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THE WEIRDING

Astra

Psychedelic/Space Rock


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Astra The Weirding album cover
3.90 | 234 ratings | 29 reviews | 34% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection


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Studio Album, released in 2009

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Rising Of The Black Sun (5:44)
2. The Weirding (15:27)
3. Silent Sleep (10:41)
4. The River Under (8:41)
5. Ouroboros (17:23)
6. Broken Glass (3:45)
7. The Dawning Of Ophiuchus (5:29)
8. Beyond To Slight The Maze (11:36)

Total Time: 78:46

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Richard Vaughan / guitar, mellotron, echoplex, vocals
- Conor Riley / mellotron, arp odyssey, organ, guitar, vocals
- Stuart Sclater / bass
- David Hurley / drums, percussion, flute
- Brian Ellis / guitar, moog, vocals

Releases information

CD Rise Above RiseCD120P (2009 UK)

Thanks to Rivertree for the addition
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WeirdingWeirding
Metal Blade 2009
Audio CD$8.04
$8.03 (used)
Black ChordBlack Chord
Metal Blade 2012
Audio CD$9.27
$5.56 (used)
Broken BalanceBroken Balance
Scarlet Records 2014
Audio CD$7.58
$7.99 (used)
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ASTRA The Weirding ratings distribution


3.90
(234 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(34%)
34%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(42%)
42%
Good, but non-essential (18%)
18%
Collectors/fans only (3%)
3%
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)
2%

ASTRA The Weirding reviews


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Rivertree
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Psych/Space Team & Band Submissions
4 stars ASTRA are a new promising San Diego/California situated band deriving from a psych/space basis - although they are not exclusively reduced on this and implement heavy rocking and symphonic impressions. The songs evolve in a quite varied and interesting manner and you will detect some nice references to bands which must have influenced the ASTRA crew. My preference is the lush mellotron and organ appearance which makes out the most significant aspect for me to say that this sounds retro ... everything but a negative tag to make it clear.

Now they have their debut out in May 2009 on a UK label, containing 8 songs with a total length of nearly 80 minutes. This is alternating between relatively short and extended pieces which are clearly crossing the ten minute mark. Worked out like a concept album 'the main themes are death, introspection and contemplating what lies beyond' (Richard Vaughan). The instrumental opener The Rising Of The Black Sun offers intense spacey impressions first and then changes to a rocking guitar dominated behaviour - just to prepare for The Weirding as the first album highlight. The title song is showing all the band's qualities at once: sensitive guitar work - melancholy and melody ... and you're even invited for singing along, Pink Floyd inspired here and offering Black Sabbath impressions there reflecting a heavy rocking attitude - this is all directed by the mellotron and later followed by a wonderful floating spacey jam. Great one!

Afterwards the band navigate through gentle territories with Silent Sleep - flute contributions included by drummer David Hurley by the way - before the next highlight Ouroboros takes off. The album's longest track - instrumental once again - comes up like a symphonic suite so to say. Well thought out for the skeleton - however improvised at most I assume, obviously reflecting a joy of playing. The ethereal Broken Glass shows another facet - acoustic guitar and vocal harmonies are expressing a slight folksy pop-appeal. The closing Beyond To Slight The Maze is another example for combining psychedelic and symphonic elements with floydy leanings where I first of all like this tension-filled repetitive keyboard dominated interlude which reminds me of the german band Eloy.

I wished they would have included their song 'Cosmic Wind' too ... like it very much because of the intriguing spacey behaviour. Now it's planned to release a 7'' though what I know containing their early demo songs. 'The Weirding' is a convincing effort. As for the stylistical relations ASTRA don't define something totally new - quite impossible and therefore unfair to require this from every newcomer which appears on the scene I would say. The only weak point is that the sound quality is somewhat flat as for my sentience ... at least applying to my promo. Anyhow - the band have produced a consistent album which is really enjoyable and will not fade from my memory so fast. I can only recommend to check this out.

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Send comments to Rivertree (BETA) | Report this review (#216240) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, May 16, 2009

Review by Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars For their first album, The Weirding, by prog standards at least Astra have been receiving a fair amount of publicity and hype in certain music magazines with some high profile advertising and favourable reviews. The question is it well deserved immediately springs to mind? Well to a large extent yes.

From the excellent Roger Dean inspired sleeve this album screams prog. Don't be expecting anything like Yes or even Greenslade though to name 2 bands who Dean designed covers for though. What you get is late sixties/early seventies inspired psychedelic prog drenched in mellotron with plenty of extended instrumental jamming. Pink Floyd influences are apparent, particularly in the mellower moments which is often for the vocal parts on which they build from into lengthy and powerful guitar led excursions, underpinned by mellotron and building from quiet restrain into climatic highs. A perfect example would be title track The Weirding which showcases the band at their peak over its 15 minute length.

Although the band demonstrate some decent playing the music overall has a simple structure leaving it open to no doubt endless jamming in the live arena. As already mentioned they make good use of the Mellotron. In fact it would appear all the keyboards are pleasingly of the vintage variety ? Moog, Arp Odyssey and Organ for example.

The longer pieces tend to be the best giving the space for their instrumental workouts. As well as the title track I can highly recommend the completely instrumental 17 minute Ouroboros and keyboard dominated Silent Sleep, particularly the former. A keyboard rich intro gives way to some tastefully restrained spacey guitar backed by choral keyboards building to a frantic climax. After a lull 11 minutes in things continue at a more restrained pace for a while before a final bombastic finale.

There's still much to enjoy in their few shorter concise moments though. The Rising Of The Black Sun makes a great instrumental opener and sets the scene nicely and after the frantic Ouroboros Broken Glass makes a welcome acoustic guitar led melodic moment.

If I had to complain about anything it would be the rather lack lustre production, the drums in particular sounding very boxy and the album does drag on a bit, with its formulaic approach throughout I'd certainly had enough by the end. Nevertheless a very promising debut from this Californian band and I'll be interested to hear where they go next, hopefully with a better production next time. 3 ½ stars.

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Send comments to Nightfly (BETA) | Report this review (#218790) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, May 29, 2009

Review by Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 4.5 stars. There's quite a buzz about this band right now. This is a young band from California who have gone retro with a late sixties, early seventies sound, and I mean that literally as the production sounds like it came from that era as well. It's like finding a long lost Psychedelic gem. Interesting that 2 of the guys play mellotron and we get lots of it. Lots of great guitar and spacey soundscapes as well. PINK FLOYD is the band I thought of at times, usually to do with the vocals more than anything though. Man this is a long one though at almost 79 minutes.This would have been a double album if it were released back in the early seventies. So an ambitious endeavour to be sure. And for me it works very well. I'm quite impressed.

"The Rising Of The Black Sun" opens with sounds that echo and screech. It's spacey. It kicks in after 2 1/2 minutes. Nice. Love the guitars. Mellotron 5 1/2 minutes in to end it. How cool does this sound ! The mellotron continues as it blends into "The Weirding", then flute, light drums then reserved vocals come in. It's more aggressive 1 1/2 minutes in with guitars and mellotron. Contrasts continue. Great sound 7 minutes in as the guitar offers up some psychedelic melodies. A mellotron storm 11 1/2 minutes in with some raw guitar to follow. Nice. Fantastic song ! "Silent Sleep" opens with some killer guitar as drums and mellotron join the fun. It settles with flute 2 minutes in.Vocals after 3 minutes. It's fuller sounding with mellotron 4 1/2 minutes in. Synths 6 1/2 minutes in. Another excellent track. "The River Under" builds with cymbals, bass, mellotron and other sounds. Vocals 2 minutes in with synths arriving a minute later. Lots of mellotron flows as this song trips along.

"Ouroboros" is the longest track at almost 17 1/2 minutes. Synths to open as mellotron, drums and guitar join in. Love the guitar as the mellotron comes in waves. It turns more psychedelic after 3 1/2 minutes. Incredible. The guitar is amazing as he lights it up. It calms down 11 minutes in. Check out the guitar after 13 minutes. Mellotron crashes the party as the guitar continues. "Broken Glass" is a mellow tune with reserved vocals. Mellotron joins in. This is the shortest tune at under 4 minutes. "The Dawning Of Ophiuchus" opens with lots of spacey sounds that dominate. It settles after 2 minutes then the guitar and drums come in. I like it. Mellotron joins in as well to create a great sound. "Beyond To Slight The Maze" opens with drums and mellotron, then these FLOYD- like vocals come in with flute when it settles. Vocals are more passionate 1 1/2 minutes in. Organ comes in when it settles 5 1/2 minutes in. Check out the mellotron a minute later. Solo acoustic guitar to end it. What a song !

This is like a trip back in time, and it's a trip i'll be taking quite often.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#230776) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, August 09, 2009

Review by rushfan4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars WEIRD, I THOUGHT IT WAS 2009

The Weirding is the debut album from California psyche/space rock band Astra, not to be confused with the progressive metal band from Italy.

I had noticed a previous reviewer listening to this album in the What Are You Listening To Now? thread in the forums here at PA, and I was impressed by the CD cover that he had posted, so I did some research and learned that this band had just been added to PA and that they played psyche/space progressive rock music. I was intrigued, so I downloaded the album from eMusic.com and was extremely glad that I did. I immediately took to this album on my first listen due to its retro sounds bringing me back to listens of some of my favorite bands from the late 60's and early 70's. This album just drips with Mellotron.

At any rate, I was so impressed with this album after my first couple of listens I really wanted to share it with the rest of the PA community, so this inspired me to start the Rushfan4 New CD Discussion Thread, with this being the lead album for discussion. And starting this thread inspired me to listen to this album numerous times, rather than my usual one or two listens before moving on to the next purchase. I am very glad with my decision, as I have really grown to love this album.

The first track, Rising of the Black Sun is an instrumental track dominated early on by the guitars and later by the mellotron. I am somewhat reminded of Hawkwind when I listen to this song, although I am not an expert on Hawkwind, it is them that comes to mind as I listen to this song.

The second track, The Weirding is a 12 minute long epic which again features some excellent retro guitar and mellotron playing. This song harkens back to the psychedelic days of Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath. The Black Sabbath feel is not only musical, but also vocally, as the singing reminds me a lot of a young Ozzy Osbourne at times, but also at times the singing reminds me of early psychedelic albums from Pink Floyd.

The third track, Silent Sleep is another long one that clocks in over 10 minutes. This song is of a mellower variety than the previous songs and includes some beautiful flute playing that reminds a bit of Camel's Snow Goose for some reason or another.

The fourth track, The River Under clocks in at just under 9 minutes and starts off with some splendid drum work before the guitars and mellotron kick in. This song is also of a mellower variety with some melodic singing. I really enjoy the drum work on this song.

The fifth track, Ouroboros is a 17+ minute instrumental and is in my opinion the highlight song of this album. Again with the excellent drums, guitars, and mellotrons this song returns to the heavier prog of the first two tracks. The guitar work near the beginning of this track will remind you instantly of Steve Howe during the glory days of Yes, before they move on to a hodgepodge of other bands including Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath, but also bits of Led Zeppelin, Camel, and Hawkwind.

The sixth track, Broken Glass, is the shortest song on the album at under 4 minutes. This song shows a folkier side to the band and features acoustic guitar and melodic 70's vocals. A very pretty track which reminds me of something that you might have heard on a Beatles' record.

The seventh track, The Dawning Of Ophiuchus, is a 5 minute instrumental which features both guitar and mellotron. It is a nice song but probably the least memorable of the tracks on this album.

The eighth and final track, Beyond to Slight the Maze, is another 10 minute plus epic which just screams Pink Floyd with both barrels. Again, heavy mellotrons and excellent drum and guitar work. This track is streaming here on PA and is thus available for those interested in hearing it to listen to it. There is also a link on the band's website where you can go and download this song.

