Review: Astral Tomb ‘Soul Gazer’

Something continues to go down in Denver.

If this is your first time with Astral Tomb; they’re a cavernous, three-piece, death-doom band from Colorado’s capital. They share the same sonic space as Spectral Voice and Blood Incantation, albeit with their own psychedelic take on the Mountain State’s cosmic brand of metal.

Astral Tomb 'Soul Gazer'

Soul Gazer is Astral Tomb’s fourth full-length release and their debut on Sweden’s Blood Harvest Records.

The band say Soul Gazer is ‘a narrative of inner awakening’ and ‘best experienced in an introspective state of mind’. By the end of the final track, you will understand this is correct. That said, you would be forgiven for questioning this wisdom when you start track one of the album Transcendental Visions, a twelve-minute leviathan, which opens with hectic – Blessed Are The Sick-style chugging and knuckle-dragging growls, before blast beats and twisting solos seize the show. That is not it though, halfway through this track, shamanic chanting rides up into the mix, before giving way to a distinctly Astral Tomb-take on a ‘money riff’. This contrast between dreamy abandon and frenzied rage features a lot, so get used to it.

In fact, this album shoves you back and forth constantly, and it is all the better for it. Some of the most impressive sections on Soul Gazer are the crescendos of solos and blastbeats that transform into Michael Schrock’s shimmering Fripp/Eno-style soundscapes, backed up by drummer Zach Johnson’s artful cymbal work, but note Be Here Now, is thankfully not an Oasis cover, but something a lot more demanding.

the most impressive sections on Soul Gazer are the crescendos of solos and blastbeats…

With the action taking place, it is hard to believe Astral Tomb are only a trio. Schrock handles vocals, guitar, bass, and synth duties, combined with Adrian McClair’s stellar guitar work that jumps from frantic leading solos to rampaging rhythmic support. All with Johnson’s precise (listen, it’s mad) but feel-heavy drumming.

They say on Bandcamp that they have reached a sound and level of production that they’re finally happy with, attributing this to Pete DeBoer of World Famous Studios, who recorded Faceless Burial’s Speciation and Blood Incantation’s Hidden History of the Human Race, to name but a couple. Given that is this is their fourth album in as many years, it’s clear these guys set themselves a high bar.

While the first three albums by this band are all worth listening to and enjoying, it is clear why they are especially excited about this release, and it’s out now through Blood Harvest Records.

Label: Blood Harvest Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: James Bullock