Review: Astronoid and the Pitfalls of Having a Really Cool Debut
Most of what lured me into Astronoid fandom was the freshness of their sound, but the concept of sound-freshness diminishes quickly with subsequent releases. Can the follow-up to the surprise dream-metal hit of 2016 avoid being stale?
Air was an instant attraction for me; it took almost no parsing to realize that this new branch of gaze was something I had been craving. The self-titled follow-up has the arduous task of generating the same response without the cheat code of a being brand new sound. After my first spin of Astronoid, my spirits were dampened. The spaces between the memorable catchy riffs were larger, the average tempo was slower, and it seemed slightly less “metal”, which was a hard thing to justify to begin with. So I went back and forth from Air to Astronoid trying to pinpoint where the magic was lost, and in doing so, found some pretty stark contrasts that evolved my opinion on both albums.
Air seemed to rely a lot more on vocals to drive melodies, whereas the guitar stands out a bit more in this release. I think a lot of this has to do with improved production, where the muddled air-y effect drowned out some of the high-end previously. One thing in the production that hasn’t changed is the amazing punch of the bass drum and snare on the faster tracks. I find it to be a rare occurrence when so much of the emotional energy can come from the kit, and they somehow keep that magic going.
However, there’s a huge chunk in the middle of the album that rarely touches the soring and speedy highs they are capable of with that constant double bass onslaught. If you only want that version of Astronoid, luckily you still stick to “A New Color”, “I Dream in Lines”, “I Wish I Was There While the Sun Set”, and “Ideal World”. One of the stand-out tracks, “Lost”, sounds like something else right from the start. The intro reminds me of a slow Fair to Midland track that opens up to a very unexpected chugging riff. This slowed down version of the band isn’t as exciting, but in slowing down, you can hear a little more technicality and complexity at work, which is exactly what they needed to incorporate into their sound to keep moving forward.
Overall, the vocals still mostly same-y throughout (to good effect), but a few surprising moments, like in “Water” (I was assuming that would be the name of the album, but whatever) and “Breathe“ Brett Boland seems to have more range than I expected, and I want to see more of it. One major improvement is that there are no vocal moments that near the Circa Survive levels of indy-annoyingness that spoiled a few moments on Air for me.
So did they avoid becoming stale? Yes, but also I believe this next evolution isn’t complete yet, and that’s totally fine. I hope people give it a few chances since it may not connect at first, but with a little effort, you should see some payoff. Air prepared us for some cheap kicks, but this more personal album proved they are able to create more than just an interesting vibe.
4 Out of 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Astronoid is out February 1st via Blood Music.