Astra - From Within
Lion Music
Progressive/Power Metal
10 songs ()
Release year: 2009
Astra, Lion Music
Reviewed by Thomas

I always cast a skeptical glance on Italian progressive/power metal bands, as I’ve encountered enough hilariously bad and generic ones way too many times before. However, there are still enough convincing bands in the boot-shaped country in the sunny south to slap me for being so pre-judgmental. Astra is indeed one of those bands that restore my faith in the people with the shaky English and funny moustaches. Even though I was downright sad when Titta Tani left DGM, I honestly couldn’t care less now that he found himself some more than decent musicians who are able to create just as great music as his ex-band. Along with Tani came DGM-keyboardist Emanuele Casali and the relatively unknown Silvio D'Onorio De Meo is responsible for the guitar-work here. My expectations grew when it came to my attention that Astra won a prize for being the best Dream Theater cover-band, and whilst some may look upon that as a bad thing, I eagerly prepared myself for a blistering listen.

As strange as it may sound, this isn’t as similar to Dream Theater as I expected. This is a rather pleasant mixture of the playful style of Pagan’s Mind and DGM, the happy and unpredictable A.C.T, Queen, Images & Words-era Dream Theater, the colorful sound of later Whitesnake and the almost musical-like Meat Loaf. Sounds great doesn’t it? Astra mixes this into a big bag of tasty sweets, and from the first moment of Tani’s shaky yet charming stroke of English you’ll be captured. Yes the lyrics does dip into the realm of the ridiculous, on the other hand the grammar is much better than on Different Shapes, which is a sweet freaking relief. Tani’s vocal performance is as good as ever, and this might be his best work to date. His voice is clearer, the melodies are compelling and catchy, and the he resists the temptation to include those lesser growls of his. The guitar-work is excellent, and the riffs are more or less similar to DGM and later Pagan’s Mind. There are also some stuff here fairly reminiscent of Dream Theater done very good. As for the keyboards, the playful sounds really fit the overall atmosphere of the record, and the space-y, sonic sounds on Over the Hills succeeds in putting a satisfied smile on your face.

The unpredictable personal favorite Save Another Day is technically astonishing, and their use of influences is shining bright. The typical Queen-y Simple Mind sounds great even though it’s opening with a rather odd acapella. The fact that they manage to include their obvious inspiration to a reasonable extent makes for an unpredictable listen where you never really know what you’ll get next. Every hook and melody grabs your attention and it’s impossible not to let your lips shape a faint smile when listening to this. There is nothing flat here, just entertaining, fun, catchy and slightly diverse progressive metal that flows very well. Unpredictable doesn’t mean hard to get though, as this is pretty easy to get into. If you’re interested in great, catchy melodies and dream-y choruses coupled with good riff-work, thrilling leads and slightly advanced passages, this shouldn’t be something you’d want to miss.

Even though this is overall a really cool listen, there are some audible flaws here and there. The slower stuff is not anywhere near the same quality as the good and riff-heavy songs. The closing ballad Never Say Goodbye is emotive yes, but it sucks all the fun out of this otherwise neat record. In addition to this, they fail on the more “aggressive” tracks here. The main riff on The Hitman is probably the most recycled riff there is, and the uninspired blasting and weak melodies could easily have been spared. Another small problem is that this gets a little worn out after continuous spins as the unpredictable details are all discovered and out-washed.

All in all this is pretty damn enjoyable. The melodies, the catchiness, the riffs, the structurally advanced sections and the atmosphere are all there. The healthy and balanced use of influences shows proof of a band that knows what they’re doing and that are going in the right direction. The Italian power/prog scene is again on the rise with both Astra and DGM up front. Both bands release their new albums in February, and is definitely something that shouldn’t be missed. Prog fan or not. Yes this has its duller moments, but what hasn’t? Overall this is great, and an awesome way to start the new year which could very well be in the sign of progressive metal. Highly recommended.

Killing Songs :
Over the Hills, Promises You Made, Memories Remain, Save Another Day, Simple Mind
Thomas quoted 82 / 100
Other albums by Astra that we have reviewed:
Astra - The Black Chord reviewed by Stefan and quoted 88 / 100
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There are 1 replies to this review. Last one on Fri Feb 20, 2009 10:49 am
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