26 May 2017

Astra: "The Black Chord"

Hyperbole aside, The Black Chord still stands as one of modern times' best prog rock albums, even 5 years on
Though arguably the decade of progressive rock was the 1970's, it's impressive to find that there are still being produced absolutely timeless and phenomenal prog rock albums 40 years on. San Diego's Astra is clearly Floydian in concept and execution, but there is so much more to their sound than a mere Pink Floyd clone.

Through enthralling guitar jams strewn across an ocean of celestial organs and cosmic synths, Astra manage an amalgamation of several prog rock tropes without ever turning to predictability. They find high ground with an intoxicating mix of metallic semblances - The Black Chord was released by metal record labels Metal Blade and Rise Above Records after all - with a classic soaring prog rock mentality.

"wild prog sprawls taking over in feverish bouts,"

With just enough drive to keep the high going, The Black Chord is an album that takes you on a magic carpet ride through several moods, from hard-hitting confidence to astral melancholy. Their huge compositions are filled with a sence of purposefulness, wild prog sprawls taking over in feverish bouts where psychedelia ruled before. The group's second album feels improvisational, yet controlled and masterful in execution, not entirely unlike bands such as Yes, Ozric Tentacles or Nektar.

It's hard to pinpoint any negatives with Astra. Everything from dynamics and songwriting to sound and performance is lofty as a skyscraper emerging from unseen depths like a shining monolith where only few achieve the same height. The group demonstrates a love for the old as well as a will to progress and invent. Most of all, their flair for songwriting is what takes them higher, and as it is right now, they stand head and shoulders above most contemporaries.


Released in 2012 by Metal Blade / Rise Above Records


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