Overall this is a very retro album spanning close to 80 minutes, but it is well worth the listen. It is both retro in sound as well as in its production however, which could be a distraction to some. This album sounds as though it was recorded in the 70's with 70's technology rather than taking advantage of current technology. This might also appeal to those PA members who don't like anything recorded under current technology. As much as I enjoy this album, it is not a masterpiece of progressive rock music. It is however an excellent retro sounding progressive rock album which should appeal to fans of 70's progressive rock and especially fans of the mellotron, and the bands that I referenced throughout my review.

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Send comments to rushfan4 (BETA) | Report this review (#237010) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, September 03, 2009

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover Team
4 stars Hey, man! This is so groovy; when I brought the album back to my pad I was so hip to this gig, man! Cool, cool, cool. Peace, man! I mean talk about retro, baby! (Did we really talk like this back then? Egad!) I purchased this upon two recommendations from my PA friends sinkadotentree and synthphony and I had that palm-scratching vibe that this was going to be grand trip. Hey, I am an avowed "retro-nostalgia-give me some wah-wah" kind of guy, so I had no problem diving into the depths of this interstellar voyage. All that was missing was the ultraviolet light posters of Hendrix, Morrisson or Ché, the beaded curtains, the incense burning and the candles aglow. Freaky, baby! Advisory: This is one of those styles that require the proper mood (not great driving music, or while sun tanning!): candles lit, lights out, slightly buzzed and in a "travelling" mode (read: trippy). From the initial flurry of notes, it becomes quite clear that this is an unmitigated psychedelic exhibition, highly infused by the basic characteristic foundations of the genre (sweet almost dreamy vocals, dripping and extensive guitar solos) with intense doses of theatrical mellotron, the whole certainly remindful of early Pink Floyd, with orchestral touches of the Moody Blues with some West-coast psychedelia references (Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger) tossed in for good measure. My ex-wife would have labeled this "drug" music, much to my sheer sober pleasure, (anything to escape her devious ignorance and malignance). This could have easily fallen into a parody of a bygone era but it is essential to comprehend that all music is inherently timeless, some of it as vibrant now as it was when first composed. (In fact some late 80s electronica like John Foxx sounds more futuristic now than today's music, even after a 20 year separation, so go figure!), Truth is, the performance here is quite exemplary, the bass playing is riveting, the drums highly exuberant as befits the genre, the dual guitar play is set on overload and the torrential waves of the ubiquitous mellotron are a true blessing. There is no formatted rush to adhere to some strict sing-song formula; there are abundant bliss-out sections that have value and meaning. In fact some parts actually tread very near Ashra Tempel territory (the two guitarists surely have listened to Manuel Göttsching!), skipping close to Planet Hillage/Gong, with slight deflections into Hawkwind universes , especially evident on the colossal 17 minute + "Ouroboros", a masterpiece of the genre. No need to dissect track by track, it's just one long twisted psych-drenched affair from start to finish.

So who would go gaga for this? Firstly any Psychedelic rock fan, any devoted Floyd fan , certainly all the space bandits (Gongsters, Hawkfans etc...) as well as aficionados of endless guitar solos and mellotron apologists. I guess that covers pretty much every one of you, out there. In a rather twisted way, this is what prog is all about: an amazing, pulsating 70s style recording, released in 2009! Bang! groovy, man! Real Cool! Let's not even waste any time babbling and drooling on the sumptuous artwork, exactly mirroring the music inside...par for the course, baby, par for the course!

4.5 Astral Timothy Learys

Hey, even my daughters say Peace out!

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Send comments to tszirmay (BETA) | Report this review (#239259) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, September 14, 2009

Review by Prog-jester
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars A well-done nod to everyone who is into old 70s Rock, filled with everything from groovy SABBATH riffs to dreamy FLOYDian soundscapes. With standouts like "The Weirding" and "Ouroboros" ASTRA provides a 79-min long trip, which equals to a classy 2LP set. Do you like CRIMSOnian mellotrons, GENESIS-like quirky instrumental passages, ELOY's cosmic feel? You can find it all in ASTRA material! There's no Prog virtuosity or too many technical stuff, though they're good songwriters and instrumentalists, and the whole record is filled with such a nostalgic spirit without a single hint of pompous Retro-Prog attitude a-la THE FLOWER KINGS. Highly recommended!

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Posted Saturday, September 26, 2009

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
4 stars OK. Five reasons why you shouldn't be reading this review but rush out to your favourite record store to buy this album. (Supposing you still leave your seat for that)

1. Contrary to what the band name and logo may suggest, this music has nothing ado with the album of the same name from Asia.

2. This album contains almost 80 minute of excellent symphonic prog that sounds like a lost album from 1971. Like it was created by a super group consisting of members from Circus-era King Crimson, Meddle-Pink Floyd, Acolyte-Steve Hackett, Ashra Temple, Yes, Camel, Amon Duul and all your other favourite bands. You wouldn't want to miss a band with those guys in the fold now would you?

3. God, these guys can write songs! All tracks sound like classics from a lost era. Long extended symphonies full of melody and melancholy. Swamped in mellotron, moogs, and delayed guitars, with excellent percussion, mellow harmony voices (I actually suspect they're sampled from Gilmour and Wright), flutes, saxophone and a lot more.

4. This album is about the love for classic prog. A love we all share here, even given our diverse and sometimes conflicting tastes. This album is not just a nostalgic trip to '71, it is not a pastiche or retro-kitsch. It sure is completely indebted to all names mentioned but it's so honest, done with so much skill and respect that you can only share their love for what they have accomplished.

5. Because this might easily be a five star album for you. Now hurry off to that store before they're sold out!

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Posted Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Review by DamoXt7942
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP Moderator / Psych / Avant / Neo Teams
4 stars My first impression is - it's so difficult to evaluate this album without bias and without favour.

You know, this is a terrific psychedelically symphonic progressive rock album, without any suspicion. Their sound approach is, maybe intentionally, the eclecticism of some distinguished manners established by British psychedelic rock outfits or heavy-symphonic ones. And the outstanding point is their wonderful composition - exactly as if a veteran storyteller can solemnly go ahead with dramatic fairy tale (divided into some parts) in the album from start to finish. On the contrary, not only I can feel there is so little novelty for the current progressive rock scene around them...how 'bout you?

