Welcome to Heavy Blog is Heavy’s feature, “The Anatomy Of.” Taken from the Between The Buried And Me album of the same name, in which the band pays tribute to artists/bands that they feel have most inspired their songwriting, “The Anatomy Of” allows us to hand off the metaphorical microphone to bands so they can talk about their influences. Read more entries from this series here.
We have (along with the rest of our niche of the community) been singing the praises of Astronoid for quite some time now. If you’ve never run into the name, imagine what would happen if you take a dream and then crash-landed it into a thrash metal concert. The guitars go fast, the drums blast away but the vocals are clean and soar high above the music. In composition as well there is a marked style, a bright, lazy, honey-slow drip that just pulls you right in. It’s like a hot, summer day when you were a child and the hours drew out in the long, dark tea time of the soul (as one Douglas Adams puts it) into a pastiche of nostalgia, fear, hope and dreams.
What goes into such a broth? How does a band like this come to be, seemingly emerging from nowhere to revolutionize what we thought was possible within the somewhat stale confines of thrash? Instead of speculating, hear it from the band themselves! We reached out just after our interview and asked the band our fateful, Anatomy Of question: what made you the musicians that you are today? More specifically, which musicians contributed to how you write, think and perform music? Below you can find styles ranging from progressive pop to Norse metal and much in between. Blast Air in the background and get ready to dive into what makes Astronoid tick.
Devin Townsend – Ocean Machine
Brett Boland (guitar/vocals): This album was a huge turning point for me. I have been listening to Strapping Young Lad for a long time and always loved their ferocity and energy. Friends kept telling me that I had to listen to Devin’s solo stuff, but I never gave it the proper shot. I bought Addicted and really enjoyed it, but it didn’t suck me in. Off of a friends recommendation I listened to Ocean Machine and it finally clicked. “Seventh wave” was all I needed. This album became an enormous inspiration to me. There is so much emotion in the songs. The album has such a nice flow and the songwriting is amazing. What really captivated me about the album is his vocal performance. The vocals are sung with such character and they convey the feeling of the song so perfectly.
“Funeral” is a perfect example. The song ebb and flows and brings you on a journey. The vocals suck you in. After I bought this album I bought every album. In about a month I had every Devin Townsend CD, DVD and SYL album. They all had a different effect on me and my songwriting and he was all I listened to for months. The epicness of his music, with the sometimes subtle and other times in your face progressiveness, and just incredible songwriting gave me something to strive for when writing myself. He was a huge inspiration to keep going the path that we chose. He writes whatever he wants. Metal, pop, a concept album about a dude on the moon chasing a radio inspired by Johnny Cash. He gave me the confidence to go with my gut, no matter what other people may think about the music, and write an album that we wanted.
Favorite tracks: “Seventh Wave”, “Funeral”, “Bastard”
Mew – No More Stories Are Told Today, I’m Sorry They Washed Away // No More Stories, The World Is Grey, I’m Tired, Let’s Wash Away
Brett Boland (guitar/vocals): I don’t think that this is my favorite Mew album, but it had the most influence on my writing for Air. What I love about this album so much is the way the vocals were written and treated in the mix. The way that the album opens is one of the most interesting things about it. From what I hear, the vocals were sung backwards, and then reversed in the mixing process. This is no easy task. It is such an interesting and haunting introduction to the album. It inspired me to mix the vocals in a way that would further add to the message of the music. What I also love about this album, and Mew in general, is his rhythmic and melodic vocal lines. The vocal melody is independent from any other melodic line in the music. They stand alone rhythmically and melodically. They also change from verse to verse. The vocals are so diverse over the record. They keep the listener engaged by changing things slightly as the song progresses and then bring something familiar back to grab the listener again. There are so many brilliant things about their band. Their use of rhythm and syncopation throughout their albums are so different than anyone else. They are a band that continues to inspire me differently each time I listen to them. All their albums offer something different to the table and I love them all. They are all so diverse and trying something different and new.
Favorite Tracks: “Repeaterbeater”, “Hawaii”, “Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy”, “Introducing Palace Players”
Cynic – Carbon Based Anatomy
Brett Boland (guitar/vocals): This EP was a pivotal release for Cynic. They stopped screaming, and focused on their atmosphere and songwriting. This was the release that I wanted from them after Traced in Air. I am in love with Paul Masvidal’s vocals. He is also such an amazing guitar player. Sean Reinert’s drumming is phenomenal and ties all the parts together. Reinert plays melodically and adds more to the songs than just a backbone. His playing is fluid and dynamic and he plays only as much as he has to. What is so cool about this album is what they decided to leave out; their use of space. There is rarely a lot going on which makes you really listen to the individual parts. The orchestration and layering to create the atmosphere is extremely intricate. Nothing in particular jumps out at you unless it was meant to. The songs are beautifully woven together and have a similar vibe to them. I wish this album was longer, but it wouldn’t have been the same if it had been. “Elves Beam Out” in particular had a big impact on me. The listeners focus is on the drums and vocals, with the guitars just creating an atmosphere. The vocal line is also particularly interesting and draws you in. As the song builds, it’s landscape gets more dense and intricate. This drove me to try to create a sense of atmosphere in simpler ways than just layering 100 riffs together, and also helped me with the mixing process. Less is more sometimes.
Favorite Tracks: “Elves Beam Out”, “Carbon Based Anatomy”
Alcest – Shelter
Dan Schwartz (Bass): Alcest has been a big influence on Astronoid from the very beginning. If I were to pick my favorite album it would probably be Ecailles de Lune, but the most important album to the development of Air for me was Shelter. When they released the song “Opale” I was absolutely blown away. Such a beautiful and uplifting track. I’m pretty sure I listened to it ten times in a row the day it came out. It was abundantly clear that it was going to be one big beautiful shoegaze album, which is something I’ve always wanted to hear them do. The album came out, and that’s exactly what I got. I just love the atmospheric textures. It’s a perfect album for daydreaming on a sunny day. That’s something that I know I wanted to capture with Air. I also love that it was recorded at Sundlaugin Studio since I’m also a huge Sigur Ros fan. I think my favorite track on the record is “Into the Waves” which is only on the deluxe edition surprisingly. It is also another very uplifting song. I love the contrapuntal guitar lines. That’s what really hooks you in and carries you away.
Favorite tracks: “Opale”, “Shelter”, “Délivrance”, “Into the Waves”
Steven Wilson – The Raven that Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)
Dan Schwartz (Bass): I wasn’t always a big Steven Wilson fan. Thanks to Opeth, I’ve always had a tremendous respect and appreciation for his work, but his solo stuff never grabbed me, until this album. Raven is an absolute masterpiece. Everything about it is perfect. The performances and the players are unreal. Guthrie Govan’s solo in “Drive Home” might be my all time favorite guitar solo, such beautiful lines and phrasing, and of course Marco Minnemann is amazing. The mix sounds unbelievable, and I expect nothing less from him in that respect. However, I think the most amazing part of this album is the songwriting. Each piece tells a story with such vivid execution and detail. These stories evoke such emotional responses. He is a master of form and composition. I try to do the same with my writing, and I hope to explore more complex forms in the future. The best part about this album is that it finally clicked for me, and now I love his whole catalogue.
Favorite tracks: “Drive Home”, “The Watchmaker”, “The Raven that Refused to Sing”, “The Pin Drop”
Other albums we could not stop listening to: