Astral Doors – ‘Black Eyed Children’ (Metalville) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Mark Ashby   
Tuesday, 09 May 2017 04:00

Astral Doors artworkFor their past seven albums, Swedish power metal crew Astral Doors have been flying the flag for the legacy of bands like Black Sabbath, Dio, Rainbow… hang on a second, am I seeing a common thread in there? Indeed, I am… and, it has to be said that, the first time you pop on one of their albums, it is immediately obvious how scarily like the late Ronnie James AD singer Nils Patrik Johansson sounds: so much so that it could be that RJD’s vocal chords were transplanted into his own throat…

 

Opener ‘We Cry Out’ is pure Dio, through and through, from the slow burning keyboard intro to the seering riff and Johansson’s opening vocal declaration: ripping along at a ferocious pace, it could be ripped from any of Dio’s albums, nestling as it does neatly between ‘We Rock’ and ‘Stand Up And Shout’. The guitar work from Joachim Nordlund and Mats Gesar rips and tears, but there is also plenty of harmony in their seemless interaction.

 

They immediately ease back on the pace on ‘Walls’, which again slowly builds into something which lies between Helloween and Accept, with its anthemic punch and drive, demonstrating that AD also draw heavily on the Germanic take on the power metal genre, with their building of layers of atmosphere and sound, and well-worked changes of pace, even within the framework of a single song. This influence is demonstrated again on ‘God Is The Devil’, a concise hard rocker built on another taut performance from the rhythm section of Johan Lindstedt and Ulf Lagerstroem and underpinned by Jocke Roberg’s suitably understated keyboard work.

 

Again building slowly, this time with a Jon Lord-inspired organ intro, ‘Die On Stage’ is a tribute to the, shall we say, older generation of rock n rollers who keep on doing what they do, simply because they don’t know any other way: it’s in their genes – or should that be jeans? It also features one of the most ironic, and cheesiest, lyrics you’re likely to come across this year: “We’re getting old, fat, sick and bald/But there’s no way that we’ll do what we’re told/To many fights, so many lies/But you don’t seem to realize/There are so many tickets to heaven/But there are so many more to hell”. Glorious stuff, and it’s coupled with one of those inanely catchy singalong choruses that would make a certain Mr Byford wonder why he hadn’t thought of it many moons ago…

 

‘Tomorrow’s Dead’ is another ripped straight from the Dio songbook, but a lot heavier, especially in Lagerstroem’s crunching bass line and the harsh guitar riff: again, there is a great sense of pacing, obviously shown how they have studied the master’s technique and learned accordingly. ‘Good vs Bad’ picks the pace up again, and again the ghost of RJD hangs over Johansson’s delivery, especially in the upper end of his register: it’s a standard, fast-paced hard rocker of the sort guaranteed to get necks snap, hair whirled and guitars aired in the live environment. ‘Suburban Song’ pays homage to one of Dio’s erstwhile collaborators, with its ‘Greensleeves’-evoking acoustic intro, before crunching into a hard rocker more redolent of post-RJD Rainbow.

 

 

‘Lost Boy’ is another standard hard rocker, very much in mien of classic Scorpions (if you need a reference point) with a great hook and a crunching riff and a precisely orchestrated duelling solo, while ‘Slaves To Ourselves’ is a soaring slice of pomp rock, driven by Roberg’s huge keyboard sound and an acerbic twin guitar riff that just grabs you immediately, much in the way Accept (yep, there’s that comparison again) do in their finest moments. The title track– apparently based on a modern day ghost story - brings proceedings in suitably grandiose (and, at more than eight and a half minutes, epic) style, with dense, swirling harmonies underpinned by another massive crunch of a riff and topped off by a suitably acidic vocal from Johansson.

 

Many people use the word “proper” when referring to hard rock and heavy metal. In this case, ‘Black Eyed Children’ is an above-average album which crosses the lines between the two subgenres and is played and delivered properly, with plenty of attention to detail, superb sense of dynamics and some stunning musicianship. Proper order.

 

‘Black Eyed Children’ is out now.

 

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