However, trust me, their eclecticism of various progressive essence should be absolutely well-balanced like a premium hyper-matured scotch whisky. North-European heavy symphonic, British psychedelic like Pink Floyd (especially the last track Beyond To Slight The Maze is, honestly I feel, like a copy of Echoes...but an awesome song!), stickily persistent repetitions with spacey spice like Hawkwind (without any speedy meteor stream sounds though) - these elements can come up and over around us like estery, fruity and spicy flavours in the whisky of fine quality.

I wanna say that, David Hurley's laid back drumming, sometimes sounding like of Alan White, might conquer the whole sounds and style. Dunno how everyone feels, but if he plays drums more heavily or strongly, ASTRA should be a stoner-psych band...if more weakly or lightly, they be a flabby ambient one...in my humble opinion. At any rate, they are well-balanced as I've mentioned above - strongly emphasized.

Hope their next work will get more aggressive, more progressive, and more eccentric novelty. In this sense I do recommend ASTRA highly.

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Posted Saturday, October 10, 2009

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars When past limitations brought forward as a theme ...

I grew up in poor family where I could not afford to buy a vinyl. As my passion in rock music was very high, I occasionally purchased music cassettes sold cheaply in small town, Madiun - East Java - Indonesia, the place when I penetrated rock spirit into my head and my heart. Of course it's not the best media as you might compare it with a vinyl but it's quite good enough to broaden my horizons on rock music. I had also friends who had the same passion in music so we sometimes exchanged the cassettes among us. After listening to the cassettes we sometimes had a hang-out to discuss the music we were listening to while sipping a cup of coffee in front of Train Station at Madiun, and ate nasi pecel (you may call it the daily bread of Madiun people). What a life!

Recently, I paid my trip back to past times .... the time when rock music grew steadily and creatively in the 70s by replaying back my cassettes collection which have already been with me more than twenty years. They still sound great and I really enjoy the sound because by doing so I can grab the nuance when the glory years of prog and rock were there. In the middle of that enjoyment, a friend of mine, Koni, introduced me to ASTRA. The first time I listened to this album couple of months ago I thought it was a band coming from the 70s era. But then I was surprised that this was just recorded in 2009. I don't actually believe it because the music and the sound are so seventies especially on drums, guitar and mellotron. I salute the band for successfully bringing back the seventies' analog sound in today's digital era. Well, it's not like when I knew Presto Ballet for the first time. Presto Ballet's debut album was promoting their return to analog technology as they put it in the CD sleeve notes. But unfortunately the sound was not that analog and seventies. While this album by Astra is totally seventies sound. I believe they are brilliant in sound recording. And the album title seems like conveying the message that they are 'weirding' us with this debut album because they have brought forward past limitations (in sound technology) as a choice to make this record.

With the above background, you might understand why I appreciate this album very much ...

Well, it's actually not fair to say that all old sounds are not good. In fact, I was amazed with Genesis 'Selling England by The Pound' which sounds really great even though it was recorded in the 70s. You might find also Pink Floyd 'The Dark Side of The Moon' which is excellent in sonic quality of the record. But obviously many 70s records were capped in their sound quality especially with dull treble and thin bass sound (like you find in Ritchie Blackmore' Rainbow records or Led Zeppelin's 'Physical Graffiti'). Astra recaptures all the limitations of the past in sound quality in today's environment when we get used with great soundscapes of Porcupine Tree's records. Some of you might find it weird why these guys from Astra do this thing. But for me, it's a brilliant idea.

Mellotron-drenched and long guitar solo ...

Musically, this band is heavily influenced by many legendary bands from Hawkwind to Eloy to Pulsar to Pink Floyd to Symphonic Slam to Tangerine Dream to King Crimson to Van der Graaf Generator. Blended together, they sound really nice. If you like long guitar solo with Gilmourian flavor backed with mellotron-drenched music, this is for sure fits your taste. The band has adopted two approaches in this debut album: song orientated and jamming orientated compositions.

As you might have been aware with my reviews, I always focus the review on two major dimensions: composition and performance. On composition, I always use five factors to analyze prog music: melody, harmony, complexity, change of styles and structural integrity. The main factors that are very obvious with this album are their skills in creating memorable melody for the song-orientated composition like the second track 'The Weirding' and making also excellent harmonies in the music. While on the jamming-orientated approach they demonstrate their musical skills with long solo throughout the music like those shown on opening track 'The Rising Of The Black Sun' and the fifth track 'Ouroborus'. They also make an excellent ballad like 'Broken Glass' with good melody and nice harmonies between vocal and acoustic guitar fills, supported beautifully with synthesizer and mellotron.

On complexity, they really start with a simple one and as the music moves they make it much complex and sometimes they sound weird. With weird sound especially on drums and sometimes guitar, the music really brings me back to the 70s era. The simple arrangement sounds like Symphonic Slam but it then moves steadily, even though slowly, to the next segments with more complex setting contributed by multi-layered keyboard / mellotron sounds as well as guitar solo. If you love long guitar solo, go for this album! It's really stunning!

Even though the music moves slowly but the band ensures the change of styles from one segment to another happen smoothly, sometimes through a change of melody and sometimes in guitar solo or keyboard solo which they do it excellently. For example on the last track 'Beyond To Slight The Maze' you might find the nice combination of changes in nuances from Pink Floyd 'Meddle' (especially 'Echoes' track) with the nuance of Steve Hackett 'Voyage to the Acolyte'. As the sound of mellotron sound quite thick in some segments you might forget that they actually bring us forward in a change of music styles. What should I say on structural integrity? What is it all about? It's all about how each song builds up the album in one cohesive whole. The answer is straight forward: Yes! You might listen to it from the opening track until the concluding one: there are many interconnecting dots that build up an album into one single message: It's weird man? (But I really enjoy it very much!). I can say the album marks well in structural integrity factor especially on these two points: 1.) It has successfully built the theme excellently, which fits with the album title 'The Weirding' ; and 2.) Composition-wise, it moves really well from opening to concluding tracks and they (the tracks) form a cohesive whole as an album.

