Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

Of tenacious crusaders and silver linings. - 83%

hells_unicorn, November 7th, 2013

Astral Doors has always had something of a unique place in the Swedish metal scene, opting for a traditional sound that is more closely in line with the late 70s and 80s eras of Dio, Rainbow, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and a few other bands that were known for transitioning metal from its bluesy rock roots into something more epic and astounding. They're not quite a keyboard infused refuge of war storytelling like Sabaton, but at times they've managed to sound like they've been taking notes on said band's exploits. Likewise, they don't fully embrace the outright celebratory, metal is king character of Dream Evil or Hammerfall, but it is, yet again, not hard to see where this comparison might hold some water. Truth be told, if there was a band that could fully describe their unique brand of 80s metal classicism, it would be Axel Rudi Pell, but with a few obvious caveats such as they aren't nearly as guitar hero oriented and don't quite use literal Ronnie James Dio quotes to build their song titles and lyrical content. But regardless of what band they tend to sound like, they've been a consistent and obligatory treat for all fans of old school metal, though they haven't gained quite the same level of notoriety as these outfits.

While my own knowledge of this band's back catalog is a bit limited, it is a frequent assertion of other reviewers that they were better back in the early to mid 2000s when the power metal scene was a bit more collectively focused. Nevertheless, their latest offering "Jerusalem" is no slouch if one wishes to measure it against much of their competition of late. In much the same way as with his other project Wuthering Heights, vocalist Nils Patrik Johansson literally steals the show with his heavily Ronnie Dio inspired blend of soaring brilliance with a gravely, hard rocking edge, while the rest of the band tends to keep up their end of things in maintaining the stylistic homage to 80s era Dio and Black Sabbath with several nods to other contemporary bands with a similar set of influences. The riff work is a bit on the busier side of the heavy metal coin, tending to emulate the flashy work of Vivian Campbell's tenure with Dio while also bringing up nods of Craig Goldie's slightly mellower brand of rocking and even going into full out Blackmore and Iommi styled minimalism on a few select songs. The whole album screams overt throwback, while still managing to come off as current with a nice, polished production job that comes off as thunderous without trying to compete with the noise-wars crowd.

Though this band often gets lumped in with the power metal scene as if they were in the same league as Gamma Ray and Stratovarius, it should be kept crystal clear that this does next to no dabbling in speed metal territory (in contrast to Manowar or Helloween), though they are a bit busier than your average old school NWOBHM worshipers. For instance, the up beat crunch and riff blitz of "With A Stranger's Eye" and the equally fast yet more mixed up "Operation Freedom" (which almost sounds like it's paraphrasing "Kill The King" during the first part of the guitar solo) both flirt with speed metal, but don't really go too far beyond the same formula that Judas Priest was using on "Screaming For Vengeance". And these songs tend to be the exception more so than the rule as mid-paced anthems with pounding guitar lines and glorious shouts such as "Seventh Crusade" and "Babylon Rise" trade blows with longer, semi-doom influence nods to "Shame On The Night" and "Sign Of The Southern Cross" such as the dragging fatalism of "Lost Crucifix" and the free flowing yet stomping march "The Battle Of Jacob's Ford". If nothing else, this band shares a unique fetish for war history lyrically that parallels their compatriots in Sabaton (probably a reason why when said band split they chose Nils to front their new outfit Civil War) that mixes well with their orthodox Dio worship, and boy does that worship get pretty blatant on "Child Of Rock N' Roll", which is a full out musical paraphrase of "Rock N' Roll Children".

Emulation may indeed be the most blatant form of flattery, but this band carries it well here, despite not quite capturing the lead guitar brilliance of Vivian Campbell or Ritchie Blackmore completely or the drumming of Vinnie Appice for that matter, but definitely hit close to the original territory. It's a little bit bittersweet that Ronnie didn't live to hear this album, though it's likely that he was aware of this band, among the countless others in Europe that were picking up his mantle at the onset of the new millennium. Anyone who likes it old school but also likes the idea of fully utilizing all the capabilities afforded to us by modern, digital recording technology will find a welcome album here. Speaking as someone who still needs to familiarize himself with the earlier material of this band, I can't make a full comparison to what they've done before, but based on the influences that the band touts, I'd say they've done more than a sufficient job of getting their intended point across.