"The riffs floor you, the bass guitar rattles your bones as it reverbs and ploughs through the track. The vocals swell and soar between the music while its shadowy and dimmed melody spirals and gorges on the listener"
We all have a fondness for certain bands over others, and it’s never really a forced decision or a carefully calculated choice, it just manifests and crystallises itself into something more, and it becomes a bigger part of you than the rest. Back in 2017, a late-night burrow through the YouTube labyrinth brought me onto a track from a Belgian post metal band who went under the name Astodan. New life was the name of the track and within thirty seconds I was swallowed up by the power and clarity of those colossal, crisp riffs and the breakdowns into a haunting singular guitar play, awash with keys and synthesised atmospherics. It was one of those “Holy fuck!!!” moments you get when the music gets right under your skin and travels through your bloodstream, releasing a full on, sensory overload.
From that moment on I was a fan of Astodan and their style of music. Two albums followed in the shape of Ameretat and Bathala, with both these albums further cementing my love for their ability to go from passages of thick, riff-driven melodies to pin-dropping moments of calm, never losing the mood and energy they had invoked. So, with all this in mind, it was time to welcome Astodan’s highly anticipated third studio album Evora. It was time to get devoured once more by their deeply atmospheric and intense style of music.
So first off, the big change in Astodan is the addition of vocals! Let’s get that out there right from the off. Bart Van Der Elst has been drafted into the fold to give the band another layer of sound and act as another instrument to help create more emotion, more depth to their sound and ultimately give the music a bigger heartbeat.
Relocate is the first track on the album and it’s the first opportunity to hear Astodan with another member. Musically they have stayed true to their blueprint with their ever-consuming, power-driven riffs that are played with great precision and clarity. When the vocals hit for the first time, they enter somewhat sunken within the mix. The haunting voice of Bart is watery and fluid, and flows in between the instruments, never attempting to take centre stage. It’s an interesting decision in making the vocals another instrument and not a standalone frontman, but when you understand and feel the emotion of Astodan’s sound, and allow those crushing riffs to consume you as they always do, it all starts to make a lot more sense. Relocate is a huge track and is simply brilliant.
Oath was the first track released as a single, and it immediately epitomises all that is unique and quintessentially Astodan. The riffs floor you, the bass guitar rattles your bones as it reverbs and ploughs through the track. The vocals swell and soar between the music while its shadowy and dimmed melody spirals and gorges on the listener.
The emotion in Astodan’s sound that I touched on earlier is all over The Falls, from the dimly lit opening guitars through to the heart-breaking and stirring vocals, that elevates it to another place. That atmosphere and sentiment seeps its way into the title track Evora, which is a slow-burning spoken passage of music that is dark, mystical and smothered in a synthesised haze.
The final two tracks on the album Nothing and Reconcile are truly a thing of beauty and showcase the talent of Astodan. From those quiet, sullen moments of almost shoegazed reflection, to the churning up of those heaving rhythm guitars, the guys have mastered the ability to harness the darkness and channel the light into a symphony of sentiment and sadness. Nothing’s harmonic hooks fly skyward under rolling drums and sweet guitars, building into that post-crescendo we all live for, while Reconcile is a slow rumbling piece that crawls and barks under a blackened sky, with a percussive heartbeat that keeps the track alive. The pace and power of the track lifts its head up and eventually stands tall, with the emotive cry of Bart shattering the clouds above, giving us all a moment to breathe in the air and sigh.
Astodan have once again delivered, and Tim Moens vision of where the band is going is becoming ever so clear. These guys are a talent, there’s no denying that. Evora is another step in the metamorphosis of the band and this upward trajectory is showing no sign of stopping. I am looking forward to seeing these guys next month at Dunk! and will enjoy a beer or two with them after the show, I’m sure!
Also, keep and eye on this week’s podcast where I speak to Tim Moens and have a really cool chat about all things Astodan. From the bands inception to album concepts and playing live, be sure to check it out.