In addition to composition, I need to put some words on performance. The guitar work is really stunning. The keyboard work is excellent even though sometimes it's quite boring. The vocal work is excellent and it fits with the music; in some segments he sings like Ozzy Osborne. Drumming is good but it could be more dynamics on some transition pieces.

Overall, it's an excellent addition to any prog music collection. It's hard nowadays to find band(s) similar with what Astra is doing. If you enjoy Eloy, Symphonic Slam, Tangerine Dream, Pink Floyd with some bits of King Crimson and Van der Graaf, this is for you. Don't forget to tell your mom that you still proggin' ?yeah ..keep on proggin' man ...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

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Posted Sunday, October 25, 2009

Review by Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Good and promising first effort by this US act.

Vintage progressive rock is the name of the game for this effort, with a stylistic expression blending atmospheric space rock and the less complicated variety of symphonic rock in a neat package. Pink Floyd, Hawkwind and Eloy are obvious references throughout, but fans of Camel as well as Black Sabbath will find familiar sounding elements on this production.

Long, dreamy instrumental segments is this bands forte though - mellotrons, vintage-sounding keys and guitars conjuring up richly textured, atmospheric and at times hypnotic passages, easy to loose oneself away in dayfreaming. A distinct focus on harmonies and pretty straight forward playing makes this album one less interesting for those looking for challenging endeavours as well as original ones - even the mix and production looks back 30 years or so in time, and for all the good material at hand there's never any new musical ground broken.

Many passages and sequences on this disc reminded me rather strongly of Phideaux's 2007 effort "Doomsday Afternoon", and I would think that those who find that album interesting should want to add this initial effort from Astra to their collection as well.

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Posted Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Review by Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Astra´s debut album The Weirding is something every early 70´s prog fanatic should listen to. It´s hard to believe those guys are americans and that this album was recorded in 2009. In fact it sounds like it is a long lost work of a Krautrock band of that decade. Even the way it was recorded reminds me of that era (they might have used some vintage recording equipament) Consequently, waves of mellotrons, moogs, space rock guitars and vocals are on the order of the day for those guys. Strong influences of such prog giants like King Crimson (mostly), Hawkwind, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath and others.

If you don´t mind an almost total lack of originality, you´ll be enthralled by their excellent musicanship, very good songwriting skills and the fine arrangements. These americans really love the kind of music they are playing and do a great homage of that great time for prog music. Only the vocals are somewhat weak (but so were many bands then). There are no fillers: all tracks are very good and varied. The Weirding is a nice trip back to time, they really got the spirit and did a fine job themselves in writing their own stuff.

A very strong debut and a very promising group of musicians. I´m looking forward to hear their next works. Rating: something between 3,5 to 4 stars. I´ll round up to four because they were not really copycats, but lovers of early prog and were succesfull in churching out great tunes.

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Posted Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars Hm. That's what some of you will be thinking after hearing this. But rumors were truth, this is retro prog a lot. I'll leave the question how progressive it exactly is (progress as development, improvement, being better, wiser and bolder, more experimental, these things I've never get so good).

But like they say (in America? I remember Hellboy saying it), this is helluva music. When you overcome the greeting shock from retro-nostalgia-old-ancient-classic-vintage-golden (age) and other words describing this music, you'll find interesting music. And by interesting I mean completely mature (even it's their debut. So what, now they're old and they'll only get worse from this moment ? I hope not). For example (except all things that are for sure said in these reviews [I haven't read them]), this mellotron. There are long mellotron solos, but it's not everything, because to this sound, there is another keyboard riff, interesting drums (think of Mike P. guys), maybe some guitar riff too (not sure). And to this polyphony (not cacophony, it's still completely melodic and nice) add another (!) guitar solo. That's ending part of last track.

5(+), great surprise which I've been avoiding for some time. Even the artwork is nice.

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Posted Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

Generally Scandinavia is known as the retro-prog breeding ground, but sometimes a pearl comes from across the Atlantic. Indeed we had Discipline that was striking out the Crimson chord, and here from the west coast (San Diego to be precise), we've got Astra, leaning more on the Crimsono-Floydish vibe. Visually speaking, they've got a definitive Roger Dean/Yes edge, all the way down to the clever logo of the band's name - which after was also a Dean/Asia artwork/album, but thankfully none of the latter's music is audible here. Of course the retro-prog etiquette comes from the use of trons of mello and other types of vintage instruments, but also a manner of mixing and engineering the sound that want to look up to the 70's, but sometimes the songwriting is shamelessly

If the lead-off track Rising Of The Black Sun holds a bit too much a resemblance to King Crimson's Lizard's opening movement, the lengthy spacey midway segments seems to look at FEloyd (no mistake, just a condensation of two names) before ending in a loud bang. Silent Sleep is a quieter affair, taking its influence from Cameloy (no mistake again) with heavy mellotrons overdose to make it ultimately way too cheesy. Next up is River Under, but the intro sounded very Floydish (Set The Control), even if once that stops, the track turns into the worst of the album despite some Giles drumming. This is more than made up with the album-longest splendid Ourobouros with some incendiary guitar, wild ambiances. Contrary to many retro-prog bands, Astra does not complicate things for the sake of it, and the virtuoso level might not be as evident as with other groups?. A bit like Floyd's musicianship might've seemed pale next to Yes, but the service to the music is endless and invaluable.

Broken Glass acts as a breath of fresh air before the album plunges for the final stretch (still quite far away, as the album is filled to the brim), with Ophiuchus sounding a bit like a filler past the spacey intro. The closing Maze track starts out again shamelessly as a Floyd track (Echoes) before veering Crimson and its never-ending closing section. That's how they managed to fill-up to the brim?. Keep repeating the end of the last song until the tank is filled and trigger of the nozzle pops out of its blocked position. You ay now check to the gas station cashier to pay for your thankful of prog.

