When the genre of dream-thrash was first coined by industry types, a large portion of the response by devotees of metal was one of condescending elitism. Whilst the negative backlash wasn’t necessary, the scepticism voiced by some was somewhat understandable. After all, dream focused music manifests images of calming, pacifying and gentle soundscapes. On the other hand, thrash metal is predominately all about intoxicated slapstick ultraviolence. There was simply no way these genres could co-exist, yet alone amalgamate. However, lo and behold for Astronoid silenced all disbelievers with their 2016 debut Air. A record composed of wild fretwork, glacial shoegaze, blackmetal oriented drumming and soaring and ethereal vocals. The record perfectly bridged the gap between metal extremity and introspective and illusory soundscapes, providing a sound that was, and still is, mostly unparalleled.
As Astronoid prepare to release their self-titled sophomore release, many have pondered what a release would entail. For the most part, the record is a worthy and fantastic follow up to their full length debut, one that masterfully expands upon the genre-blending themes of Air. However, it’s also one that captures the maturing journey and process Astronoid have undertook since the release of Air. The record opens beautifully with the wondrous ‘A New Color’, an atmospheric journey of an introduction that see’s Astronoid fly through ethereal and introspective fretwork and dreamy ambience that eventually swells and releases into a triumphant, yet tasteful solo. It’s an incredible introduction not only to the record itself but to the overlying ambience and the musical stylings Astronoid have chosen to pursue with this record.
As the record continues on it’s journey, navigating through the lead single ‘I Dream In Lines’ and soaring through the dramatic melancholia and introspection of ‘Lost’, the differences between this record and Air only become more transparently evident. Whilst their respective full length debut felt like an urgent whirlwind of exotic and unique ideas, this record is more reserved, composed and contemplated. Gone is the black metal machine gun fire and the convulsing and savageness found in the group’s early work. However, this isn’t a criticism in the slight; given the circumstances surrounding this record, it’s to be expected and welcomed.
Astronoid have been open about the personal struggles and collective self-doubt they experienced during the creation of this release. Of course, given the excellence of their debut, it would only be natural to develop a sense of anxiety in forging a follow up. However, the record feels like a cathartic release for the group. It’s the sound of a band who have contemplated their approach and identity and have come to the realisation that they don’t need to mirror their previous content in order to express themselves. There’s an overhanging sense of wistful introspection that’s synonymous with the passing of time and the decay of personal youth, yet one that’s bittersweet and instantiates overcoming self doubt. It’s an album that perfectly resonates growth and evolution.
As the jovial and clean riffs of ‘Breathe’ led into the stirring yet subtle shoegaze of ‘Water’, it’s clear that Astronoid have taken the time to not only to reconsider their approach, but also to take risks that pay off masterfully. The record flies through valleys of melancholia and amongst peaks of confidence and clarity. There’s even sparse yet wonderful moments that reflect the bombastic intensity of Astronoid’s earlier work, with the blistering fretwork of ‘I Wish I Was There While The Sun Set’ and the explosive intensity of ‘Ideal World’ mirroring the extremity that was found prevalent in Air.
In all, it’s perfectly understandable why Astronoid would chose to self-title this record. It’s an album that highlights the skill and abilities that the group harness as well as showcasing their determination to experiment in order to truly resonate their ideals. A brilliant step forward for a band that still continues to surprise and inspire.
Astronoid is released Friday the 1st of February via Blood Music Records