San Diego-based progressive metal band Astra has completed work on its debut album, The Weirding, for a June 23 North American release via Rise Above Records.
Originally formed in 2001 as Silver Sunshine, Astra dubs its forward-thinking sound "freaked out prog rock." As ambitious a unit as you will find, the quintet's (Richard Vaughan [guitar, mellotron, echoplex, vocals], Conor Riley [mellotron, arp odyssey synth, organ, guitar, vocals], Stuart Sclater [bass], David Hurley [drums, percussion, flute, various noisemakers] and Brian Ellis [guitar, moog, vocals]) debut is described as an eight-song "progressive rock concept album . . . intricate and thoughtful in both concept and execution yet neither forced nor pretentious."
Astra's arsenal of sunward-reaching sonic harmonies, spiraling synth-laden melodies and art-rock uplift calls for comparisons to Amon D??l II, Can, Guru Guru, Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd and Yes. Already making a name for itself on the West Coast, Astra has shared the stage with such like-minded and diverse acts as Dungen, Earthless, Bigelf, Saint Etienne, The Black Keys and DMBQ.
From the Mellotron-heavy title track to the ethereal strains of "Broken Glass" to the seventeen minute instrumental leviathan "Ouroboros" and through to album closer "Beyond To Slight The Maze" ("for the contemplation of eternal solitude"), Astra's The Weirding invokes a celestial ocean of wah wah waves crashing against a never-ending shore of wonderment. Beautifully surreal cover art by Arik Roper (High On Fire, Sunn O))), Boris) furthers the record's ever-evolving mood.
The Weirding, like all great concept albums is initially rather vague in its er, concept. As band founder Richard Vaughn explains, "The main themes are death, introspection and contemplating what lies beyond. It's about pondering the rapidly deteriorating state of the world today and trying to find an escape."
The track listing for The Weirding is as follows:
01. The Rising Of The Black Sun (5:44)
02. The Weirding (15:27)
03. Silent Sleep (10:41)
04. The River Under (8:41)
05. Ouroborous (17:23)
06. Broken Glass (3:45)
07. The Dawning Of Ophiuchus (5:29)
08. Beyond To Slight The Maze (11:36)
[This band is not to be confused with the Italian band Astra, who just released From Within via Lion Music -ed.]
[Robert, Rock N Roll Cola]