This is one of those albums that just makes you go “oh boy” and we really should have written about it earlier. Astres was released on May 24th via I, Voidhanger Records and when I finally got around to listen to it, it blew my mind. At its core, it’s a black metal album and quite an old-fashioned one for that; the main riff which kicks off the opening track, “As He Runs Towards the Sun”, should set your second wave meter flying, especially when combined with the frostbitten vocals and the steady drums banging off in the background. But if you keep listening, you’ll find an album which introduces wide-ranging influences from heavy metal to progressive rock, baking them right into the mix of the black metal onslaughts. Yeah, I said progressive rock. Don’t believe me? Let’s head on down for a listen.
“As He Runs Towards the Sun” already has some interesting stuff; if you tune into the middle of the track, you’ll hear some galloping bass and more melodic riffs that justify that heavy metal reference above. But it’s at the middle of the second track, “Entering the Domain of the Solar Sovereign” (is this by chance a Book of the New Sun reference?) where things get really interesting. There’s a break in the black metal and the guitars and bass start strumming this decidedly King Crimson-esque riff. The drums follow suit, creating a magnificent groove. The secret to the track’s cohesion is in the production. The tones are like cousins to those used on the black metal portions of the album. This, combined with clever song-writing and track structure, makes everything work. The more progressive segment ends with a build up which sends us into a magnificently vibrant solo, setting up the return of the heavier riffs after a more quiet segment filled with mysterious voice overs. These, accompanied by star-death level synths, turn into an abyssal growl which ushers in a proto-doom riff, slowly bringing the track to its epic closing.
And just like that, Epectase pull of a series of transitions which would be impossible for other bands. The massive tracks (the shortest one is almost eleven minutes) just flow in these really cool ways, channeling production, style, and gesture to create a cohesive album from a bunch of disparate and non-standard influences. Seriously, there’s psychedelic rock, progressive rock, heavy metal, proto-doom, and black metal on this album and somehow, somehow, it’s not fatiguing and overwhelming? It all comes down to those clever choices of how to connect things, how to make the ideas flow into each other by relying on mood rather than technique, always barreling down the same kind of ideas and sound but from different directions. This creates a truly unique album that you simply have to experience for yourself.
Get to it.