Review Summary: A stellar journey to the end of the universe and time itself.
Like many bands, I was drawn to Astra because of the album art. That and Rise Above records have signed some really great bands. Astra is based in San Diego California; home to quite a few spaced out psych rock bands (Earthless for example). I wasn’t surprised later on to see Arik Roper was the artist for the cover art and that intrigued me further. As I listened through the album the first time, I knew “The Weirding” was a find. The opening instrumental The Rising of the Black Sun is a great introduction to the album. It starts off very fluid with chimes and a wailing flute. As the guitar surges in you get the feeling that something huge is happening. Then everything begins to melt away reminding me of some eerie choir.
The ending blends in with the beginning of The Weirding. This track features vocals and listeners will pick out a huge Pink Floyd influence with the accent, layered melodies and epic song length. This memorable track features the most floydian chorus on the album with shimmering guitar licks that definitely bring to mind Black Sabbath’s spacier songs like Planet Caravan. The middle of the song turns into a great jam that builds up to a soaring guitar solo that leaves you feeling the constellations rush by. From the void comes a melancholic voice emerging again for the ending, lamenting earth’s doom. Hope is given as the laser bright guitar wails in another great solo with all instruments working together for H bomb explosion at the end. This is most definitely the highlight of the album. This is only the tip of the 78 minute iceberg for this sonic journey. Like most progressive albums, it should be experienced from start to finish so, make time.
Silent Sleep begins with a beautiful guitar intro that eventually slows down, bringing in the elegant flute. This is a much slower, gentler melancholic track. After reading an article about the band in Classic Rock Magazine, I discovered an interesting quote from the band on the new album: “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”. This is extremely evident on this track. The River Under follows Silent Sleep on the album but also in sound. Ouroboros is another instrumental and at a giant 17 minutes of entertaining jamming. The guitar and keyboard solos gain speed and slow down, changing up melodies as they mesh together majestically.
Broken Glass is a dreamy folk tinged trudge through a dark valley eclipsed by stars. The hazy atmosphere increases as The Dawning Of Ophiuchus appears. The band displays some great skills with songwriting; they are not too flashy and balance the atmosphere side well also. The closing track Beyond To Slight The Maze has a very alchemical feel to it, especially as the organ rises near the end. It is a haunting but beautiful ending to a celestial journey. “The Wierding” is a great choice for anyone with a taste for classic, progressive and psychedelic rock. I would give this a 3.8 if I could.