Power of Metal.dk Review

Broken Balance
Style: Progressive Metal
Release date: 14 April, 2014
Playing time: 54:11

I 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.

Yes, the 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.

Like I 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".

The 80's 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.

So, if 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.

01. Losing My Ego
02. Hole in the Silence
03. Sunrise to Sunset
04. Too Late
05. Broken Balance
06. Faithless
07. Mirror of Your Soul
08. Risk and Dare
09. Break Me Down
10. Understand
11. Ending Season
12. You Make Me Better
Label: Scarlet Records
Distribution: Target (Denmark)
Artwork rating: 60/100
Reviewed by: Jason Spencer
Date: 11 April, 2014
Website: Astra @ Scarlet Records