I couldn't be more clear on my love of progressive metal as a distinct and vital subgenre of heavy metal. And one of the reasons is that, when done well, it provides such excitement in its seemingly endless rhythmic permutations. It's the flip side of something like Bachman Turner Overdrive's Taking Care Of Business "with that incredibly simplistic drumbeat that even basic amoeba can keep time to." [Thank you, Dennis Miller]
Case in point, just when you think you've heard it all along comes a band like Italy's Astra. Centered around keyboard virtuoso Emanuele Casali (DGM, of course), the band got their start as a Dream Theater tribute band. And it shows in their ability to craft mature, complex - but, more importantly, listenable - progmetal tunes that both impress and entertain. There's no shortage of amazing musicianship here with blistering melodic solos from Casali, who is also listed in the credits as playing guitar, along with Silvio D'onorio De Meo. For all I know Silvio is just playing rhythym - in which case Casali is a fucking monster in the vein of the venerable double-duty Tony MacAlpine.
In any case, progmetal fans will no doubt be impressed with the music on Astra's third studio album, Broken Balance, replete with intense riffage and topped with smooth, harmonized vocals that wrap everything up into a complete package of some of the best music I've heard in a while. You'll find elements of Queensrÿche, Symphony X and Dream Theater with a nice touch of dirt à la Haji's Kitchen.
The Bottom Line: Astra is making some great progressive metal that pays homage to the best of the subgenre while offering their own unique sound. This is easily a contender for album of the year. Keep it up, guys!
Tracks To Make You Want To Start An Air Guitar Band: Hole In The Silence, Sunrise To Sunset, Broken Balance, Faithless, Break Me Down, and You Make Me Better
- Genghis really needed this album right about now...