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I'd be willing to guess Astral Doors really like Ronnie James Dio, like almost to criminal measures. "Testament of Rock" is a best-of with fourteen Astral Doors songs that are, well, a lot like Dio anthems, and average ones at that. This compilation is the first slice of material I've heard from these guys, and I'm honestly not that impressed. There really isn't anything interesting going on with Astral Doors even though they picked these fourteen tracks to represent their greatest hits, which kind of speaks for their legacy in and of itself. I like "Testament of Rock," but I'm not very empathetic when the release topples over from rocking the boat a little too hard.
But needless to say, Astral Doors know what rules given the right circumstances. Something like "Cloudbreaker" super-sizes everything Astral Doors appears to be: bombastic vocals, spicy harmonies, energetic percussion, Dio-inspired riffs that quake and shake...basically classic metal, no sugar added. Not a lot deviates from the norm, yet that doesn't stop "Testament of Rock" from delivering some wonderful pieces which burn pound for pound into pure steel, just like the godfathers played. Nils Patrik Johansson's large, colossal voice is about as magnetizing as a singer's pipes can be, and his incredible singing is easily my favorite quality of this band; he sounds natural and totally dominate of his territory.
Yet on the other hand, the song structures they use for every cut are a premonition for boredom, unfortunately. Sure the riffs sound good and the choruses catchy, but there isn't a fire Astral Doors can hang high. Any band can write traditional heavy metal: several do it right, fewer master it, and many manage to it screw up because the heat of passion is nonexistent; these guys are definitely on the mediocre side of things. Not to mention some of the tracks are just inanimate and barren. I mean "Power and the Glory" or "Quisling" have nothing to grab the listener's attention, and the unreleased "Victory" is more of a loss than anything. Talk about shooting 50-50 from the line, sheesh!
You know, I really don't feel like I was cheated with this. In fact, listening to "Testament of Rock" has given me all that I need to hear regarding Astral Doors from now until forever. Why would their discography travel down a different road than the traditional metal route, or show a color this release obviously lacks? A self-fulfilling question, I suppose. But overall, there are some good songs, some not-so-good songs, and a whole lot of frisky heavy metal that is simply heavy metal in its most comfortable form. The release is certainly fun and listenable, but definitely insignificant and a little tedious at times too; perhaps that's the only testament Astral Doors can rightfully boast at the end of the day.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com