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I used to lurk around Mikseri.net for hours on end.
Mikseri was a perfect site for me two years ago, when I was a pimply teenager with a strange attraction towards Finnish doom metal. Turns out that a ton of super-obscure Finnish doom metal bands took the liberty of uploading their stuff for the world (or at least pimply teenagers with weird music tastes) to hear. One of those bands was Astral Sleep.
Astral Sleep are weird. some of the stuff I found on Mikseri was weird, but Astral Sleep took it a step further, with desolate an extended samples and soundscapes, banjos, xylophones, and a more trippy, spaced-out (though still depressed as hell) atmosphere. Comparing that with some straightforward death/doom and funeral doom that permeated Mikseri, Astral Sleep was indeed weird. It was like Unholy, but more random. Though Astral Sleep also has a thing for long songs, which indeed was a favourite of bands that uploaded their stuff to Mikseri.
So here we have Astral Sleep, a mildly insane Finnish doom metal band with long songs and a slight death metal influence. It was quite a ride.
It's, as I mentioned, a long ride. This two song demo runs about 36 minutes, longer than some full lengths I've seen. Astral Sleep do know how to write long songs, on subsequent releases Unawakening and Angel. Here, it seems to me that they were just learning that part. They can make a long song flow very well, with 99% of the parts being very coherent and logical in sequence. But they fall into the other pitfall of writing long songs; stretching out parts just to make a long song and get some doom cred. "Landscapes," while the Unholy-esque beginning and a pretty nice fast part halfway through are quite good, is at a near-standstill tempo with an overlong beginning. Unholy had the decency to end their songs at a reasonable time. If you can take influence from Unholy (it says so on their Mikseri profile, within a huge clusterfuck of bands they may or may not actually be influenced by), maybe take that tip as well. Or mine, of "long songs are good when you have substance to them." "Window to the Sky" fares better, even with an overlong sample of a damp jail cell bogging down the middle. It's a little more unique, largely acoustic with some moments of death/doom and an almost positive ending.
In spite of their problems with tempo, the guys at Astral Sleep are decent performers. I'm pretty sure that there's only one vocalist on the album (just judging by the overall lineup of the band), and he has a pretty nice range and a versatility of techniques. He's a good growler, having the slow, deep growls that work just right for death/doom, but he sings clean as well. From the deep lines at the beginning of "Window to the Sky" to the higher falsetto of the end of "Window to the Sky," he has quite a few octaves covered. He's consistently good throughout the demo. And in spite of my complaints about tempo, the guys behind the instruments do have skills. Their guitarist can play a riff, even at an absurdly slow BPM. And they have been able to prove their talent on Unawakening and Angel, so I can't say any of the guys here are talentless hacks.
Another thing of note is that in spite of a more amateur approach at writing long songs, Astral Sleep is very good with atmosphere. They are beyond the cold and lifeless dirges of fellow Finns Reverend Bizarre, instead going for a mournful journey. It truly does sound as if they have a destination, instead of just angst. And when they're not in their depressed state of mind, the light at the end of the tunnel is reached at the end of "Window to the Sky." Being able to switch feelings is a tiny plus.
In all, this self-titled demo was their baby step into the world of doom metal. Lacking in some areas, but hitting hard in really crucial ones. While it isn't a necessary listen, it's not a terrible demo at all.
At least they made Angel five years later.