Here's Astra, another band that's been off the radar for quite some, if only because they haven't had a studio album since 2009. Astra returns with Broken Balance, another collection of progressive metal tunes and also finds bassist Andrea Casali moving to the microphone, replacing Titta Tani.
You'll notice several familiar threads to this album as with previous material. One is the expressive keyboard work of Emanuele Casali, often dueling with the lead guitar of Silvio D'onorio De Meo. Another is the deftness by which the mix prog and power metal, complete shifting tempos and time signatures. A third is the melodic and interesting vocal arrangements. Andrea Casali has a powerful voice, and you won't miss Tani. He's especially impressive on Hole in the Silence.
That songs points to something perhaps novel to the album. Many of the songs are hook-laden and catchy, often riding on the melody or chorus or both, but also dropping ins some rock groove. Losing My Ego is another good example, but Sunrise to Sunset is even better: you've groove, metal, prog, and a terrific refrain. Yet after this, most of Broken Balance is rather heavy and thumping and those elements just mentioned can get easily pushed aside. In the best scenario, the prog is bumped up in exchange as with Understand, or the pace of power metal with Faithless.
Two exceptions come with Mirror of Your Soul and You Make Me Better which, in contrast, might be called the lighter numbers here. The latter returns a bit to the groove and catchy chorus, but it's minimal. The former seems to move on an early light piano line, but soon gets heavy, moving to a crushing solo and then a return to the piano. Broken Balance may seem different than previous Astra works, and may even be a step forward. Bumping up the groove and catchy accessibility, even if it is minimal across the album, is certainly an improvement and fine touch. Alternatively, you may notice some attempt at dirty or death vocals in some early songs, which is hardly a step forward.
After five years, Astra return with Broken Balance, where the try to inject a small amount of groove and some catchy hook-laden accessibility into their heavy progressive metal.
Mat Sinner is both an icon and legend in the German, and the larger European, hard rock and heavy metal scene. Cranking out music since 1982, Sinner is an industrious and prolific musician and producer whether through his namesake band, the heavy metal heroes Primal ... [ Read More ]