I already stated once upon a time that I was pretty much done with Symphonic Metal. You might have heard that from me. Then Delfinia happened, and I found myself with egg on my face.
So, the RMR deck crew’s ‘new’ approach became a trifle more careful.
And it goes somewhat like this: If anybody can deliver a chunk of Symphonic Metal that is so good, it might unhorse biggies like Nightwish, then I want to know about it. Ha, there you go, destiny. I got you good this time. No more egging poor, old RMR.
So, here’s to a balancing act between Cinematic Metal and down-home, refreshingly bombastic Symphonic Metal with a typical scent of Power Metal in the mix. Astralium is the name and their debut album Land of Eternal Dreams is the game.
The band formed in 2014 in – if my sources are correct – Sicily, Italy. Their first contribution deliciously adds to the already rich fauna of many things metal or rock – or folk for that matter down South. It is indeed so that the land of pasta and ruby-red wine is not only filled with Fleshgod Apocalypse anymore. Or dominated by Eros and his ilk, schmoozing the many sunburned beachgoers in the Mediterranean. There’s – as always – much more than meets the eye in this country. Hell, they even have sandy beach metal of sorts, like Nanowar of Steel.
But back to Astralium and LoED.
I always salute bands that attempt to break into an already pretty tired genre that many used and abused, and few really excelled in. To hit the style just right is not all that difficult. But it gets hairier the moment you want to stand out from the crowd.
And who doesn’t, right?
Now, Astralium just made me sit up straight. This is exactly the creative drive and energy that the RMR deck crew searched for. Over many hills, and far away, but to no avail. Because the established bands lost the compass somehow. And some clearly are on the route to nowhere.
Astralium definitely hunted the Symphonic Metal territories somewhat fierce. Yet, with this band, even the typical and somewhat worn-out idea of an intro called Remembrance sounds just right on Eternal Dreams. But the moment that The Journey with its airs of Nightwish of bygone times cooked off with a firework, I was hooked.
Often the resemblance to the aforementioned band is almost overwhelming, though. All over the place, and pretty intense too. Boy, the drummer even wears a bandana, so there you have it.
Yet again, a lot of that good stuff sails on the tacks, bands like Epica, Lacuna Coil, Xandria, Kamelot, or – again – Avantasia already traveled on. And you can feel it, right? LoED really resembles a somewhat epic battle between Power and Symphonic Metal.
So, definitely, we got ourselves no new invention of the proverbial wheel. But to the contrary, a crafty reshuffling of the cards, and a very powerful representation of an overburdened genre. Down to nods to Queen at the beginning of Hope is Gone or the crunchy hint to the Pirates of the Caribbean in Seven Seas, Seven Winds. A typical example of that cinematic breeze that permeates the whole record.
A lot of the credit goes to Roberta Pappalardo with her flexible and well-modulated voice, delivered in that cute little Italian accent. She often somehow reminds me of Lisy Stefanoni of the folk-laden Shadygrove, by the way.
Pappalardo‘s style really fits the theme, and we did not find any of the usual, forced belting shenanigans or overly strained and operatic sins on any of the tracks. To the contrary, this girl knows how to sing and does it well too.
And that’s a relief right there.
But now it’s time to stop this rant and start to draw a fence around this heap of miscellaneous wordsmithing. And here’s the question: Have the established bands of this embattled genre finally lost this epic jousting match?
Clearly, Astralium took advantage of their influences. And the similarities to former works are striking. Quite unsurprisingly, I’d say. But the band kicked things around and came up with a debut album that I never thought possible.
Land of Eternal Dreams is a powerful concoction. Symphonic Metal and – to an extent – Power Metal at levels not captured for a long time in quite this way.
Also, I cannot find a lot of fault with the production. Albeit that the 62 minutes of length and the somewhat overwhelming mix of a gazillion of elements do pull things down some.
Yet and overall, LoED is by and in itself a pretty masterful new album. One that revives hope that this genre is truly not dead yet. And the Great Old Ones better start firing up their creative neurons. Because competition is afoot that will steal their thunder.
Astralium is the name and they dream Eternal Dreams. Powerfully, relentlessly and with a creativity that the genre sorely lacked for a long time. So much so that we already yearn for more.