Almost every day, this page is filled with bands that bring negativity, violence, and unrest because, let’s face it, so much of the metal world provides that very content. This will be one of the handful of days where we’re going to look at something more positive, music that won’t make you want to throw yourself in an icy bank until wolves come to eat you.
Two years ago, Boston-based prog metal band (that doesn’t even come close to describing them) burst into the public with “Air,” a record that combined black metal melody, exciting playing, and some of the most energetic singing anywhere in metal. The music actually got inside of you and made you feel good. There was a positivity and exuberance to the record that, yeah, TRVE KVLT bros whined about on the internet because it wasn’t PURE BLACK FUCKING METAL, but those not tied down by such silliness found music that could make your heart race. They’re back with their second helping, a nine-track, self-titled affair, and while the music doesn’t race toward the sun with quite the same intensity as, say, “Up and Atom,” there is some merit in pulling back a bit, showing even more texture, and keeping you guessing all the same. The band—vocalist/guitarist Brett Boland, guitarist Casey Aylward, bassist Daniel Schwartz, drummer Matt St. Jean—focus on overcoming self-doubt and pouring oneself into art, a far cry from morbidity and chaos, but definitely a needed breath of fresh air in a world that can be utterly degrading.
“A New Color” starts the record by practically lighting up, building its intensity and unleashing strong singing. Much of the song feels like a long-running verse that weaves, rises, falls, and bursts again. Prog-friendly soloing arrives, with Boland calling, “The hope will lead us on,” as the track burns to an end. “I Dream in Lines” follows and is the ideal partner to the opener, as the riffs are a little darker, the song moodier, as Boland realizes, “If I follow, find the words to the story I’m telling, I’ll be fine.” Much of the song is told through a portrait, with a great chorus that brings the song to its end. “Lost” drips into a fog, as the track settles in a slower tempo, letting things darken a bit. But then atmosphere rushes, while much of the song is gazey and colorful, with the band end picking up and rumbling, cutting through rock. “Fault” has icy synth and a frosty haze before the song gets going, feeling a bit like a more recent-era Rush song. Later on, the track lands heavier blows, the soloing stings, and things end in a blistering echo.
“Breathe” swelters as it starts, with Borland urging, “Breathe in, breathe out,” as the energy bubbles over, and the infectious melody gets inside your bloodstream. “Water” is shadowy at the start, with a crunchy tempo and the synth floating like clouds. The track itself is a little non-descript, probably the least characteristic of the bunch, but perhaps it’s just a grower. “I Wish I Was There When the Sun Set” has a massive opening, like lava blazing to the surface, as the drums punch holes in the ground, and a strong chorus is constructed simply but effectively. St. Jean’s drumming remains the main engine of the song, a bit of a change-up for the band, which is a nice switch to the formula, as the band agitates the fires right to the crushing end. “Beyond the Scope” is heavily electronic at the start, but just when it seems they’ve fallen into a modern rock trap, they break out and inject power into the track. The vocal melodies are strong as hell, which is no surprise, with the final moments settling into a mid-tempo before ending suddenly. “Ideal World” closes the book with a sludgy pace and fog collecting before the drums pound again, and the band unleashes a thrashy assault you won’t see coming. This is easily the heaviest song on the album, as the band lets the final sparks fly before dissolving into the sky.
It took me a long time and years of therapy to realize it’s OK to feel good, and it’s perfectly acceptable to try to overcome one’s darkness, a lesson Astronoid smear all over their second record. It isn’t quite the instant burst that was “Air,” and I’m still feeling my way through it, but they remain true to their sound, their detractors be damned. Nothing can get in the way of Astronoid’s ascension, and it feels like they’re starting to scratch the surface of what they’re capable of doing.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/astronoidband/
To buy the album, go here: https://www.blood-music.com/store/
For more on the label, go here: https://www.blood-music.com/