Since first hearing Astriaal many many years ago, I've always been keen on hearing their new work. Seeing them in 2010 however, for the first time, caused me to realize that I prefer these guys recorded. Live, they just don't do it for me, for many reasons: lack of cohesive presence and stagecraft among them.
The main reason, though, is because you have to be in the right mood to listen to Astriaal.
And if you're in the right mood, then this album is damn good.
Opening with Blessed Are The Dead, a predominantly mood-setting and atmospheric track, Anatomy of the Infinite becomes an intense and unforgiving album. Yet it does carry a particular moodiness.
While the band maintains elements of its music that for some become boring - lack of vocal variation, a certain treble to the overtones that can become wearisome - it does contain enough hooks and grooves beneath its brutal black metal exterior to remain sexy and interesting.
The mellowing out of the second track, Visceral Incarnate, at about halfway through, for example, demonstrates why Astriaal is at the forefront of this genre in Australia. It's not just slowed-down black metal: there are even shades here of what, to me, feels rooted in the ethereal constructions of Pink Floyd. Similarly, the construction of the remainder of the release deserves repeat listens and close attention.
The riffs throughout the album are well handled and nicely written; the melodies are carried well and are integral to the ways in which the tracks are written. The drumming is tight and consistent, and, while it is occasionally tippy-tappy, here and there it has a heavy-handed feel that gives you a bit more hope (I for one wish there was more of it!). Blend into these a raw vocal, and an occasional, tuneful and well-placed clean vocal, and you start to see the complexity and elegance of the release.
With a band like Astriaal it's easy to get stuck into listening to the movements of the riffs, which in my particular opinion ascribes the band its particular sound. Yet it is also my opinion that the driving force of Anatomy of the Infinite is in how the bottom end has been hooked into the remaining elements. It's been well written, in that regard.
Astriaal, like many mature black metal acts, knows how to pace a release. In picking up this album, you can not expect an approximate 40 mins of faceblasting or crust. It's moody: and it's why the release is great at the right time, and total, utter dogshit if you're not in the mood. You've been warned.
Astriaal fans will dig it for sure; and the newcomer to this type of Aussie black metal will hopefully be intrigued enough to check out the band's back-catalogue of material.
Astriaal's Anatomy of the Infinite is out now on Obsidian Records.