Astral Doors - New revelation 4.5/5

Reviewed: 12-7-07


1. New revelation
2. Freedom war
3. Pentecostal bound
4. Bastard son
5. Waiting for the master
6. Planet earth
7. Quisling
8. Cold war survivor
9. The gates of light
10. Shores of solitude
11. Mercenary man

Quietly, without much fanfare, Sweden's Astral Doors have established themselves as one of the premier traditional/classic metal acts in the world. Beginning with 2003's excellent debut, 'Of the son and the father', the Astral ones have compiled a body of work that is astonishing in both quantity and consistency. Few bands have the commitment and the work ethic to churn out 4 CDs in 4 years, yet that is precisely what Astral Doors have accomplished. What is truly impressive about this streak, though, is that the listener never gets the impression that the band are simply mailing it in; rather, they have retained a uniformly stringent level of quality control. There are no fillers, no uninspired passages, just an impregnable wall of Rainbow/Dio/Axel Rudi Pell influenced music with superb songwriting and superlative vocals. Perhaps they are vulnerable to the criticism that their CDs are too "samey" in terms of style and approach, but the quotient of gold-mine songs on each release has been more than sufficient to justify purchase. Moreover, Astral Doors add their own twist to their influences, to the point that they do not come across as a cheap imitation of anyone else.

This 'New revelation' CD follows squarely in the footsteps of its predecessors. From the opening strains of the title track, the music, vocals and songwriting approach is instantly recognizable as Astral Doors without sounding like a mere rehash of prior glories. Although the band's core sound is unchanged, there are places where new and different elements appear. Some have commented that this CD may a bit more power metallish than previous outings, which may be true, as the organ seems to be turned down a bit and the rock'n'roll elements have given way to a slightly heavier edge. Perhaps most strikingly, golden-lunged vocalist extraordinaire Nils Patrik Johansson experiments with a clean, soothing, melancholic delivery in places that complements his patented Dio/Lande roar. The songwriting is both varied and exceptional. Like fast songs? Check out "Pentecostal bound", with lyrics about a virgin in black allied with a deceptive, false preacher. In the mood for a fist-pumping anthem? Try the title track, a pro-peace number with lyrics exhorting us all that "rage is a sin and we're all giving in / Let the weapons of evil rust." How about a somber epic? Give a listen to "Mercenary man", about the ravages of war and the irreversible harm done to those on the front lines for what is ultimately a pointless and stupid game of profit, power and fanaticism.

When the smoke clears, 'New revelation' is a collection of 11 well-constructed, expertly played songs capturing a variety of moods and feels, but all fitting comfortably under the rubric of the Astral Doors sound. Every track is a gem, sporting big hooks, super choruses, great performances, and the typically stupendous voice of Johansson. At this stage of their artistic development, Astral Doors are firing on all cylinders, oozing class at every turn. To me, it is a thing of beauty to listen to a band so utterly on top of their game, masters of their craft, as Astral Doors have become. The only remaining question is how 'New revelation' fits in the pantheon of the band's impressive discography. Maybe I'll be able to give an objective answer in about 6 months. For now, though, it is enough to say that I've been captivated by 'New revelation' to a greater extent than anything Astral Doors have ever done before. My top 10 list for 2007 will unquestionably have to be juggled to make room for this Swedish hammer.




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