September of 2007, while waiting anxiously in the confines of Dublinís
Temple Bar Music center for the debut Irish gig of power metal legends
Blind Guardian, I was introduced to a Swedish support band who called
themselves Astral Doors. On stage,
vocalist Patrick Johansson is a Scandinavian Ronnie James Dio, with a
stage presence rarely found in a "support" band, and a voice
to match. Astral
Doors were a band who had a lot to say. Now,
with the release of their 5th full-length album, the band have set the
ball rolling, and it's heading in the direction of superstardom.
is not an album to be thrown aside with the hundreds of other power
metal albums released this year, it is something much more unique, much
more special. As
mentioned already, Patrick Johansson has a voice worthy of any classic
metal/rock release, but I must say that there is no better place for it
than on this album. The
band have always been a riff based band, something perhaps lacking in
many of their rivals in the scene, and yet again the power of the riff
is in full strength, as the title track kicks in and sets the scene
Within seconds of 'New
bursting into full flight, Johanssonís voice takes center stage, and
suddenly it hits home, just how killer this band are.
worthy of any classic Iron Maiden album, beautiful lead guitar work, and
a spellbinding dual guitar harmony arise, and a sense of pride and
relief spreads throughout my metal heart, as the realization that metal
now has a new light at the end of the tunnel sinks in. In
terms of songwriting, Astral Doors have branched out even further on
this album than in past releases, choosing to include references to war
and religion in their songs, and in the process creating a compelling,
and at times melancholic atmosphere.
takes the classic fusion of heavy/clean/heavy and makes it something
much much more. Some
reflective clean vocal work makes way for the head-banger
worthy riffing, and the fists held high chorus. Again
a dual guitar harmony is present, and I must say that I am not
can't help but think of British legends Saxon when I listen to
"Pentecostal Bound". It
has a bluesy, classic feel, without losing any of the speed and the
heaviness, which are such, a trademark to latter mentioned.
A somber mood is
adopted as 'Bastard
comes into play, the predictable, but wonderful, mid album power ballad,
which serves as a reminder as to how much Astral Doors have developed -
I can imagine thousands upon thousands with lighters aloft singing along
as if the words originated at the very bottom of their heart. The
high tempo is rediscovered on 'Waiting
for the Master',
a thumping yet melodic chunk of Power Metal, boasting the early
Maidenesque phaser on the clean intro guitar, leading into 5 minutes of
proper heavy metal, which can only make you smile.
On this track more
than any, it is noticeable just how well the 'New
is produced, it has easily the best guitar tone that I've heard from
these Swedes, with the balance between backing and lead vocals nothing
short of perfect. As
tempting as a Duran Duran cover would be, Astral Doors 'Planet
is quite capable of satisfying fans of Edguy, Iron Maiden, Dio
... I could go on. An
almost triumphant feel is present as Johansson and co pound through what
is perhaps the best song on this album, encapsulating absolutely
everything that one could look for in a heavy metal song.
riffs, solo, harmonies - its all here.
'Quisling' is indeed not up to the fast tempo of many of its fellow
album tracks, but that does not take away from a powerful and memorable
maybe a low moment on this record, but when you take into consideration
some of the gems which it is up against, it could be hit with a worse
favourite track of the album is 'Cold
there is any track that has it all, then look no further than this,
potentially a single, potentially a metal classic, either way one thing
is sure, it's a killer track. Guitar
solo work is at a maximum, while rhythm takes on a new live, complete
with a groove-laden fill, much to my delight.
'Gates of Light' takes on a similar being, a good, solid, reliable
rock/metal track, what more can be said!
great riff, and yet again, mind-blowing guitar work, a far cry from the
rather dodgy messing around on the 12th fret that many bands seem to
rely on. As
the album draws towards a close, things are only getting better, as 'Shores
followed by the closing track 'Mercenary
provide a triumphant and memorable ending to a perfect example of what a
power metal album should sound like.
emotion, all is present on 'New
and I can only hope that the worldwide metal community will wake up to
the new revelation that is Sweden's Astral Doors. A
debut USA gig shall take place at the Progpower festival next year, and
hopefully a return to UK/Irish shores will ensue in the meantime. Either
way, this is an album not be missed, ignore at your peril!
Review by Shadow Warrior