Ah Finland. Land of a Thousand Lakes. Home of some of metal’s most incredible and influential bands, particularly in the field of doom. Astral Sleep have been churning titanic riffs for over 15 years now, and their third full length Astral Doom Magick is another opus of mournful, marsh quaking doom for us all to sink down into oblivion in accompaniment. It follows the crushing Visions from 2012 and the more recent psychedelic EP Subconsciousnesslesskoe and is out now through Saarni Records.
Four tracks spanning over forty minutes will tell you a lot, but not all of the tale can be told by length. Opener Vril begins our journey with a rumbling, palaeolithic riff that is drenched in classic death/doom before a more Reverend Bizarre-esque majesty appears. Melancholic leads churn below growled vocals, skittering gently upon the surface of a lake of pure darkness.
Integration‘s grand sweep and soaring melodies form a glorious dichotomy within Astral Sleep. You’ve got some serious death/doom weight flowing beneath the kind of massive epic doom melodies you might find lurking on a Candlemass record, where delicate clean guitars can invoke the bleakest of emotions and hefty riffs can crush those same emotions to miserable dust.
Astral Sleep are magnificent, and this is their greatest triumph…
The gatefold vinyl edition of this record comes with its own board game, which tells the tale of the album’s mythical world. You could definitely find it easy to become absorbed in this world of light and dark, feuding endlessly through time for supremacy. The album personifies that, with the dense low end and mourning guitar wails battling against an innate sense of melody.
The glacial crawl of Schwerbelastungskörper is pure misery, howled into a void of painfully wrought guitar leads, while the closing Aurinko ja Kuu is more open and spacey. In fact, it wouldn’t feel out of place on some latter day Devin Townsend record, which is not a reference I thought I’d be making at the start of this review. But after a section that nods to the bands more psychedelic past moments, we delve downward into some heavier territory to close.
In a world where we’re all facing misery, the grim face of death haunting our thoughts and the collapse of society, it is kinda nice to have a record that brings you a soundtrack to it with a little hope lurking in there. Astral Doom Magick is a conjuration of grey beauty, where the rawest of sorrowful rage exists besides an emotional plea for a better place. Astral Sleep are magnificent, and this is their greatest triumph.
Vinyl & Board Game
As I mentioned before, the album on vinyl comes complete with a board game to play, and the band were kind enough to send me a copy of said vinyl to review those elements. First off, the artwork is even more glorious on the vinyl cover, and that special magic that vinyl always brings really adds something to the music. I’ve always been a CD man, but this could convert me permanently.
The board game is a perfect companion to the music, helping explain the narrative and mythology of the world created here. You can play on your own or with others, and I can recommend having the music on repeat behind you as you delve deep into this world.
Scribed by: Sandy Williamson