“Astral Doors” Black Eyed Children- CD Review (Metalville Records 2017) by Adam McCann

Astral Doors deserve a little bit more credit than they actually get. Formed in Sweden in 2002, Astral Doors play a blend of heavy metal with power metal leanings, but also have a sound that is laden in that mid-to-late 1970’s keyboard sound and would appeal to fans of Dio era Black Sabbath and Rainbow, Mk III Deep Purple or Uriah Heep. As a band though, Astral Doors are far more than a throwback from a different era, able to chug it out with a modern twist that would also appeal to fans of Jorn, Primal Fear and Iron Savior. Since their inception in 2002, Astral Doors have had a steady release of albums. However, this progress was slowed down by vocalist Nils Patrik Johansson joined Sabaton alumni in Civil War before leaving in 2016. However, it is now 2017 and Astral Doors are back with their 8th release; Black Eyed Children.

As you would expect, Astral Doors start Black Eyed Children with keyboard soundscaping, building up and up into what feels like a live concert intro tape before a pickscrape announces the start of We Cry Out. We Cry Out begins with a riff that wouldn’t be out of place on the early Dio album, with its infectious chorus and blistering twin guitar harmony solo from guitarists Mats Gesar and Joachim Nordlund makes We Cry Out easily one of the best tracks on Black Eyed Children.

It would seem that being a member of Civil War has had a lasting impact on Johansson. Johansson cut his teeth with Astral Doors as a possible successor to Ronnie James Dio with his fantastic heavy metal voice, Johansson easily able to switch from Dio’s melodic rasp to the soulfully deep larynx of David Coverdale or Jorn Lande. But with Civil War, Johansson sang with a higher, exceptionally unique squeal and it is this voice which Johansson chooses to use consistently on Black Eyed Children. Lyrically, Black Eyed Children is actually closer to Civil War than Astral Doors, tracks such as Walls, God is the Devil, Lost Boy and title track all bear the hallmarks of the historically tinged lyrics that is put forward by Civil War, in fact, Walls is possibly the best track that Civil War never recorded.

As with We Cry Out, there are decent flashes of previous Astral Doors, Die On Stage features all the overly macho pomposity of the 1980’s about the joys of playing live, whilst Tomorrow’s Dead would not be out of place on Mob Rules with its Tony Iommi style picking clean riff before descending into the sort of grinding riff that Iommi would have been proud to write. Tomorrow’s Dead is heightened and highlighted by the fantastic drum and bass pattern from John Lindstedt and Ulf Lagerström, between them, they show that it isn’t always about how much you play, but what you actually play and this selectiveness makes Tomorrow’s Dead the best song on Black Eyed Children with Johansson giving his best Dio impression.

Black Eyed Children is decent enough, however, many of the songs are unmemorable and fail to stick. The title track itself begins with a picking pattern that is reminiscent of Judas Priest in the late 80’s, but overall, the track tries its best to be a Dio-esque album closer, but drags on to nearly 9 minutes and doesn’t particularly go anywhere. Whilst there is some excellent playing throughout with Johansson showing what a talented vocalist he can be with his range of dynamics, there is a lack of sustenance giving the feeling that Black Eyed Children was a little rushed. Black Eyed Children is average at best and there are a few songs which save this album from being truly abysmal. 6/10

Adam McCann / MHF Magazine

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