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Let me start off by saying, that this album is completely different from their other albums!
Why? Because when the first song hit my ears, it was not black metal, but melodic death metal. Astarte seems to be going for a more mainstream-but-still-underground approach. The music is more listenable, and there are lots of guest appearances, as well as the Arch Enemy vocalist Angela Gossow, which is certainly well known for being "The woman who can growl like a man". With just her being on here, should help the album to reach a wider audience.
There is still a black metal sound here, but there are many other styles implemented this time around. One definetly being the melodic death metal sound, with guitar harmonies reminiscent of the Amott brothers, (though not quite as good) and there are some orchestral symphonics used in one of the songs.
Every guest used actually gives the songs a certain feel, and it feels that some of the songs were actually molded for some of the guests. All of the guest performances are very well done, except for Angela Gossow's. It seemed that the song didn't really fit her, and that she maybe should stick to death metal, sometimes her vocals were drowned out in the heavy blasting.
The beauty of this album is in it's uniqueness. There are alot of changes and complexity in these songs. They try a few new things as well, like putting melodic guitar parts where they wouldn't be expected. "Princess Of The Dawn" is one of the biggest surprises here, in the fact that they used a beautiful and happy guitar melody. This is odd in black metal, but not uncommon.
Indeed, one of the biggest shockers is the final song. While this album isn't laden with acoustics or even spoken parts like with "Sirens", it does contain an entirely acoustic closer. "Everlast II (Phoenix Rising)" is a beautfiul and calm way to end an album with so much thrash, and it is definetly unexpected.
I expect great things from this band in the future, and there is a possibility that this album will see them gain popularity in the media. I see them getting as much popularity as Dimmu Borgir or Arch Enemy with this one.
Though, as much as some may hate it - this is mainstream Astarte. I enjoyed it, and I recommend it. It is full of surprises.