Astral Doors - Of the son and of the father 3.5/5

Reviewed: 11-12-04


1. Cloudbreaker
2. Of the son and of the father
3. Hungry people
4. Slay the dragon
5. Ocean of sand
6. In prison for life
7. The trojan horse
8. Burn down the wheel
9. Night of the witch
10. Rainbow in your mind
11. Man on the rock

Does your heart yearn for classic Rainbow and early Dio? If so, then Sweden's Astral Doors are just the band for you. Capturing not only the sound and feel, but also the spark and excitement of those seminal acts, Astral Doors offer a fresh spin on today's oversaturated market with a unique and distinctive identity. The focal point of this CD is newly anointed vocal god Nils Patrick Johansson, who has turned in 3 marvelous performances in a year's time in 3 different projects (Astral Doors, Wuthering Heights, Space Odyssey). Here, Johansson's turbocharged Ronnie James Dio bellow is in full force, elevating even average songs to dizzying heights. Some might criticize him for being a bit one-dimensional in approach here (as compared to his more versatile singing on Wuthering Heights' 'Far from the madding crowd'), but Johansson has the kind of classic, timeless voice that brings joy to a crusty metal veteran's soul.

Musically, 'Of the son and the father' probably owes more to old Rainbow than anything else, thanks in large part to the prominent Hammond organ and Blackmore-esque riffs. For a more obscure comparison, the band Zool comes to mind. Don't let the Blackmore reference fool you though, as this is no neo-classical shredfest. The riffs and arrangements are largely sturdy and simple, with a minimum of flashy 6-string pyrotechnics or instrumental wankery, There's a nice range of tempos too, from speedier stuff like the awesome "Cloudbreaker" and "Burn down the wheel" with its "Kill the king" vibe, to more brooding material like "The trojan horse" and "Of the son and the father", which has a "Headless cross" feel. The songs are compact (11 of 'em in just 42 minutes), with well written hooks guaranteed to stick in even the most vacuous of minds instantly. I do think the band relies on the organ excessively, but that's a minor quibble and more a pet peeve than an objective criticism.

Ultimately, this CD works well for exactly the same reason that Masterplan's debut was such a success: Monstrous vocals, catchy songwriting, and a retro throwback style miles removed from the ultra-polished, high-sheen melodic double-bass slugfests that dominate today's European power scene. 'Of the Son and the Father' is a winner, and I have high hopes, indeed, for Astral Doors' sophomore release.




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