Astrosaur - Obscuroscope - (8.5/10)
Published on September 9, 2019
I always felt that the stoner/psychedelic area of rock & metal is way too pretentious for what it actually delivers. I first became acquainted with Astrosaur on their tour with Ihsahn and Ne Obliviscaris in late 2018 and they made an impression that would have me return when hearing about a new album release. For me this is the band that turned stoner into a “listenable” genre, meaning that their music spoke to me on more than a simply intellectual level. Hailing from Norway, the stoner/post metal trio has a raw and stripped down formula of one guitar, one bass and one drummer and the music is genuinely good in a way that will keep both surprising and drawing in the listener. However I think that the band’s greatest asset is their capacity to balance the progressive with the catchy, keeping everything highly engaging. Various tempos give a sense of diversity and a well-structured aspect to the songs that makes the music appealing and easy to follow despite the complexity. Furthermore they are solely instrumental, a feature that can actually put off a lot of people but I believe it’s not the case for “Astrosaur” and their new sophomore album “Obscuroscope”.
Guitarist Eirik Kråkenes is the main creative mind of the band which makes for strongly guitar driven songs. His intricate riffing is further enhanced through creative variations over more repetitions of an idea and he sure is no slouch on the lead parts. It’s jazzy, mathy, and intellectual to the bone. I was surprised to learn that he actually worked as a session musician for Leprous and Ihsahn, so that should tell you a little something about his level.
One other very important aspect of the guitar parts is the weird tone and effects that definitely place Eirik in the “I make Starship Enterprise noises” category of guitar wizards, and this is actually available for the whole sound. The range and style of tones and sound effects that the band successfully blends into their sound is quite a lovely and welcome asset. From the constant fuzz on the bass and reverb to what I think is rotary, the music gets a really nice retro science fiction spacey vibe that reeks of little green men. I much prefer this vibe over the usual screechy and obnoxious stoner rock sound that makes me think of… well… stoners.
The bass and drums work a lot as backing instruments but are also not short on intricacy. Transitions tend to be bass and drum based which makes for cool stops in the guitar lines and I’m quite a sucker for the fast chugging pace of the bass on the more alert parts. I like how strong the low frequencies are coming through from behind the guitar leads and how much it adds to the sound. For just three instruments this sure sounds fulfilling and I blame the thick bass tones for that. The drums are probably the most progressive bit and it’s what makes the songs a lot more groovy and dynamic. I must mention the part towards the end of “Supervoid” where the fast blasting drumming combined with a harsh riff nearly sends the band into black metal territory.