Astralion – Astralion
Astralion – Astralion (2014)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
Just yesterday I was thinking that this fall and winter were lacking a deliciously cheerful cornball power metal release for me to goof around to, and it seems that the Finns in Astralion were listening. Granted, I’ve been watching Astralion for some time, due to Ian Highhill and Krister Lundell’s involvement in fantastic Finn power outfit Olympos Mons, but this full length arrived very quietly and without much to-do at all. I blame Limb’s fairly lackluster PR department, but nothing can dim my excitement for this album, which has quickly proved to be just as delightful as I had hoped for.
Slowly coming together since 2011, Astralion is the result of more than three years of build-up from its members, and delivers an unadulterated dose of speedy, vocal-centric metal that sounds like it was pulled straight out of the power metal revival of the late 90’s. While I’m hardly one to be stuck in the past, I very much appreciate this approach when I hear it, and Astralion’s debut is chock full of excellent tributes to some of my favorite music on earth.
While I may have been anticipating this album due to the presence of Highhill and Lundell, this is a considerably different animal than Olympos Mons. Forsaking some of the more adventurous harmonization and utter smoothness in favor of straightforward songwriting and consistent speed, Astralion does maintain a rather strong key presence – though its contribution is fairly backseat and supportive (like much of Finland’s power metal offerings). Infectious vocal melodies and lead guitar hooks are the high order of the day, and won’t disappoint any fan of this stuff for long. Opener “Mysterious & Victorious” is an adrenaline-inducing, anthemic track that gets my heart throbbing in ways usual reserved for old Power Quest, and somewhat to my surprise, the band does a pretty good job of pacing itself with songs. Only in the middle of the album does Astralion feel a little bit trite, with less oustanding tracks like “We All Made Metal” and “Black Sails”. With over an hour of material, an album of this kind is likely to feel long-running in general, and thirteen-plus minute closer “Last Man On Deck” does an unfortunate job of driving this point home, despite some very good hooks.
Favorites here are scattered all over the place. Aside from the opener, an all-too-optimistic “When Death Comes Knocking”, the quick and silly “Computerized Love”, and the surprise nursery-rhyme-gone-nutty smash “Mary Bloody” account for my personal highlights. There’s not a lot of originality, but Astralion doesn’t quite sound like anything else. This great debut is a celebration of what made the likes of acts such as Dreamtale, Power Quest, and even Sonata Arctica what they are, and is worthy of respect in its own right. Any who enjoy this general style will not want to miss this album, and hopefully it will bring a few late bloomers back around to the classics of a golden age.
3.75 // 5