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Astra – The Black Chord

Rise Above/Metal Blade 2012
Astra - The Black Chord

Astra‘s “The Black Chord” is nothing short of a time capsule. A welcome blast of hashed out progressive psych rock that feels as though it came straight from the early 70′s.

Right from the start the band set about taking the listener on a blissful journey. One full of lush soundscapes, tripped out soloing, flutes, whirring organ-led space trucking and hypnosis-inducing melody.

It’s an adventure that would likely crash and burn if the band weren’t so instrumentally talented; but the lean nature of their playing meshes well with the grandiosity of their songwriting.

While their last full-length “The Weirding” did turn heads, “The Black Chord” proves it was mere flight preparations for the journey to come — that of course being this intoxicating retro-tinged voyage through the cosmos.

Full of enthralling peaks and valleys, smoldering riffs and enough weighty atmosphere to keep any Pink Floyd & Yes fan happy; “The Black Chord” just may be modern psych rock’s finest hour.

Whereas groups like Witchcraft and Graveyard have kept an earthen nature about them, Astra are truly an interstellar affair. Each song delivered drips pure artistry and engaging ascensive momentum. The instrumental interplay is euphorically dynamic and challenging, yet never gets in the way of the bigger picture.

Those without a predilection for psych and prog will find little enjoyment here. But listeners who are ready to move past the burnout boundaries of stoner rock; or perhaps even graduate from the more atmospheric moments of bands like Between The Buried And Me, may never come back down.

  • 1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars
    ( 14 votes, 4.64 stars )
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    • avatar
    • coolguy2424     March 29, 2012 at 3:05 pm

      Man, a record like this is the reason why God invented marijuana. The album cover for one is amazing. Song titles like ‘Quake Meat’ and ‘Bull Torpis’, forget about it. Chill out and enjoy a masterpiece of absolute sonic bliss. A record of this quality should not be made anymore but here it is. Early Floyd, Yes, Genesis, Crimson all collide into one massive orgy of sound. 5.0 out of 5 stars on this one for sure. Check out these cats other record ‘The Weirding’ too. It is just as amazing.

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    • Jarvicious     March 29, 2012 at 6:32 pm

      So this is a legitimate question, but: do I not do enough drugs to be entertained by this band? There’s not doubt the musicianship, arrangements, and overall quality is there, but I feel like they’re beating a dead horse. The reason this was progressive rock when King Crimson and Rush did it was because at the time, it was progressive. Cue Liquid Tension Experiment/Dream Theater, but remove the speed and agitation and add a healthy dose of Pink Floyd and schrooms.

      I hear Rush, Floyd, Jethro Tull, a touch of Led Zep, and even Stepenwolf (among countless other influences). I’m a fan of all these (save Pink Floyd. Bored) but I like them in their own right. When you take all that shit and mish-mash them into Astra, it just seems kind of contrived. Kind of like a bunch of 40 somethings who’ve been in cover bands their whole lives and don’t know how to write anything else.

      I didn’t vote because I really don’t know the band. Just curious.

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        • Jarvicious     March 30, 2012 at 8:59 am

          Like I said: it’s good shit, it’s just boring. Awesome in the background, but I haven’t been able to sit and actively listen to it.

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      • D. Ron Hubbard     March 31, 2012 at 9:42 am

        I agree completely. This band is oozing with talent but Jarvicious is right. They were probably all in cover bands and don’t listen to music written after 1980. I enjoy prog quite a bit, and this band is great, but dedicating your creativity to emulating the bands of old is like beating a dead horse, dropping acid, then lighting the horse on fire and watching the pretty lights flicker. Hard to believe wook gave this a perfect score.

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    • coolguy2424     April 1, 2012 at 5:14 pm

      I also forgot to mention that the guitar tone on this record is akin to that on ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’. Astra is too good for words.

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    • veil your eyes     April 2, 2012 at 5:52 pm

      checked this album out too, because wook has never steered me wrong.

      until now.

      except for a couple parts, i didn’t care for any of it. I am hard pressed to believe wook gave this a 5.

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    • adaptedtorment     April 17, 2012 at 12:39 pm

      I really dug this album. Yeah its retro but so are alot of bands currently (ie. The Black Angels, Municipal Waste). I wasn’t even stoned when I listened to it. Great thing about bands is that not everyone has to like them. I am usually not into what’s popular anyways. If you dig the more spacey BTBAM parts or dont think music has to always be modern then I would suggest checking this out. Reminded me of seminal Floyd crossed with Iron Butterfly.

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