Certainly a worthy debut album, despite the all-too obvious borrowings, The Weirding is definitely among the top of the retro-neo-prog albums of 09 along with Gargamel's Descending.

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Posted Friday, January 08, 2010

Review by stefro
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars A million miles away from the atypical modern-prog sound of, say, The Flower Kings or Spock's Beard, this is a wonderfully retro combination of bombastic prog and spacey, psychedelic rock, featuring organs, moogs and synthesizers galore. The group is five-strong, with each member a confident, eclectic player capable of excelling on multiple instruments. Richard Vaughan(vocals, guitar, synth, mellotron), the group's leader is augmented by Conor Riley(vocals, guitar, synth, organ, mellotron), Brian Ellis(guitar, moog), Stuart Sclater(bass) and David Hurley(drums, flute), with the group signed to Lee Dorrian's metal-dominated Rise Above Records. Hailing from San Diego, USA, 'The Weirding' is Astra's debut release and already a candidate for one of the most authentic and brilliant modern progressive rock releases of recent times, such is the breadth and scope of songs on offer. The powerful mixture of Hawkwind-esque guitars, Pink Floyd-style instrumentation and epic themes simply destroys the competition; not since 'The Light', Spock's Beards debut album from 1991, has there been such an authentic-sounding musical statement from a band working in the modern prog-rock idiom. The fact that it's a double album showcases the group's full, epic sound, allowing the musicians time and space to fully-expand upon their stunning pallette of musical ideas, which range from the slow-burning instrumental prologue 'The Rising Of The Black Sun', to the cosmic, synth-and-moog dominated rocker 'Silent Sleep' and, eventually, to the album's swansong, the beautifully-wrought - and oddly-named - 'Beyond To Slight The Maze'. Some may say that Astra's brand of full-on psychedelic prog-rock is slightly humourless, or even over-obsessed by ideas of tolkien-esque fantasy and space myths, and therefore ripe for parody, but that's just the point. The group have eschewed any genuine commercial aspirations in favour of producing a beautifully-crafted homage to the music they love, in the process laying down a marker for any other burgeoning young groups out there attempting to enter the world of prog. Simply put, 'The Weirding' is the 21st century's entry into the classic canon of classic prog. For every decade there has been at least one stand-out masterwork by a prog-rock band, and Astra's superb debut can now proudly rub shoulders with King Crimson's masterly 1969 debut, Pink Floyd's 1972 commercial leviathan 'Dark Side Of The Moon' and IQ's neo-prog classic 'Tales From The Lush Attic' from 1983. We await Astra's next move with baited breath. On this evidence, it'll be well worth the wait. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010

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Posted Friday, March 12, 2010

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
4 stars Astra's "The Weirding" is an incredible debut that is soaked in Mellotron and retro influences hearkening back to the eclectic golden age of prog.

Astra have made an indelible mark in the prog music world with their debut with an unforgettable triumph. The mellotron takes front stage throughout and a very Pink Floyd like atmosphere is created including the vocal style and slow build up on each song. There are free form lengthy jams and musical virtuosity on every level.

'The Rising of the Black Sun' has an ominous opening with distant flute trilling and atmospheric guitar picking sweeps. The ethereal atmosphere is built on free form jazz drumming, and spacey effects on the flute become more pronounced. It is a jazz fusion section for a while, the guitars soon dominate, Hackett like and very spacey, over a one chord bass note driving with Hurley's intricate drum fills and pounding beat. It is an extraordinary sound created with musical virtuosity as good as I have heard. It is 70s like and yet so refreshing for the new millennium; a reinvention of the classic eclectic prog sound that is very much like Pink Floyd meets Yes in places, with touches of Hawkwind, Camel and early Genesis.

This track segues immediately into the epic title track. A Rogers Waters like voice from Vaughan sings the estranged lyrics: "The world spins out of tune and there's nothing we can do..." Reminds me a bit like Diagonal too, a more recent band that plays similar music. The emphasis is more on the music but still Astra are capable of very strong harmonies and melodies. A powerful synth line sounding like a sax chimes in between verses and there are killer Sabbathesque riffs and a really great tune. This is an absolute masterpiece track for Astra, lengthy but never dull. There is an extraordinary improv style guitar solo over an 8 chord structure of organ and mellotron. The jamming is wonderful prog with angular guitar riffing and sporadic drumming producing high quality music. The shimmering organ grinding at the end is superb and the guitar solo ascends out of the stratosphere. It ends on a catastrophoic apocalyptic bomb blast. This is headphone prog bliss.

'Silent Sleep' is a slow sleepy track that begins with a pitchy spacey guitar solo and an atonal time signature. The Camel-like flute chimes in softly building to a verse. The flute plays the verse in free form style until the Floyd like vocals gently begin; "moving out away from you..." this section is answered by a scorching duel guitar solo. The next verse begins in the same tune as previous: "far beyond the gloom, moving a million miles away from you". This feels more like a traditional song at this stage. There is a violin like solo on mellotron and a tradeoff between synth and guitar. The time sig changes towards the end into a half time feel. A nice slower number to break the progressive jamming.

'The River Under' begins like a Floyd version of 'Careful With that Axe...' the low humming bass of Scalter keeps the rhythm as the mellotron sinks its fangs in to the murky waters. The vocals are different on this. A very strong melody throughout and a catchy chorus too.

'Ouroboros' features an incredible spacey guitar solo. The instrumental really takes off with electrifying guitar fret melting majestic melodies in time to a chant. As it progress, the guitars become very melodious with infectious guitar licks and riffs that are driven along a wave of mellotron and very well executed flute passages from Hurley. An almost hypnotic rhythm locks in and it becomes grandiose filling in many various time sigs till it ends on the same whooshing hum as the intro. Astonishing music.

This is followed by two more short tracks which are satisfactory but I want to skip to the finale which is a delightful feast for the ears. 'Beyond to slight the maze' sounds very much like Pink Floyd's 'Echoes' complete with long keyboard pads and harmonies. The whale effects are not here of course but the same atmosphere is generated, an extreme ambience that is serene and melancholy. The mood is fractured with the introduction of a dominating fat Hammond organ sound that grinds and shimmers as Vaughan pounds incessantly.

