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Underrated doesn't equal great - 76%

vengefulgoat, February 9th, 2013

Astharoth is one of the countless euro-thrash bands that failed to get recognition during the era of thrash metal reign, whether the cause being lack of luck in music industry, or, more often that not, lack of quality music itself. And which reason is the cause of that in case of Astharoth? Well, there's a bit of both, although upon coming across this band for the first time, it makes you wish it was only the first one.

What Astharoth definitely are not, is your another run-of-the-mill thrash metal band writing absolutely listenable, but forgettable albums with few decent songs at best. Just looking at the album cover and title suggests what style of thrash metal they play: although it's not really that gloomy as title suggests, the experimental touch is there. Astharoth play technical, sometimes a bit progressive thrash metal, comparable to bands like Coroner, Mandator, maybe Blind Illusion or their countrymen Wolf Spider, you can also hear early Voivod influence.

As mentioned, the playing of all instruments is heavily technical. While the riffs are numerous and usually good, they don't stand out as something out of ordinary for the most part, although sometimes there is something catchy in their technical nature, like beginning of Mirror's World or title track. Much bigger highlight of guitar playing on this album are solos and leads, attacking you out of nowhere multiple times during a song, showing instrumental abilities without sounding like pointless wankery. Bass is a positive surprise, it is audible in production, and the playing itself is impressive, varying its role from just supporting the guitar in the behind, to mini solos or Steve Harris-esque melodies played at the end of guitar riff, sometimes even going in the front like on song Good Night My dear. Drumming on this album is a little hit and miss, sometimes unnecessarily changing tempo or playing unadequately slow or fast to the rest of the band. At times it sounds even inspired by Ventor of Kreator, adding heaviness to the music. Overall the album doesn't sound heavier or lighter than general thrash of the era. Another hit and miss element are the vocals, and here it is more miss than hit, though they contribute to this weird atmosphere this album creates. The shouted vocal additions end up annoying and cheesy, except on track two where they are done by Litza (of Turbo fame, now quite a laughing stock in Poland's musical scene). While the vocals aren't great, sometimes the disadvantage is the music goes on too long without them, giving the impression of music going nowhere. The album has quite Voivod-ish, maybe futuristic atmosphere, while the lyrics aren't exactly matching it and focusing mainly on psychological topics, although I warn you this doesn't come close matching Time Does Not Heal lyrics, these are just average.

Overall, this is quite a good release deserving more than it got, and while not being revolutionary or excellent in any way, ends up being rewarding listen. It's a grower too, even if at the very start it leaves impression of being some true underground gem.

The MMP rerelease which is available to get comes with 8 bonus tracks, which were recorded after the band moved nowhere else than SF Bay Area. The tracks didn't make its way onto second album, which is understandable considering the band didn't achieve noticable success other than supporting few bigger metal acts, and the time of the recordings was quite bad era for thrash, 1991-1994.