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Astra - The Weirding CD (album) cover

THE WEIRDING

Astra

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.89 | 297 ratings

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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.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |

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