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Astra - The Weirding CD (album) cover

THE WEIRDING

Astra

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.89 | 297 ratings

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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.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |

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