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Released: June, Metal Blade
Reviewer: Alan Gilkeson
San Diego's Astra are a throwback to the 60's and 70's, and a step or two away from Metal, more in the vain of Pink Floyd and Yes. Both of those bands get a lot of respect in Metal circles so Astra are worth a review here, considering they're signed to Metal Blade, a label known for stepping out of the box from time to time. However, devastatingly long songs and a lackluster production spoil the party.
Primarily instrumental, Astra slosh through eight proggy tunes, all but three over eight minutes long, including a few elevens and even one that weighs in at a fatty seventeen minutes. We're supposed to get lost in the songs, but most of them are quite simple, probably meant for live performances where they can jam. In this setting the long length just comes across as boring and we wait for something to happen, but it's just repetitive. The production sounds muffled, especially the drums, like they're playing in a box.
Astra certainly have something to build on. My favorite spot being 'Beyond To Sight The Maze', the only eleven and a half minute romp that doesn't get tired half way through, and it has a great Pink Floydish vocal. They are talented and I love how they use the old styled instruments like the Moog and the Organ, especially the Moog which I've often thought makes for some great atmospheric songs in any genre. Their debut is a fine effort but maybe pulling in the reigns a bit will help the next album.
01. The Rising Of The Black Sun
02. The Weirding
03. Silent Sleep
04. The River Under
06. Broken Glass
07. The Dawning Of Ophicus
08. Beyond To Slight The Maze
Richard Vaughan - guitar, mellotron, echoplex, vocals
Conor Riley - mellotron, arp odyssey, organ, guitar, vocals
Stuart Sclater - bass
David Hurley - drums, percussion, flute, various noisemakers
Brian Ellis - guitar, moog, vocals
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