To conclude, 'The Weirding' is a must have album and one of the best of the more recent debuts. Make no mistake, Astra have produced an absolutely brilliant return to the roots of psychedelic and symphonic 70s prog. Almost 5 stars, but 4 glorious stars for a debut is solid evidence that the band are here to stay.

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Posted Sunday, April 18, 2010

Review by EatThatPhonebook
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Excellent debut for San Diego band Astra, a new pychedelic/ heavy prog band with many classic prog influences and a nostalgic, vintage sound that even in 2009 is a pleasure to hear.

Even if the band isn't exactly original, since the influences are really strong and a little too attached to the 70's, we cannot deny that this band is talented, appealing and skillful, in every point of view. "The Weirding" maybe isn't' an album that shines among other releases in 2009, such as Avant Metal veterans Maudlin of The Well's "Part The Second" or prog metal knights Riverside's "Anno Domini High Definition", but it definitely is a promising debut, full of haunting and impressive moments and beautiful passages that many bands today would have to envy. The main ingredients are a big dose of mellotron, guitar, Floydish vocals and melodies, rough sound, long, psych influenced jams, with some still moments here and there.

"The Rising Of The Black Sun" is the opening track, a five minute instrumental, where practically the whole song is a build up, an outstanding climax, richened by a trembling flute, some flangered guitars, and strange keyboards. Perfect for starting the album.

The epic title track is definitely the most magical song of the album. A beautiful melody, great Waters influenced vocals, and imposing mellotron at the beginning, later on turning into a great guitar solo, which reminds of old Heavy Prog. The middle part of the song is calmer, until, when the song is about to end, the starting melody reprises. Truly remarkable.

"Silent Sleep" is a little shorter, but it's just as dense, with an additional touch of mystery and melancholy. Great performances by all the band's musicians, excellent melody, haunting and magical atmosphere, from start to finish.

"The River Under" is another gem, a mysterious track indeed. The chorus is unbelievable, the flowing of the song is quite impressive. So far the album hasn't had any low points.

They start to come though with the seventeen minute "Ouroboros", an epic instrumental, from a spacey atmosphere to a somewhat violent one. Some moments are breathtaking, but others just don't appeal as much.

"Broken Glass" is a beautiful, underrated song, very short for a band like Astra, but with a melody that would give goosebumps even to the most fierce critic. Shattering beauty.

The two final songs are great, even though some moments tend to go a little too far, just like in "Ouroboros", especially for "The Dawning".

"Beyond To Slight The Maze" actually ends fantastically, as there's a rising climax that culminates to the very end of the song, as well as the album.

A great album, to sum up, very underrated and worth the listen if you really like prog, especially retro.

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Posted Friday, October 22, 2010

Review by Wicket
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Wait, this is a 2009 release?

If the release date was never given, the immediate impulse would be to guess it was recorded in 1969.

Listening to the first track, all the classic elements of 70's prog come into view. All the jam tendencies present in Grateful Dead and Deep Purple's music are present in "The Rising Of The Black Sun". The retro sounds, the song titles, even the cover art and the design of the band name just screams "psychedelic". Once "The Weirding" sets in, the mellowed out sounds of the David Hurley's flute and the crunching whining of the guitars of Richard Vaughn, Conor Riley and Brian Ellis, it becomes enlightening to see today's generation embracing the good ol' prog days of yesteryear.

Alas, there seems to be no innovation or ingenuity so grandiose it shatters mere mortal's minds into oblivion, but faithful prog listeners such as myself would just do the normal thing and just embrace it for the elements it has. Some of the more interesting features in this track alone are the back and forth power struggles between the moogs and mellotron sound effects, not to mention the sheer emptiness of the track at midpoint until the guitars wail to life.

All I'd need would be some shrooms and a live concert to go to and I'm set. Although I don't think Astra are touring anytime soon. Unfortunate.

Yes, there have been psychedelic groups such as Iron Butterfly, Ozric Tentacles and even Pink Floyd that have embraced the jam philosophy as the Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers, but never on the scale that Astra managed it. Yes, "The Weirding" is a 15:30 minute long track, but it just drones on for an eternity followed by 3 minute guitar solos every 6 seconds. At least, that's the impression.

The initial impression of retro bands is Wolfmother; they seem to be the one group that people have heard of that brings up the term "retro rock". However, I prefer relating to "The Sword", a modern day band that doesn't come up with radio hits, but rather sticks to the status quo (eh, kinda) and fashions something of a bubbling cauldron of heavy "smash your face with a brick" sounds, which originated from "sludge metal", a slow, droning genre of chugging guitars and stoned deatbeats, one reason why "The Sword" is classified as "stoner metal".

However, Astra have taken that definition of "retro band" to another level by incorporating jam tendencies, the open space of music with simple accompaniment where guitars make their home and incorporate solo after solo after solo.

This seems to become more prevalent in "Silent Sleep", where echoing guitars make stop and go stutter steps into another atmospheric jam. Sure, anyone can just lay down a beat and improvise over it, but the fact that these Californian residents incorporate those wonderful sounds of the moog and mellotron almost have the ability to bring even the most faithful of 70's prog to tears.

However, once you dig deeper into this track, the implications of the track name come into effect, as it's more dreamy and, well, sleepy, than it is heavy, droning and guitar happy. The sudden comparing and contrasting styles of both the second and third tracks (even the first as well) definitely show the talent these guys possess. What really surprises me, though, is that in an environment where Hollywood, glamour and stupidity exist (California), here emerges a band that should've been born somewhere in Europe in the late '60's.

Alas, the final verdict predates this very record's release. Yes, it's a wonderful piece of music, and it's also enlightening that the traditions, sounds and styles of 60-70's prog haven't disappeared forever, but it's certainly not for everyone, not even for every single prog fan. Psychedelic fans may consider Astra to be a "traditionalist" group, your standard cookie-cutter psychedelic prog band. These guys just happen to be from the 21st century from San Diego, California.

