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ASTRONOID Astronoid

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Tuesday, February 26, 2019 @ 2:07 PM


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ASTRONOID
Astronoid

Blood Music




I somehow seem to have missed the boat on these guys, having only given a cursory listen to the Boston quartet's two earlier EPs and 2016 full-length debut Air. But far too many promos and not nearly enough time to sift through them all can leave one's attention span rather short, and if something doesn't grab it right off the bat, it's onto the reject pile and time to queue up what's next. And apparently ASTRONOID's earlier work didn't connect quickly enough. My bad.

This time around, however, fate intervened and a mid-January snow day in D.C. presented an opportunity to give the ever-growing backlog a little closer listen. And for once ASTRONOID connected from the get-go, and then some. I've been playing the band's second album whenever I've had the chance ever since, and have come to like it more with every spin, as it were.

I can also see why I was so quick to dismiss Air, etc., as the band's almost understated approach to its melange of metal, prog and post-rock comes at you from the periphery instead of leaping right at your throat. With Astronoid, though, there seems to be more of a sense of immediacy, and makes an instant impression with the double-bass rolls and cascading guitars that introduce the opening track, “A New Color”. And even though the song soon settles into a more ethereal groove under Brett Boland's breathy, disarming vocals, the heft and spunk maintain there presence the whole way.

“I Dream In Lines” flips the script, opening with a dramatic, if somewhat Spartan, sweep before Matt St. Jean's drumming breaks into a gallop and Boland and Casey Aylward's riffs rain down in sheets. The more expansive “Lost” never quite builds to a sprint, but its dreamy air is nevertheless punctuated by the jagged guitars that bob and weave in and out.

Pretty much the entirety of Astronoid is marked by these sometimes jarring, but meticulously crafted ebbs and flows. The deftly balanced songs provide enough bluster and dexterity to make a genuine impact, yet never undercut the soaring melodies that take full advantage of Boland's almost angelic voice.

FAILURE and QUICKSAND come to mind as a couple of bands that managed to successfully tackle a similar approach – and are certainly good company to keep. Yet neither was ever anywhere near as “metal” as ASTRONOID is here, which is what makes this album so exceptional.

And there are certainly some consistently heavy moments on Astronoid. The closing track “Ideal World” and “Water” are thick with big hooks throughout. And the bracing “I Wish I Was There While the Sun Set” borders on thrash as Borland and Aylward's grinding riffs and epic harmonies ride more of St. Jean's double-bass clatter – though they are, as always, tempered by Boland's almost hypnotic delivery.

Boland is the anti-thesis of just about every frontman in heavy music these days. He's not a belligerent shouter or emphatic warbler. He doesn't resort to calculating, good cop/bad cop gymnastics, crude growls, grating shrieks or any of the other standard theatrics. If anything, there is a new agey quality to his vocals, and with their even-keeled, consistent presentation providing such a stark contrast, it only makes the band's often turbulent music that much more evocative and effective.

Astronoid has proven to be a real eye-opener, and is the standout so far of 2019, early though it still may be. Now it's time to back and catch up on the band's older stuff to see just what I missed the first time around.

4.5 Out Of 5.0


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