Adastra - The last sunset 3.5/5
1. Visions of Armageddon
2. Lady pain
3. Fight against time
4. This life
5. Stood my ground
6. Get back to the ring
7. Loving me to death
9. The sun
Sometimes the critics can suck the life out of a perfectly fun, perfectly cool CD. This Adastra CD is a case in point. These Finnish youngsters recently released their debut on the fledgling Violent Journey Records imprint. I was wary of picking up a copy, as I read several reviews that lambasted 'The last sunset' as being derivative and amateur in all departments. Nonetheless, my curiosity and my insatiable appetite for guitar-fueled traditional European heavy metal eventually got the better of me, so I bought the CD. After spending some quality time with Adastra, I can understand the criticisms, but I fervently disagree with them. Read on...
Adastra are not trying to revolutionize the face of heavy metal here. They know what they like, and that is song-oriented largely midtempo traditional heavy metal focused on vocal hooks and guitar melodies that are heavily anchored in the Steve Harris school of writing and the Murray/Smith school of fretwork. Lead songwriter/guitarist Olli Anttila has a knack for penning well-crafted songs with clever arrangements and rock-solid bridges and choruses. To his credit, he avoids getting caught in a formula, spicing up the anthems with tracks like "This life" (which shifts tempos and moods repeatedly) and the 10-minute closer "The sun", which represents a noble attempt at a Harris-type epic complete with a vaguely snake-charmer type melody. But the faster, most straightforward songs shine the brightest, with "Stood my ground", "Get back to the ring", and especially the smasher "Adastra" meriting particular praise for being fist-in-the-air adrenaline-fired ragers. Keyboards are thankfully omitted, with Adastra electing to rely exclusively on the twin-guitar tandem of Anttila and Jari Hartman to propel the melodies and buoy the songs.
Those seeking to find fault with Adastra will have no shortage of ammunition. In their zestful enthusiasm for Iron Maiden, the band are perhaps guilty of treading a bit too closely on the heels of their idols from time to time, at the expense of the ever-elusive "own sound" that so many bands seek but so few find. But I find the overt Maidenisms to be both charming and well executed. Vocalist Ville Siikamaki could perhaps be pigeonholed as having nothing more than an average set of pipes, and that's probably true. But I hear a singer with a true metal heart who fully compensates in effort and enthusiasm for any shortcomings he may have in technical skill. Besides, Siikemaki is neither an out-of-tune high-pitched warbler nor an annoying growler, but he instead sticks firmly to a slightly gritty mid-range that is certainly sufficient and in no way distracting from the music. He gets the job done, and does so effectively.
Ultimately, the choice here is very simple. If you crave genre-bending innovation and envelope-pushing experimentation in your metal, then Adastra are not for you. If you are seeking the pinnacle of traditional heavy metal circa 2007, then you should probably look elsewhere as well. But if you simply crave an honest, from-the-heart, no-frills traditional European power metal record that sports buckets of cool Maiden-type guitar parts and some fine songwriting, then Adastra's 'The last sunset' is absolutely worth your time, much like a band such of Dawn of Silence. The last word goes to the band themselves, whose namesake song bears this stirring chorus: "We are Adastra / We are Adastra / We're burning up / So feed the flames." Well said and well played, chaps.
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