One of the most challenging aspects of bringing innovation into the market is trying to follow it up. Massachusetts’ prog act Astronoid came out of nowhere and surprised many (including myself) with something fearless, boundless, and unique.

I described the act’s debut as part Coheed and Cambria, part blackened thrash, and part Junius space prog, but even that doesn’t quite put Air into its full context. It was a piece of music/art that has to be experienced to be fully appreciated, even though it certainly wasn’t for those who decry Deafheaven and Alcest for straying too far from trve metal or those who aren’t willing to give music more than a cursory listen. That said, the band’s opening statement was a true breath of fresh Air for those who thought metal and rock were out of ideas, and the concept of a follow-up certainly built up expectations.

Apparently, that sky-high anticipation affected the band, as the nerves of delivering a worthy second statement affected their creative mojo for quite some time. To their credit, that comes from reading about the album, not the actual sound on this self-titled record. Indeed, the word most apt to describe Astronoid is that it’s very assured. It’s a group comfortable in the knowledge of what makes them tick, though they never rely on that very comfort or get lazy.

Astronoid feel much more spread out in their approach overall. Sure, “I Dream In Lines” just sounds like a supercharged version of their debut, but “Lost” leans more heavily on the alternative influences before opening up into the song’s blackened second half. That assured confidence results in stronger riffs and solos (there’s a not-insignificant 80s metal tinge to the guitar heroics at times), and vocalist Brett Boland sounding more impassioned in his approach. He’s still got that characteristic, spacey falsetto, but he’s not always happy to ease into the shoegazey haze of noise. It’s a small change but one that takes time to notice.

That about sums up what makes Astronoid a winner: it takes everything that made Air work and expands upon it in ways both small and big. The songs are enhanced; the guitars thrash and weep their way more assertively, and the hooks dig just a little deeper into your cranium. Following up unexpected and innovative success is definitely a challenge, but it’s one that Astronoid met head-on and conquered.   

Purchase the album here. 

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