received this new album, "Broken Balance", from Astra without having any
previous experience with this progressive metal band. Astra hails from Italy,
and shouldn't be confused with Astra, the psychedelic rock band from the USA. I
can understand the confusion over the name, as I was even a bit taken aback when
this album blazed into my ears. Astra is a far cry from prog rock, and are
indeed a full-on progressive metal band.
music is pretty loud. Interestingly, I don't hear much of the standard
progressive metal styles in their music, though. For this, they should be
commended. Indeed, I hear almost nothing of Dream Theater or Symphony X in their
style. With a gut-busting punch to the mix of hefty guitars, amazing drums, and
throbbing bass; this band seems like a descendant of the likes of Black Sabbath
or Dio, even. Yes, their sound does have an 80's hair metal sound to it that I
found alternately comforting and disappointing.
said, the guitarwork is superb and really heavy. The riffing is out of bounds on
this album, though I don't hear much that I haven't heard in the past---no new
twists or anything. The bass is similar in that it is played expertly, but
sounds pretty standard. Other elements, such as the keys, are almost completely
absent from the album, so I can't really comment on them. The keys are nice when
they're there, but they are rare. I must point out, though, that the drummer is
simply incredible. Not only is Filippo Berlini fantastically skilled and
technical, but he also has a great ear for fills and interesting beats. I
applaud him as my favorite aspect of this album, "Broken Balance".
hair metal vibe is especially pushed by the presence of Andrea Casali. His voice
is rather high-pitched, but still strong. It reminds me, in a way, of David
Coverdale and company. I don't dislike this, as I still have some fondness left
for those guys. However, combine this with uninteresting lyrics that seem cheap,
silly, and cheesy at times; and the 80's vibe skyrockets. It's strange, though,
as the music itself is really heavy and technical, but the vocals and melodies
seem so simple and catchy. The songwriting is fairly strong in terms of
accessibility and digestibility. Besides some of the instrumentals, there's
nothing on this album that would restrict it to fans of progressive music.
Indeed, most of the songs sound very similar, though enjoyable.
you have a love for heavy metal with progressive elements, "Broken Balance"
could be an album to hear. Its heaviness is an asset, and not a crutch. It
doesn't overindulge in technical frivolities, and Astra has done an admirable
job in writing great songs. It's nothing inventive, but it's definitely a
pleasure to hear.