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Album Reviews : Astral Winter – Illustrations of Death

By on November 1, 2009

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REVIEW #1

Hailing from the relatively isolated city of Launceston, Tasmanian band Astral Winter’s 2009 demo release offers a broad blending of genres gathered under the guise of blackened Viking metal. Stylistically, the band could be categorised alongside European forerunners Falkenbach, Forefather and other of that ilk, however they also bring in the orchestral influences seen in bands such as Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir. However while I do name Astral Winter in the same sentence as those renowned metal acts, the band at their first attempt has certainly not reached the quality of the European elite.

A highlight of this demo is the excellent black metal vocals contributed by Phil Hemsworth. While the album’s production doesn’t do them justice, you definitely can hear his ability on show which, when taken into a live arena, would lend a heightened sense of atmosphere to the experience. Unfortunately however, Astral Winter is a two man band, with the other half coming in the form of multi-instrumentalist Josh Young. Talented on the 6-string in terms of riffage and solos, Young’s inspiration is found wanting when it comes to other aspects of his music. The generic choral keyboard effects quickly feel overused, and at times the repetition of some riffs feels tedious and unnecessary.

The obvious influences here of Black Metal, Folk Metal, and a touch of cheesy Finnish Power Metal (read: Sonata Arctica). In fact it is these two points that are quite closely correlated – the good moments are almost exclusively the blackened sections. And while I don’t wish to harp on about them, the bad moments are the generic inclusion of facets from other successful bands/commercial sounding genres.

The 22 minute demo is nicely rounded off with a short instrumental, and brings together the Pagan inspired theme that runs throughout the cd. The band has shown potential with this release, and with a more original and matured song writing approach, they have the ability to take things to the next level.

Review by Brendan Amos

REVIEW #2

Another Australian Black Metal gem hailing from the Apple Isle – Tasmania for those who don’t know! Astral Winter comprise of Josh Young handling all the music and programming, and Phil Hemsworth on vocals

The title track “Illustrations of Death” opens with an atmospheric guitar and keyboard intro, the song goes to and fro from acoustic melodies to heavier Black Metal riffing with some very nice lead guitar work and intricate keyboard melodies. All the songs have a grand orchestral sound, giving the disc quite a symphonic feel, which Dimmu Birgir and Cradle of Filth fans should find a connection with. The guys have experimented well with a lot of great guitar harmonies in particular the start of the second track “Longing for Winters end”. The third song “Beyond these Frozen Castle Walls” has more of a driving tempo, and some great vocal melodies, particularly the bridge/chorus section and some entrancing guitar work which makes for an epic 8 minute journey. The final track “The Astral Kingdom” is a short instrumental and the perfect ending to a worthwhile addition to my ever growing Aussie Metal collection.

The stand out track for me would definitely be “Beyond these Frozen Castle Walls”. I would urge any Australian Metal fan to check them out. And to all our European counterparts this cd would fit quite well into the Scandinavian scene.

Review by Nick Olden

Band: Astral Winter
Album: Illustrations of Death [Demo]
Year: 2009
Genre: Black/Viking Metal
Label: Self Released
Origin: Launceston, Australia
http://www.myspace.com/astralwinter0

Track listing:
1. Illustrations of Death
2. Longing for Winters End
3. Beyond These Frozen Castle Walls
4. The Astral Kingdom

About

Mitch Booth is the owner, designer and grand overlord of Metal Obsession. In the few seconds of spare time he has outside of this site, he also hosts a metal radio show over on PBS 106.7fm in Melbourne (Australia) and organises shows under the name Untitled Touring. You should follow him on Twitter.