Those earliest tracks are the best on hand—more spirited, less pompous than later offerings, with the mid-tempo “Of The Son And The Father” and the fantasy-themed “Slay The Dragon” as highlights.
As with all best-of collections, Testament Of Rock is a great place to start with Astral Doors, and it showcases the band’s sound and talent effectively. Die-hards will undoubtedly lament the absence of certain tracks and the inclusion of others—such is the nature of the beast. Astral Doors is a good band, if not an original one; they are shamelessly in debt to some great bands, but in the absence of those influences, this Testament will do nicely enough, I suppose.
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