ALBUM REVIEW: ASTRALBORNE - ACROSS THE AEONS
HYPERACTIVE AND INCANDESCENT US MELODEATH
Let us begin by setting out that Astralborne are through and through melodeath – that glorious synthesis of the breakneck velocity and guttural vocals of death metals spliced with unashamed, soaring melody. The band are from Ohio, USA though their delivery has distinctly Scandinavian DNA, the original bosom of this style.
Listening to Across the Aeons, Astralborne’s second record, there is an undoubted pledge of allegiance to the bellicose, muscular sagas of Amon Amarth or even the bombast of classic era Arch Enemy or In Flames. The opener, War Vessel, is immensely stirring stuff with heroic harmonies that would have Steve Harris rubbing his thighs. And that is just the very start of it, as this record ceaselessly haemorrhages explosive reach-for-the-sky melodies, flamboyant energy and iridescent songwriting.
At its most fluid, melodeath can be a liberating style. The sheer rousing impact of unabashed uplifting melody has a kind of guitar hero quality – a sort of ‘dance like nobody is looking’ impulse. Astralborne clearly do not care if you think a gallop is passe or if their compellingly heroic hooks could be on your airpods as you gallantly ride into battle. Their soaring tunefulness is unrepentant and, as well as taking their cues from the originators of the famous Gothenburg sound, there are clean transcendent melodies evocative of classic metal such as Maiden and Priest.
Astralborne do, however, defy accusations of corniness as they are embedded firmly in death metal foundations. Paul Fuzinski is the bassist and vocalist and his thunderous guttural mic delivery is formidable and gutsy – like the sound if a Viking warship had an engine (note from ed - at JT we do love a creative metal compliment). The band go heavy too: the blastbeats on Skybreaker for example are unreal and they nail the cover of December Flower. Across the Aeons shines with galloping glory and each tune interplays cartwheeling solos and hooks with driving battering-ram crunchy riffing. You are actually spoilt for choice with a fine collection of unashamedly melodious rampages accentuated by a crisp production.
If there is a snag, then it comes in the final third of the record. By that time, there are just so many ideas flying around – quickfire riff and tempo changes, bridges, molten solos – it is like the band have so much ammunition they struggle to contain it all. This is, admittedly, a highly harsh criticism because other acts would donate eye teeth for some of these harmonies; but it is almost as if some elements of this material could have been fleshed out in their own right given the high quality showcased. To reiterate thought that is perhaps harsh as the band's verve is undeniable and the nine and a half minutes of the title track hold the attention with a triumphant voyage of time changes, riff progressions and mellow passages. Across the Aeons is an indefatigable metal record that leans heavily on the past but sounds current and overspills with energy. With so many scene purveyors of melodeath meeting various fates and changing over time, it isn’t a bad time for bands like this to rejuvenate the scene that doesn’t just rely on slamming and roundhouse kicks.
Across the Aeons is released via Prosthetic Records.