Our Astral Circle

Written by: AP on 21/12/2009 14:50:56

These days Meshuggah is a source of inspiration to as many bands as Metallica, at least if the promotional material that accompanies almost all metal albums sent to us is to be believed. One of the latest examples is Moloken, whose debut album "Our Astral Circle" is advertised as a mix of Swedish doom and death metal the early 90s style, British epic progressive rock, and ambient hardcore. What we can already deduce then, is that the music is predominantly slow, obscure in its atmosphere, and extremely heavy - think A Storm of Light, Coalesce, Cult of Luna and The Psyke Project for comparisons in the various aspects of Moloken's sound.

The first thing to stand out is the baritone, err... tone, which will sound about as unfamiliar to fans of Joey Sturgis' production as some undiscovered Amazonian language. True to death metal, the bass guitar is always audible, providing an incisive, ominous ring from the backend of the mix, and giving the songs an absolutely crushing weight. The droning nature of the music allows Jakob Burstedt to color in the in-betweens of the constant, hypnotic rhythms with some seriously impressive melodic drumming, bringing to mind the prowess of two of my personal heroes: Mastodon's Brann Dailor and The Psyke Project's Rasmus Sejersen. Guitarists Kristoffer Bäckström and Patrik Ylmeforce alternate between single powerchords and ringing ambiance that makes less use of distortion than one would expect - which brings to mind bands like Neurosis and indeed The Psyke Project (particularly in the fantastic "Untitled II", a personal favorite). Instead, they prefer a clean setting with just enough distorted strain to avoid exhuming themselves from their murky grave.

Moloken is not, however, assembled from components of the various bands mentioned in this review. Instead, their influences melt into their own ideas to create a sound that's both unique and unconventional. It is not as unpredictable as The Psyke Project's nature-themed schizophrenia, nor is it as psychedelic as Mastodon's musical trips, nor as cacophonic as the improvising in some of Coalesce's songs. It is a profound study of the dark side of personality, exploring the mis-, dis-, un-, and anti- prefixes that shadow our actions and emotions. Interestingly, it is the music, rather than the lyrics, that gives rise to feelings of disquiet, discomfort, distress and disarray, misfortune and unfairness, antagonism and anti-humanity.

Another thing Moloken is not, is a band for everyone. While it is difficult to hang the band out for cosmetic flaws or lack of ambition, it's as though the music is almost too abrasive to cater for repeated listening. The songs follow a predefined formula that restricts the music to drones that build up intensity relentlessly without ever actually releasing it. The band keeps us in anxious anticipation and offers little reward, except for the sheer amount of detail found in the music via careful dissection. Casual listeners, therefore, be warned. If you are a devout fan of Coalesce, however, Moloken will probably strike a familiar chord with you.


Download: Molten Pantheon, Die Fear Will, Untitled II, Untitled III

For the fans of: Coalesce, Cult of Luna, The Psyke Project

Listen: Myspace

Release date 09.09.2009


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