The Astral Episode
Review by Gary Hill
There is a lot to be said for expectations. Somehow I had heard that this project by Richard Andersson (of Royal Hunt fame) was a more progressive rock oriented endeavor than that band. Frankly as good as Royal Hunt's latest - and in fact their whole catalog is, that had me intrigued. When I found that Patrik Johansson (of Astral Doors) was involved, there was another big point in favor of this disc. Add in the production of Jonas Reingold, and I was sure this disc was going to a groundbreaking masterpiece in bringing metal qualities to full on prog rock. Well, I wish I hadn't had such high expectations. The truth is, this album is good, but it just doesn't live up to what I thought it would be. While there are more prog elements than on Royal Hunt, some songs are more pure metal (and rather generic at that) than that band. Johansson, is obviously spot on. If you haven't heard this guy yet, pick up Astral Doors' latest - he is a dead ringer for Dio.
Amazingly, there are not many points where this feels a lot like Royal Hunt. There are DT like segments, some Hawkwind like space at times, and even keys that call to mind Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson and Geoff Downes. You will find a lot of neo-classical work here, but also a lot of fairly uninspired metal. This one qualifies as progressive rock, but only barely. I came very close to putting it into the metal category.
Frankly the music here can be brilliant, but it also has a tendency to be noodly and over indulgent. Some of the tracks seem to be way too stereotypical to have a lot of planning and thought go into them. The disc does manage to rock, but some songs work an awful lot better than others. This is the second album under the banner of Space Odyssey. I'd like to hear what they do next, but I won't have my sights set quite so high next time.