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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Astral Doors

Evil Is Forever

Review by Gary Hill

When you review CD's like I do, you get to hear a lot of new music. The law of averages would tell you that only a handful will be terrible, and only a handful will be spectacular. The vast majority will fall somewhere in between those spectrums. So, when I get a disc by an unknown artist, I always approach it with a degree of skepticism. That's why I never saw this one coming. On first listening I thought I was listening to some long lost Dio album - and an incredible one at that. Other than the accent, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference from the majority of Sir Nils Patrik Johansson's vocals and those of Dio. He is a dead ringer.

On further spins it becomes more apparent that this band is not just content to be a Dio like band. While that is the most prevalent influence you can pick out, there are other things here that create a more unique sound than that. Many of the guitar lines call to mind Iron Maiden, and old Queensryche can be heard as well. The keys at times make one think of Deep Purple, while at others bring in some psychedelic and even prog textures. Even the mighty Judas Priest and Black Sabbath can be heard in the musical montage - you will probably miss all of them first time around, though. This Swedish outfit really lays it down hard, and there is not a weak album on show here. You just don't get much better than this, really.

The overall picture on this CD is that it is probably the best metal disc of the year. The only real contender I have heard is Royal Hunt, but with their prog metal style, we are really talking two different genres here. This is more classic true steel metal. While I love Judas Priest's Angel of Retribution disc, this one tops it. I seriously have not been blown away by an unknown metal band like this probably since I heard Royal Hunt's Paradox album. If you get one metal album this year, this should be it. I would advise putting in your budget enough cash to also pick up that aforementioned Priest, the latest Royal Hunt and the self titled Candlemass disc, but if it has to be only one, this is it.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at

Track by Track Review
Bride of Christ
Pretty keys start this. As the music kicks in it's one part Maiden and one part Queensryche. As the vocals enter, though, they bring with the disc's first Dio leanings. This stomper is an incredible one. This includes some awesome Maidenesque guitar dueling.
Time to Rock
OK, this gets chalked up for one of the most generic titles to ever come around the pike. That said, this one pounds in in pure anthemic fury. As it moves to the verse, the cut drops to the more sedate and this one is a total '80's Dio rocker, but it works very, very well like this whole album. You will probably find yourself screaming "It's time to rock."
Evil Is Forever
Church type keys start this one and turn a bit Deep Purpleish to carry forward. In fact, the keys make up almost the first minute of the tune, but the solid metal riffing kicks in to stomp out from there. This is another that feels very much like Dio, but it is just so strong. There really is no weak point on this CD, but this one stands exceptionally tall. Again the leads on this one are extremely tasty. The instrumental segment with its interwoven keys and guitar textures followed by the "evil is forever" line half spoken over top is simply amazing. What a powerhouse this is!
As if to show that they can pull off a ballad as well as the metal, they come in with an exceptionally potent mellow instrumental section with retro sounding keys. After a verse in this mode, though, a tasty classic sounding riff brings back the Dio modes. As they stomp this one out the retro keys appear overtop at points to add an intriguing textures. Some of the bass fills on this one are incredibly cool. This even includes a short segment that I'd probably describe as "psychedelic metal" as Doors like keys, weird spaciness and metal fury all fight for control. They resolve out of it into something that is all straightahead Dio type metal. The song ends with an incredibly effective balladic segment with '60's styled keys overtop.
Praise the Bones
This one stomps in frantic and very aggressive almost like "Painkiller" Priest meets Dio. As the verse comes in it's every bit as frantic, but more stripped down. This furiously quick rocker is another incredibly powerful one on an album that is full of them. A galloping Maiden-like guitar duel segment comes in later.
Fear in Their Eyes
Starting as another Dio like rocker, as it drops to the verse this one has a more sparse arrangement that is closer to a prog metal ballad. The vocals on this section are the first (and only ones) that don't feel like Dio, but instead are delivered as a poignant prog like approach. As the chorus kicks in the Dio vocals are back, but the band switch between the two sounds on this one 'til a fast paced instrumental segment that again includes both killer guitar work and the rarer keyboard soloing takes it for a while. The Dio elements take over after the outro that includes a killer layered vocal arrangement.
Acoustic guitar pretty, intricate and evocative makes up the intro here, then sounds of warfare come over top as the band shifts gear to another Dio-like stomper. This breaks off into King Diamond-like guitar segments, though. This is another powerful cut and includes some more exceptional guitar work.
From the Cradle to the Grave
This Dioish metal romp has a groove to it. It's another killer! The keys on this one again call to mind Deep Purple a bit. This includes more impeccable guitar dueling, but by this point, you just expect it.
The Flame
This is a faster Dio-like stomper as it enters, but they drop it to a slower jam on the verses then crank it up again for the powerful choruses. The guitar on this once again shows Maiden-like elements, but also feel like Dio. The instrumental segment with its brilliant interplay between guitar and keys and neo-classical leanings calls to mid Royal Hunt a bit.
Path to Delirium
Appropriately weird effects, Native American sounds and rain starts this. A balladic like guitar segment brings in the song proper and spoken vocals take it. As this carries forward the guitar ramps up then intensifies. A sung balladic verse with '60's styled keys takes it. Then the cut shifts to feel a lot like something from Black Sabbath's "Heaven and Hell" album. They move forward into more standard Dio-like elements, but a segue returns with a mid era Sab sound. This pattern, minus the opening elements and spoken section is repeated. Then a killer fast paced riff takes it until this jumps up into a Priest like riff over which more Dio like vocals come and the retro keys (at times feeling like a bluesy Wakeman) dance over this. A guitar solo takes it from there, then they move back to the reprise of the segment. Another Sab-like section takes it back to balladic and percussion and keys end it. This dynamic powerhouse is my favorite on the CD, and as good as the rest of the disc is, that says a lot!
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