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  • Astronoid - ASTRONOID
    on February 20, 2019 at 02:42

    ASTRONOID's 2016 debut record, "Air", was a dazzling effort that crept up on unsuspecting listeners, garnering a rabid cult following from those that discovered the band. With members of New England post-black metallers VATTNET VISKAR pulling double duty, ASTRONOID took the integration of shoegaze elements into black metal, popularized by acts such as DEAFHEAVEN, and turned that blueprint on its ear by leaning headfirst into the less abrasive side of that combination and embracing the sound's more melodic aspects. Beautiful guitar melodies from Brett Boland, Casey Aylward and Michael DeMellia and soaring clean vocals and catchy choruses from Boland melded with blistering compositional structures pulled from the proggier end of the black metal spectrum. The result was a diverse and exciting debut that stood out from the dozens of acts blindly mimicking well-worn sounds. ASTRONOID manages to avoid the sophomore slump on its latest self-titled record. A near-replication of "Air" would have pleased those already converted, but here the group has tightened the songwriting and shorn the more sprawling aspects of its previous record. It's also steered heavier into the more atmospheric post- and prog-metal aspects of the group's sound. There is still plenty of power and speed on display, but those outbursts are crafted much more carefully this time around. "A New Color" opens the album with a barrage reminiscent of "Physicist"-era Devin Townsend with Boland, Aylward and DeMellia all contributing with moments of glorious guitar-shredding, as Boland provides vocals that emote soothing ethereal melodic tones. The most immersive display of power throughout the record though is Matt St. Jean's drumming performance. As the band's harmonies lull the listener into a sense of dream-like hypnosis, St. Jean jumps in with precisely executed double-bass pummeling, lifting tracks such as "I Dream in Lines" and "Fault". Second-half track "I Wish I Was There While the Sun Set" sounds as gorgeous as its title implies, but St. Jean's performance elevates the song into something memorable. That's not to say that the rest of the band doesn't shine throughout the record as well. The triple-guitar harmonies of Boland, Aylward and DeMellia are beautifully layered throughout the record, with not a single note wasted in the effort to provide engrossing melody and push the boundaries of the shoegaze aspects of ASTRONOID's sound. There are small moments that cross over into Brian May-territory, most notably on the opening track and "Breathe". The trio is also adept at moments of crunchy groove-riffs on "Water" and album closer "Ideal World", which ends in a display that is a contender for the most dazzling wave of guitar harmonics of 2019 so far. Bassist Daniel Schwartz is also a very crucial piece of the ASTRONOID puzzle. His role in the band is probably what grounds it the most with post-metal influence; his bass lines rumbling thickly underneath on tracks such as "Lost". ASTRONOID's self-titled record does a great job of expanding the sound the band first began exploring on its 2016 debut, while also reigning in some of the more sprawling excesses. The final result is another great record on the melodic, life-affirming side of the metal spectrum. […]

  • The Door To Doom - CANDLEMASS
    on February 20, 2019 at 02:41

    CANDLEMASS is one of the most important bands in the history of doom metal. The Swedish group is indisputably a torchbearer, even more particularly with regard to its role in establishing the "epic doom" styling. Spurring excitement amongst the fanbase of a band that's been running strong three decades is quite the challenge, to say the least. However, a couple of points prove to be salient, newsworthy and intriguing from the onset and ahead of the promotional cycle of the group's twelfth studio album: "The Door to Doom". First and foremost, what's past is prologue as the man responsible for the iconic vocal performance on CANDLEMASS's monstrous 1986 debut, "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus", has returned to the fold. Johan Längqvist was technically a "guest vocalist" during that era, but as of last year, and now with "The Door to Doom", Längqvist has officially become CANDLEMASS's singer, suggesting that the relationship will be ongoing. His voice is just as powerful as it was on the band's debut, though more mature and appropriately employed towards the needs of each song. Secondly, fans have reason to rejoice about the new album simply for the fact that the godfather of heavy metal, Tony Iommi himself, contributed a solo to the track "Astorolus - The Great Octopus". In stark contrast to the manner in which some "stars" are enlisted exclusively for marketing purposes, Iommi's involvement makes sense. He agreed to contribute because he respected that CANDLEMASS has always acknowledged and appreciated BLACK SABBATH's influence upon its work. And, most importantly, he simply liked the song. For Leif Edling—CANDLEMASS's driving force, primary songwriter, founding member and bassist—Iommi's involvement is incredibly meaningful. "For me personally this is a dream come true. Tony Iommi has always been my hero and guiding light when it comes to heavy music, so to hear that he likes the song and also would like to play on it, gave me chills down the spine," Edling said via a press release. "Tony Iommi is and will always be God!" Iommi's solo, not surprisingly, hits the mark and makes quite an impact. It initially exudes an overt blues rock quality, obviously a root element of his sound, before morphing into his more characteristic twisted heavy metal approach. However, while it's more than simply anecdotal, Iommi's solo is a brief contribution that can't carry the weight of the album. Längqvist's aforementioned, soaring pipes work in tandem with the gargantuan, evil riffs, but they essentially steal the show, in terms of individual performance. The more over-the-top aspects of epic doom are dialed back on "The Door to Doom". Instead, the sparser presence of this quality proves to be more significant when it comes to the forefront as it does, for instance, when things come to a head during the chorus of "Death's Wheel". The album's only weak link is the acoustic element that is perfunctory at best but essentially lackluster. "Under the Ocean" begins with this kind of subdued approach before bursting with the kind of energy that so clearly represents CANDLEMASS's beauty and essence. There is something instantly gripping and captivating about the songs throughout. "The Door to Doom" finds the Swedish band in fine form, and with the reintroduction of Längqvist, it sounds as though the legendary band has at least another decade in it if it so chooses. […]

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