Pick Your Rock and Metal

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Thieving your soul, begging for your ears & overall swinish rock behaviour - Astralnaut's latest aural assault

WE all love Astralnaut, don't we? If you don't prepare to re-evaluate as the Armagh-based five-piece release today (May 14th) their latest five-track ep, Thieves, Beggars and Swine - a monstrously dense slab of groove, stoner metal.

Easy listening? Not a bit of it! This is an intense journey through fuzzed-up, down-tuned guitars, rolling rhythms and just the right quantity of meandering around themes of past, present and future.

Following the release of the ep "In the Gaze of The Gods" it was always going to be a difficult task to top it's rolling intensity. But, on "Thieves...." Astralnaut have not only achieved that level of excellence they have extended their reach to achieve a maturity in their soundscape.

Thomas' vocals sound more impassioned, Gaz seems more prepared to wander around the traditional stoner lead guitar paths, while Pearse weaves rhythm guitar patterns atop JonJoe's solid bass thump and Stephen's drum stylings.

From opener 'Ego Eccentric'  to eco rallying cry of 'Mac Tire' it is immediately a compelling listen. The last chords of 'Mac Tire' echo classic Sabbath riffing, leading neatly into 'Neopium' and its devilish drone.

In many ways what Astralnaut have achieved on this release is a double linkage: reaching back to the ancient bogs of Ulster's dark spiritual days and bringing them up to relate to the modern techo-age; and, musically stretching the proto-metal of Iron Butterfly through Sabbath, via Cathedral, to today's  doom and groove rock.

Clark Phillips (Great Northern Productions) has mixed and mastered the right amount of aural backdrop to overpower the sound without overbearing vocals, guitars etc when necessary: a contemporary take on the drone/doom/stoner sound.
Bringing the metal!

Midway through 'Neopium' the doom-rock and slowed down section works as a counterpoint to the rest of the ep's groove heavy march, as Thomas lowers and lowers his voice with musical backing lowering and lowering ahead of a heavy rolling conclusion to the track, powered by Stephen and JonJoe, allowing Gaz and Pearse to hammer listeners into total submission.

Down will be casting look over their shoulder in the shape of 'Utopian Dawn', which might be the shortest track on the ep - clocking in at just under five minutes - but is by no means a track lacking in substance.

Concluding the set on this new release is the epic slab of 'Dethroned' in which there is 7 minutes 46 seconds showcasing the Astralnaut vision. Impassioned, virulent, challenging, and varied this is a defining track of the quintet's career so far. Merging the anti-war theme with such a sonically searing track is a perfect mélange of varying rhythms, musical excursions and vocal explorations.
Thomas explains to eager
audience why metal means
much more than X-Factor
Or something like that...

What makes 'Dethroned' and the rest of the ep so fitting is that the evolution of Astralnaut has not moved too far from the template of their previous releases, with even the artwork on this release harkening back to "In The Gaze Of Gods".

And, the evolution of the music is not so far removed that of "Gaze..." that the songs will not fit into a varied live setting,

Darwin's theory of evolution, and its further development by Dawkins et al dictates that evolution can be explained by gradual adaptations; incremental and appropriate steps in a 'journey'.

This is what Astralnaut have achieved on this release, an evolutionary step on the band's development, another increment that shows the talent in the five-piece.

"Thieves, Beggars and Swine" is not only a fine release from Astralnaut, it is a statement that the band are always ready for the next level, and we certainly can't wait to forthcoming tour dates to hear the songs from "Thieves..." emerge from the dank mists of the bogs like a primal beast to the sweaty, dank glory primitive live setting.

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