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What is the deal with Astral Doors? Every few years they come back to…well, I don’t really know why they come back. They just do. Their last album New Revelation was pretty terrible, and I was not looking forward to this one because of that. I mean, I don’t think I’ve seen a band go further downhill without majorly changing styles or losing prominent songwriters, and this album deeply, deeply pisses me off, as I used to be a pretty big fan of this band. But all good things must come to an end, so let me put the final nail in the coffin of my appreciation for Astral Doors as I review Requiem of Time.
Rockish guitar riffs and catchy choruses - pretty much the only musical description necessary - is a good formula on its own, except it takes a lot of talent to make it work at 59 minutes like this album is. Talent that this band does not have. Fuck, this is vapid. That’s the best word for it. The songs chug along lifelessly without cooking up a pulse, like some kind of geriatric Dio rip off, with as grating a guitar tone as these guys ever had; still as annoyingly crunchy and oversaturated as ever I see. Nils Patrick Johansson continues wasting his time singing these dullard vocal lines, but to be fair, even he’s starting to sound bored, so maybe there’s hope he will move on to somewhere better worth his talent. I know he can do much better than the yapping crap he is singing on this album.
There’s just nothing about this that is in any way interesting. I mean…honestly, this is what you’re giving us? There is no drama built up here, no tension to be found, no power flowing through my speakers…where’s the substance? Where’s the passion? This is heavy metal by numbers, only a billion times worse than what that entails. These songs aren’t even well written. Every once in a while you get an okay chorus or a set of riffs that isn’t bad, but the band just doesn’t know where to go with them at all anymore – they seem to have lost their flame entirely. Listen to awful clunkers like “Blood River” and “St. Peter’s Cross,” or complete annoying shit like “The Healer,” all of which are practically textbook examples of how not to do this kind of heavy metal. Riffs that go nowhere wrapped up in an almost nonexistent structure with choruses that are mostly annoying when they’re not just completely unmemorable…seriously, guys, demo bands do better stuff than this!
There is a dubiously tame rock influence at hand here that serves only to dilute the material further of any kind of flame. That’s the thing with this – where in a normal band the combination of instruments and musical influence would strengthen the mix and make it stand out more in proportion to how varied, powerful or well written it was, here it’s like some sort of vile electrical charge effect, where everything introduced cancels out everything else, resulting in a clean, flat line of emotional and textural absence on all fronts. Nothing about this is in any way worth your time. An album so devoid of anything redeeming that it might as well not exist at all. It wouldn’t even matter if this wasn’t an hour long; it would still suck no matter what with the way these guys are putting songs together. As transparent, hollow and fraudulent as they come, I think it’s safe to say Astral Doors is done.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
Wait a minute. Is this band the same people who recorded Of the Son and the Father and Astralism, the two pretty good and asskicking old-school-ish power metal albums heavily inspired by Dio? Because I don't quite believe that. Requiem of Time feels like the band gathered around and said 'Hey guys, let's produce *THE!* most generic and lifeless power metal album in existence'.
While the cd starts off more or less promising with Testament of Rock, which is an up-tempo 'metal anthem' the likes of Astralism's 'In Rock we Trust', even there, we can spot certain signals about what is to come. First, the track is too long, and after two or three minutes it just gets repetitive, since it's basically just re-hashing the same riff and 'we're so metal!' feel for the rest of the track, and the fairly often repeated 'We'll never stop; forever strong, it goes on and on and on ' line of the chorus becomes quite ironic. Second, while the lyrics were never really a high point of Astral Doors because they were often silly and made no sense, here they're often downright idiotic, like this passage from Testament of Rock:
Get lost you posers of fraud; low life you run with the pack
Stay true, no mainstream betray;
We live as we learn
Let us take you to burn
'Look at us folks, we're so metal'.
And after Testament of Rock, it only gets worse, with a small incline by the end. Basically, nearly each song here is done in the safest way possible: most of them start kind of promising with some fast riffs to get your interest, but then the 'introes' stop, and everything just... slows down. But it doesn't slow down to a 'power ballad' or something like that, no. All the songs are kept at a pace not too fast, but not too slow either, like the musicians were afraid that going further down either line would be too dangerous and people might not like it, but the ending result is that the songs lack any characteristics other than some particularly cringe-worthy moments, like the horribly candy-coated chorus of Power and the Glory, pretty much the whole track Blood River, which has a rather bad and out-of-tune riff, a horrible acoustic interlude and verse structure, with the guitars playing single and seldom notes while Johansson yaps about, or the overly jolly 'put your hands in the air!' feel of Call of the Wild, which also shoves incredibly stupid lyrics into your face:
You must go, you're no good
I'm so tired of the creatures only here to ruin my world
Shut your mouth, nobody cares; this is the call of the wild
...and I'm still alive.
And that's basically how the whole album feels. The songs are either idiotic and bad, like Blood River, Power and the Glory, Call of the Wild and Metal DJ (which is another 'metal anthem', but I think the title alone says a lot about its quality. It's so cheesy it's not good for anything other than a laugh, really), or completely generic and forgettable like anything other than the tracks mentioned previously, and the ones mentioned two paragraphs below.
As for the musicianship, bass is very much non-existent, drums are actually pretty good all around, but forget about double-bass other than for a couple of songs, guitars are 'somewhere out there' with an occasional solo thrown in. Nothing to really write home about, since the instruments *can't* really shine or experiment anywhere, because song structures are streamlined and 'safe' to the point of stupidity. Nils Johansson still sounds like Dio, but here he also tries to pour in some originality, with a bit higher-pitched vocals here and there, but... it doesn't really do him any good (again, Power and the Glory. This track will probably haunt me for the rest of my days).
So what exactly *is* acceptable about this album to warrant a score of 35? Well, of all the fourteen tracks, at least four are somewhat okay, with one being really good. Testament of Rock is ok when you forget about the stupid lyrics and repetition. So Many Days So Many Nights is another ok track, with some fast riffing and nice drumming, the same with The Healer, but that one also has a pretty catchy chorus, and a neat keyboard line that somehow reminds me of Eric Brosius' soundtrack for the video game System Shock 2. And the fourth is Greenfield of Life - definitely the only real highlight of the whole cd. Fast, aggressive, explosive, it's very akin to Black Rain from Astralism, and perfectly shows that Astral Doors should really focus on releasing nothing other than such speedy rockers, because everything other ends up so hideously uninspired and generic it makes you fall asleep.
So in the end, what is Requiem of Time? It's a bland... oh, sorry, I mean *blend*, of a 45-minutes-long soporific drug, 8 minutes of 'something else' (Testament of Rock and So Many Days So Many Nights), and 7 minutes of quality material (Greenfield of Life and The Healer). My advice would be to only get the 'quality material', add it somewhere to your Astralism folder and pretend they're obscure Japanese bonus tracks, because all the other songs here could make a dictionary entry for the phrase 'Generic Power Metal'.