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Astral Bazaar - A Sudden Realization CD (album) cover

A SUDDEN REALIZATION

Astral Bazaar

 

Crossover Prog

3.70 | 8 ratings

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Matti
Prog Reviewer
4 stars The aptly named Finnish psych rock band ASTRAL BAZAAR have now released their second album. I reviewed the debut Pictures Unrelated (2018) last autumn, and I'm glad to inform that I clearly prefer this one. There's a change in the six-piece line-up: the former lead vocalist Koos Zevenhoven has been replaced by Ville Manninen who also adds percussion. Guitars are still played by three members. Despite the absence of keyboards, the sound is very juicy and spacey. The vocals are good too, definitely an improvement compared the debut. Often they have been slightly treated in the psychedelic manner -- you know, echoey, a bit like in ELOY's or NEKTAR's music -- but fortunately not quite to the point of becoming a nuisance. The basic colour of the voice has a dash of Guy Manning without the obvious Ian Anderson resemblance, or Lenny Zakatek (The Alan Parsons Project) without the similar sharpness -- and perhaps they're not very far from Steve Hillage either. But especially in the more delicate, 'tidier' vocal parts Manninen proves to be an excellent choice for the band.

It was actually GONG, the mid-70's era featuring Steve Hillage, that came to my mind when listening to this album. It's mainly for the laid-back, psychedelic, bubbling and echoey electric guitar style, undoubtedly helped by the occasional saxophones of guitarist Mikael Laaksonen, although of course he's not on the level of saxophonist- flautist Didier Malherbe of Gong. A psychedelic-oriented Pink Floyd reference is not totally out of question either, but that was more notable on the debut with slightly stronger blues flavour. This album is more "summer breezy", so to speak. Fresh sounding.

The opening track 'Food for Thought' functions brilliantly with all the mentioned features. If you like Steve Hillage's albums such as Green (1978), you'll surely enjoy the balmy guitar sound. On 'Lungs of Modern Times' the retro- psychedelic atmosphere is more dominant; towards the end the percussion and saxophone steal the show. 'Vincent's Dream' is a brief, interlude-like instrumental sounding like there were some synths. The group's diversity on handling guitars fully compensates the lack of keyboards -- and you won't even hear any heroic, wailing guitar solos, instead everybody's main goal is to serve the delicious overall texture.

'The Girl with the Purple Hair' is a nicely composed song with a retro feel, and it would have stood very well without the psychedelic icing, as a simpler pop / classic rock song, say something like WISHBONE ASH as their most easy- going. The hazy chorus on the otherwise mediocre 'Cops & Thieves' is enjoyable. On 'Dwellin' in the Apocalypse' Manninen shows his skill on the softer vocal parts, and frankly I would have preferred to have them in a more natural, untreated form on the whole song. The last track 'Behind the Narrow Door' is the longest (11:46) but also the messiest and the most far-out in the pscychedelic sense. Often it's the long track that makes the best impression on a prog album, but my interest starts to decrease a little at this point. Perhaps the psychedelic flavour becomes slightly too dominant on the album's sound. Here and there the basic songwriting would have deserved bigger trust. Recommended especially to those who like GONG and STEVE HILLAGE. Well done!

Matti | 4/5 |

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