"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Nightfall - "Astron Black And The Thirty Tyrants" (CD)

Nightfall - "Astron Black And The Thirty Tyrants" CD cover image

"Astron Black And The Thirty Tyrants" track listing:

1. Intro (0:37)
2. Astron Black (4:20)
3. Astronomica / Saturnian Moon (4:09)
4. Astra Planeta / We Chose the Sun (4:43)
5. Ambassador of Mass (4:34)
6. The Criterion (3:13)
7. Asebeia (4:16)
8. I-I (1:14)
9. Archon Basileus (3:28)
10. Proxima Centauri / Dead Bodies (4:44)
11. The Thirty Tyrants (4:11)
12. Epsilon Lyrae (3:33)

Reviewed by on January 9, 2011

"Ultimately Astron Black is a hero by himself, but he crashed his mates on the shores of overwrought arrangement, editing and songwriting."

In recent reviews I have found myself explaining away unoriginal formulas a lot; trying to rationalize why a particular album is good or bad and using either the blind adherence or steadfast dedication to tradition as a positive or negative trait as necessary. Fortunately for me Mr. Black and his buddies came to my rescue. “Astron Black and the Thirty Tyrants” is anything if tradition-bound, combining lots of varied pieces together into a unique blend of heavy metal, but – and this is the part the hypocrite-haters will love – I still don’t have to like it.

The press materials recommend Nightfall if you like Asphyx, Amon Amarth, Dark Tranquility, and the like. At first spin this seems reasonable, as melodic layers from keys and solos fly on top of varied tremolo and thrash riffs while a gruff bearded gent bellows his larynx raw. The album is also fantastically named. “Astron Black and the Thirty Tyrants” was the last installment of the trilogy that the “Illiad” and “Odyssey” started, right? The subject matter of epic battles and heroes is very suitable for melodic death metal. The problem initially, however, is there aren’t really any standout cuts (arguments could be made for the title track, but it is tenuous at best) and the whole thing runs together as a one-note-melodeath-fest.

But on further spins “Astron Black and the Thirty Tyrants” gets more character. To wit: “Astra Planeta / We Chose the Sun” reveals itself to actually be a grunge-lite stomper with virtuoso leads. Album-closer “Epsilon Lyrae” is the only place that has actual blast beats, the In Flames keys are actually everywhere (but the production keeps them in shadows), and there are more tempo changes than a first time driver in a stick shift. As the onion peel falls away we are left with an odd mix of stuff and we aren’t sure if it tastes great or smells stinky.

Verdict: why not both? This is a two-headed record. As background music for your next death metal cookout, “Astron Black and the Thirty Tyrants” is fantastic. The meaty production and constantly fired riffs and growls make good background noise; the scattered unique bits will catch your guests off guard just enough so they think you have great taste in music. But as an album to play while driving alone “Astron Black and the Thirty Tyrants” is a headache. The album changes styles and sections so much it amazingly becomes both confusing and droning all at once, while the duct tape holding the whole thing together is starting to fall off.

In my notes about “Astron Black and the Thirty Tyrants,” I notice that I liked lots of the individual parts – cool solos here, nice buildup there, the syncopation over there is a nice counterpoint to the original groove, and so on. But man, I have so many distinct notes on distinct parts that I could write 3,000 words and still not cover everything. Ultimately Astron Black is a hero by himself, but he crashed his mates on the shores of overwrought arrangement, editing and songwriting.

Highs: The intro and title track form a nice combination of anticipation build and thrashy melodic death.

Lows: The constant counterpoint of different styles is grating.

Bottom line: Greek melodeath veterans put too many pieces into this confusing album.

Rated 3.0 out of 5 skulls
3.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)