Often, it feels like the new school of metal is all about trying to be weirder, whether it be through adding in descriptors like “post”, “avant-garde”, or “progressive”, the aim of music seems to be toward the odd and unusual. To their credit, Astronoid really do offer up something wholly weird with the debut LP, but unlike their contemporaries, not only does Air sound unlike anything else I’ve ever heard, it’s also remarkably pleasant. The band’s sound imagines two sides of the same coin and blends them together. Side one is the metal side, taking furious thrash riffs and black metal blastbeats and melodies. Side two is incredibly ethereal. Imagine Junius’ post-rock/space rock hybrid but in a major key. The unifying factor is a Coheed and Cambria style mix of progressive rock and almost pop-punk-like melodies. I know I’ve completely lost you because Air really can’t adequately be explained. This is a joyously fabulous mixture of metallic riffs, space-y ambiance, and Heavenly vocals. It’s not kvlt or anything that will please anyone who though Deafheaven weren’t metal enough. That said, Astronoid are the perfect marriage of weird idea and wonderful execution.
Unfortunately, metal fetishizes being macho and burly, so maybe it’s best to view Air through a different lens altogether. The band call this “Dream Thrash”, and the album is basically a dream to anyone who loves riffs and all things pretty (musically speaking). The record really picks up with “Homesick”, which ends with a neat little guitar solo and a nice thrash-y riff. Later, the title track gives you probably the best mix of dream-y ambiance with a rumbling black metal fury. It also gives drummer Matt St. Jean a chance to really shine.
The title track also serves as a tidy package as to why Air succeeds so well. Astronoid would make an incredible shoegaze/space rock band, and they are clearly an excellent metal band. The fact that they can marry the two ideas into something so surprisingly new and cohesive is truly impressive. To be able to craft something that can appeal to fans of bands as wide ranging as Mew, The Smashing Pumpkins, Alcest, Cynic, and Enslaved is really noteworthy. To make it all sound united and not-the-least haphazard, that’s why Astronoid have a clear album of the year candidate on their hands. (Nicholas Senior)