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CD Review: Astral Doors – Astralism

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Although they have only been around since 2002, Astral Doors has a sound that belies their recent creation and hearkens back to the real roots of metal. Members of various bands at various times, a passion for solid, unpretentious heavy metal brought the band together and 2006 sees them releasing their third album: Astralism.

From the very first bombastic chords, it is evident that Astralism is ready to rock. Driving, distorted guitars, pummeling drums, a Hammond organ, and a vocalist who sounds so similar to Dio (especially from his Sabbath and Rainbow days) it is almost eerie at times, all kick the album into high gear. And from there it doesn’t look back.

Astralism is an album for heavy metal purists. Dark, brooding lyrics dealing with the physical as well as the metaphysical fill the album. But rather than just revel in the darkness, the songs do have a lighter side, a sense of striving for a better world buried in the lyrics. This is very refreshing to hear, as it serves as an excellent balance.

Every song is a balls-to-the-wall metal tune. There may be an occasional acoustic guitar here and there, but 99% is just begging for some head-banging. The music is hard and heavy, but with an emphasis on melody. The presence of the Hammond is especially effective in uniting the melodic elements throughout each song. Likewise, vocalist Patrick Johansson walks the fine line between wailing and singing, his gravelly voice giving a sense of urgency to the music.

Tracks to catch: “Apocalypse Revealed” is the closest the album gets to a real epic track, and this one is a winner. Clocking in at near 8 minutes, it is an excellent closer to the album. “Israel” effectively adds a multitude of voices, adding an emotional quality to the slower, dirge-like track. “Tears From a Titan” slowly warms you up with a Hammond intro before the songs really kicks in. “EVP” is a fast paced, driving track that starts the whole show off nicely.

Rating: 8/10
Astralism is a very strong release, and will surely appeal greatly to those who are fans of solid, powerful, classic heavy metal. The music is uncompromising, but nicely balances grit with melody. The Hammond is very prominent in most of the tracks, perhaps too prominent at times. Scaling the organ back and bringing the bass into the mix more would give the music just that much more power. Fans of heavy metal owe it to themselves to check out Astral Doors and their brand of classic/modern metal.

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