|Review: Astral Doors - New Revelation|
Label: Locomotive Music
Year released: 2007
Genre: Heavy Metal
Review online: December 8, 2007
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
"Astral Doors masterpiece "New Revelation" is the album that will unite fans of bands like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Blind Guardian etc. under the same flag."
So claims the official Astral Doors website; a statement to which I can safely say is false. Astral Doors' sound is really mainstream and simple; always has been, but they were a fun band, with some hellishly catchy choruses and really fucking awesome lyrical topics, with their sophomore album Evil is Forever being a fantastic example of how good this style of music can be. No-one can deny their obvious commercial approach to songwriting, however (riff-verse-chorus-verse, etc...), which is even more prominent on this album than ever before. However, while New Revelation is not much of a stylistic change from albums they've made in the past, it is very lacking in most departments that the band succeeded in on previous efforts. Nils Patrik Johansson's Dio-esque croon/snarl raises to a rather irritating squawk more than once under the super-polished, sterile production, and the choruses will begin to grate on your nerves after a listen or two. Most of the songs here do not deviate from the norm or challenge the listener at all, either, serving as naught but a reminder of the other three Astral Doors albums, as it's pretty much the same old shit under a different name. The whole thing is extremely sugary, poppy and artificial for such dark lyrics (yes, fortunately the band has not sunken lower and dumbed down their lyrics), and thus it makes New Revelation a groaning chore to listen to all the way through.
The individual songs here are not very long-lasting. As with most pop and mainstream rock music, the songs on this album have no longevity at all, being shamelessly and annoyingly catchy and sticky, serving to hammer themselves into your poor skull and then quickly fade away into bland nothingness after two or three consecutive listens. Every song wants to get to the chorus straight away, and none of them involve any real extended listening at all to "get." Frightfully shallow, even for such a straightforward band as this. The songwriting here just isn't up to standards with rocking classics like "Bride of Christ", "Slay the Dragon" or "Fear In Their Eyes", and it's really hard to pinpoint one reason why - everything is in place, but it just sucks so much more than Astral Doors are supposed to. I suppose it just comes down to the fact that they really rushed this one out right after Astralism. The choruses are annoying and weak, the riffs are bland, and the songs seem to plod on with no direction at all; no purpose or meaning other than to be catchy and easy to get into. The album is just filled with irritating, poppy snore-fests like "Planet Earth," "Quisling" or the grating, parrot-squawking "Waiting for the Master." And as a long time Astral Doors fan, I must say that "Freedom War" is the absolute worst song they've ever done, with a chorus more annoying than long, sharp nails sliding down a chalkboard and less depth than a child's wading pool. Fuck, this is bad. I mean, come on, give us another "Apocalypse Revealed" or "Path to Delirium," guys! And yes, that does mean that your attempt at such a thing here ("Mercenary Man") has failed.
Good points? The title track is pretty good the first time you hear it, and it's not nearly as faceless or poppy as most songs here, but that is grasping for straws, as it does eventually start to suck just as much as everything else. "Pentecostal Bound" gets the energy kicking (pretty much the only time on this entire album), and it actually sounds like it could've been included on Evil is Forever or Astralism - which means they probably wrote it as a B-side for one of those albums. The band did try their hand at a real ballad this time around, though, titled "Bastard Son", and it's probably the best song on this album, just because it's a refreshing change of pace from what we're used to from them. It's a mellow, rather dark acoustic jingle, with epic, sorrowful vocal lines to rival the best of the band's catalogue, and yeah, it's pretty poppy sometimes, but it's pretty decent all the same. Disgraceful; if the best this once-admirable band can manage is a "pretty okay" song. Well, eh, this didn't really turn out to be much of a "good points" list, did it?
So Astral Doors, take this mis-step as a lesson, and next time I urge you to take more than a year to record an album, instead of releasing it on the coat-tail of a much better one. New Revelation is not terrible, but it's certainly not good either, and it won't leave any lasting impressions anywhere. This album just gets worse every time I hear it. An album that will unite fans of Sabbath, Maiden, and Blind Guardian, eh Astral Doors? Hardly.
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