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Of The Son And The Father - Astral Doors

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Genre: Rock / Artist: Astral Doors / Audio CD released 2004-02-03 at Locomotive Music

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      29.01.2008 16:21
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      Astral Doors' first album (2003).

      Most bands earn their living by imitating their heroes, but all the same, I was so dumbfounded when seeing Astral Doors support Blind Guardian in 2006 that I longed for a large, A2 sized photocopy of Black Sabbath's 'Headless Cross' album cover to hold aloft next to a query asking, "that's just this album, isn't it? But with rubbish Hammond organs?"

      Now I've heard the discography I'm in a better position to judge these Swedes, and there are some enjoyable, sometimes epic heavy metal songs to be found on this debut and its successors, but it really can't escape sound distinctly like Black Sabbath in the Martin era, with a liberal sprinkling of Dio. More casual metal fans may find it a little daft to imitate the sound of one of its legendary progenitors at a comparatively mediocre and pointlessly late stage of their career like this, but of course - tribute, influence and homage aside - not as many people are going to notice if they copy 'Headless Cross' as if they imitated the doom metal sound of 'Paranoid' and 'Master of Reality.' A simple glance at the tracklist and some of the lyrics does at least quell any doubts that this band were merely hoping to get away with this forgery, as no one who was trying to avoid accusations of Dio plagiarism would sing about rainbows and dragons, for god's sake.

      The main feature of this sound-alike is singer Nils Patrik Johansson, also of the more accomplished and creative Wuthering Heights, whose vocal style may have started out attempting to reach the heights of Ronnie James Dio, but ended up squarely in the Tony Martin camp, Dio's eventual successor in Sabbath for some fairly decent albums in the late eighties and early nineties, most significantly 'Headless Cross' and 'Tyr.' Johansson gets the suspense over with right at the start and lets rip with his best Martin impression in the first bars, only offering relief in the form of more traditional singing for brief sections in the title track and 'Ocean of Sand,' allowing listeners to ease their sympathetic jaw-ache, and although it can be a little hard to take him seriously after a while as he perseveres with the wounded animal vocals, it gives the band a nice, distinctive sound. Even if it's the sound of a twenty-years-out-of-date Black Sabbath.

      The rest of the band is up to scratch as a power metal outfit, but the music is predominantly heavy metal/hard rock in the classic style, with heavy guitar riffs and a consistent backing by the drums and bass, themselves only getting rare opportunities for creativity. The guitars are impressively powerful throughout the album, from the rip-roaring anthems 'Cloudbreaker' and 'Man on the Rock' to the slower and more epic 'The Trojan Horse' and 'Night of the Witch,' but often their thunder is stolen by the bloody irritating Hammond organs. I don't know why the band insist on featuring them so prominently - it certainly wasn't a feature of Sabbath or Dio - and while it's easy to accept them in the background of most songs, or even for more annoying intros, it's horrible when they ruin what would otherwise be a crushingly heavy riff in 'Night of the Witch' and others. Each song is made ever so slightly different, from the sing-along choruses of 'Slay the Dragon' ("kill the beast ... join the feast!") to the grander heights of others, but all are united by general sub-par Dio/Martin worship and Hammond organs, the vilest sound to grace a recording outside of cheery cockney choir boys.

      1. Cloudbreaker
      2. Of the Son and the Father
      3. Hungry People
      4. Slay the Dragon
      5. Ocean of Sand
      6. In Prison for Life
      7. The Trojan Horse
      8. Burn Down the Wheel
      9. Night of the Witch
      10. Rainbow in Your Mind
      11. Man on the Rock

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  • Product Details

    Disc #1 Tracklisting
    1 Cloudbreaker
    2 Of the Son and the Father
    3 Hungry People
    4 Slay the Dragon
    5 Ocean of Sand
    6 In Prison for Life
    7 Trojan Horse
    8 Burn Down the Wheel
    9 Night of the Witch
    10 Rainbow in Your Mind
    11 Man on the Rock