But hey, psychedelic prog rock isn't the first thing that comes to your mind when you think "San Diego. That didn't stop Astra from releasing an exceptional record.

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Send comments to Wicket (BETA) | Report this review (#474943) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, July 03, 2011

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Neo Prog Team
3 stars Hailing from San Diego, California, US Progsters Astra emerged from the Psych/Jam Rock act Silver Sunshine after the departure of drummer Iain Andrew Sclater.He was replaced by David Hurley, while the addition of guitarist/keyboardist Brian Ellis and his progressive influences brought a change of musical direction and group's name.The rest of the crew are guitarists/keyboardists Richard Vaughan and Conor Riley and bassist Stuart Sclater.Astra recorded their debut ''The Weirding'' during the fall of 2008 at their own studio, released on Rise Above Records in May 2009 for the UK market and two months later on Metal Blade for the UK buyers.

If the term Retro Prog is even a bit valid, then Astra's music deserves this description 100%.The whole, very long album (about 79 minutes) seems a lost work from the 70's era of Progressive Rock with strong psychedelic and spacey/symphonic inspirations and a great amount of shifting moods.The main influences come from the early-70's Mellotron-drenched era of KING CRIMSON and the psychedelic side of PINK FLOYD, but there are also some other interesting entries in Astra's music like the spacey, hypnotic flute passages in the vein of PULSAR or the extended jam sections close to the Kraut Rock stylings.The tracks range basically from long to very long compositions with limited vocals and huge space for instrumental exercises, both in a soft, psychedelic style or with a heavier and richer approach.All of them contains an incredible amount of Mellotron waves and intense introductions based on the ARP Odyssey vintage synthesizers as well as great, heavy guitars with some nice distortions next to a few interesting melodies, not to mention the lovely sound of flutes here and there.Most of the arrangements are tight and performed with an incredible passion, while the vocals recall the smooth but very expressive singing of GREG LAKE, still not everything about this album is perfect as it seems on paper.The final feeling, though positive, is that Astra lack personal identity and some long instrumental themes are a bit overstretched, however the constant change of moods does not make them that apparent.

Perfect album for those who suffer from 70's prog nostalgia.Rich, grandiose and adventurous Progressive Rock for fans of KING CRIMSON, YES, PINK FLOYD.Warmly recommended.

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#882921) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, December 27, 2012

Latest members reviews

3 stars This is one of those albums I have mixed feelings about. The strengths definitely lie in the music and songs, which as most others have already pointed out, resemble in many moments the styling of Pink Floyd between 1968 and 1971. Just listening to this album again last night in preparation fo ... (read more)

Report this review (#899601) | Posted by FragileKings | Friday, January 25, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This debut is excellent, each song is better than the next. Their sound is very 70's but also unique. My only problem with the album is that it is toooo long. some of the songs have imo unnecessarily long jams in them which tend to drag on for a bit. basically, don't plan on listening to this album ... (read more)

Report this review (#707206) | Posted by pfloyd | Tuesday, April 03, 2012 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Beforehand of my review I would like to say that I love 70's music with its vintage sound, using of various analog synthesizers, Mellotron, Hammond organ, flutes, saxes, tube amps, analog effects, etc. From this time I especially like King Crimson, as well as the early Pink Floyd, and the les ... (read more)

Report this review (#642874) | Posted by Gandalff | Tuesday, February 28, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars We went back to 1969? Astra is a promising band of psychedelic rock / progressive coming of San Diego, California (which is not exactly a breeding ground for the progressive rock) and it certainly surprised the prog community with his debut album, "The Weirding". It's amazing how this albu ... (read more)

Report this review (#480797) | Posted by voliveira | Tuesday, July 12, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is an outstanding debut album! This record is what we Psychedelic/Space-rock Prog lovers have been waiting for! It's just soaked in late 60's & early 70's Psych'n Prog, sounding very much like early Pink Floyd and King Crimson. There are really no bands today that sound like this anymo ... (read more)

Report this review (#461055) | Posted by Moonstone | Tuesday, June 14, 2011 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Essentially- boring psychedelic retro rock. Not prog in my terms. Astra is essentially a band that recreates 70's music but does it poorly, since there isn't anything notable or interesting about it (IMO). Other bands in this category include Wolfmother and Diagonal (and others). Astra rank very ... (read more)

Report this review (#303482) | Posted by Tengent | Monday, October 11, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Now, to be honest i was really expecting something big with this album and indeed this band, and did they deliver? Wel in my opinion yes and no. The songwriting on this album is great its got everything prog fans could want, long songs, extended solos, some very cool almost Yes like keyboards a ... (read more)

Report this review (#282203) | Posted by FarBeyondProg | Sunday, May 16, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars There is Prog in the Air! Thank you PA and Classic Rock magazine presents PROG What a band! I can't believe great new prog bands (that aren't metal) like Astra are out there and from San Diego none the less, just awesome. Hope many more to come too (I can feel it). Astra's sound is very r ... (read more)

Report this review (#238741) | Posted by Kix | Friday, September 11, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Retro prog heaven! Out of nowhere, that is where this CD seems to come from. But hey, firmly rooted in the seventies these musicians brings us back in the times when prog was really progressive. It is an almost perfect amalgation of Black Sabbath, Barclay James Harvest, Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dea ... (read more)

Report this review (#223104) | Posted by Keet | Thursday, June 25, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A brilliant sophomore recording from this band. They've captured the 70's Psychedelic/Prog vibe very well and their tunes and musicianship are top notch. The influences are a tad obvious (Crimson, Floyd and even Sabbath) but nothing jarringly lifted from the classic genre. There's a healthy dose ... (read more)

Report this review (#222044) | Posted by TronFlutes | Saturday, June 20, 2009 | Review Permanlink

2 stars From how fast this disappeared from stock after it arrived over at The Laser's Edge, I thought it might be a live recording of the second coming complete with a syringe of holy water. You can have my copy for a buck plus shipping if you can't wait for Him to reappear. I probably will ... (read more)

Report this review (#215871) | Posted by Ole Troll | Thursday, May 14, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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