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Black Chord Import

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Amazon.com: 16 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Great follow-up to The Weirding-New Prog Rock Classic March 30 2012
By Exwag - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Astra won me over with 2009's The Weirding, a total throwback to vintage early 70s prog, all Genesis mellotrons, Pink Floyd dreaminess, and Hawkwind brain-melting guitar freakouts. The Black Chord ups the ante on this style, with multiple mellotrons, minimoogs, and organs creating icy, intertwining melodic lines that lace through every track on this 47-minute monster of an album. This time out, especially on the 15-minute title track, they throw in a little Yes and go for broke, with fantastic results. One thing that sets Astra apart, despite their obvious hommage to classic prog, is that this is not so literal, as it is in some bands (e.g., the many who have a singer who sings high like Jon Anderson, or who get so close to the originals that in some cases bits of melody lines are stolen from prog classics). Astra sound like Astra, ultimately, and the production is warm, full, not screaming "modern" but enough to realize this is from 2012, not 1971. The standout track is the finale, Barefoot In The Head, which boasts the best vocal melody on the record (the main criticism is that, elsewhere, the catchiness of the melodic content doesn't quite reach the heights of, say Yes circa Fragile or Close to the Edge. . . someone should tell Astra that it wouldn't hurt to throw in a few actual choruses to give fans something to sing along to, and remember the tune by!).

In sum, this is every bit as good as The Weirding and in many ways, better: More tightly woven and cleanly composed, not so much of the long wailing jams to fill up space. The sound is much improved, and the vocals are also better with many nice harmonies. If you get the same shivers I do when those mellotron M400s and minimoogs kick in, you will love The Black Chord. It is important that we prog rockers support worthy new bands, and Astra is certainly one!
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
My Review from Metal Hammer Norway March 27 2012
By Victor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD

Once a decade an album will emerge from out of nowhere and be so phenomenal that it is destined to be up there with the greats. The Black Chord is one of those albums. We have not heard much from Astra since their stellar performance at the 2010 Roadburn Festival. The silence has been well worth it. What they have brewed in their San Diego space rock laboratory is cosmic treasure. It is a progtastic mixture of vocal harmonies and psychedelic spaced out riffs. The generous use of the Hammond B3 and Moog add the vintage 70's sound without sounding dated. Guitar and keyboard harmonies replace the typical twin-axe harmonies that seem cliche after a while. The beauty of it all makes me weep. It could be a companion piece to Yes's Close To The Edge (1972).
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Prog Rock is not dead! April 12 2012
By Richard S. Heckart - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Having purchased "The Weirding" and loving every track I had to own the next in line to see if their freshman act was just a fluke. I had every intention of thinking it couldn't last. An unheard of band making a great debut album isn't unknown, many bands have done it, but usually the next always seems to miss the mark. With some music it takes a couple of listens to decide if I like a CD, I loved the "The Black Chord" on the first listen. I hope Astra will continue to shell out the great music I am learning to expect from them, I will continue to listen for years to come. If you haven't heard "The Weirding" buy it you won't be sorry, and do yourself a favor and don't pass on this exquisite gem it's great.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Long live psychedelic rock! April 16 2012
By Old Prog Lover - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Another stroke of genius as Astra has created a great follow up, that is even better than, 2009's "The Weirding". Still in all their retro psychedelic glory Astra manages to reproduce not just the 70's psychedelic style but manages to reproduce the recording sound as well. While some think it is cheap and poorly engineered great care seems to be taken to make it sound the way that it does. Instruments bleed into each other, sometimes drums may sound a bit off mic and vocals can be rendered to the back of the mix. Vintage electric instruments are used such as mellotrons, Hammond organs, M400s and mini-moogs; with the occasional acoustic guitar and piano. The use of extra echo and delay also helps to kind of blend everything together. All of this creates a sound found in the old late 60's and early 70's vinyl recordings which is much warmer than the direct to digital recordings of today.
The sound envelopes you and has a soft edge to it. The best way I can describe it is that it is smooth and blended with no sharp edges. It may also be described as "warm", just as an incandescent bulb is warm compared to a fluorescent light.

As far as the music, Astra magically captures the same sound and style comparable to pre "Dark Side of the Moon" Pink Floyd, (Obscured by Clouds, Meddle) Quicksilver Messenger Service, and perhaps some of the more accessible King Crimson (such as "Court of the Crimson King"). They walk the fine line between psychedelic and progressive rock, yet they do not fall prey to being cliché by trying to emulate any band of the past. Their sound is unique to them. A big difference, however, between some of the original psychedelic rock, is that there are no "spaced out" parts, where the listener has to sit through psychedelic noise. Instead you get electric guitar, piano and synthesizer solos, all skillfully played, subtle, yet at the same time mind blowing. Whether by chance or on purpose, the length of the CD is only about 47 minutes; roughly the same length of an LP. With six songs, they are mostly of a reasonable length and do not overstay their welcome. (The title song clocks in at around 15 minutes) The shorter overall length is definitely conducive to repeated listening.

So, if you miss the days of good old psychedelic rock, where you could turn on the black lights and light the incense, they are back with Astra!
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
classic 60s/70s style prog-rock for 2012 April 6 2012
By Charlie Quaker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
2nd album from San Diego, California band who play classic 60s/70s style prog-rock, with soaring
guitar lines and grandiose keyboards/synths flying all over the place--while drums and bass
weave in & out of complex rhythm arrangements. Ranges from jazzy-smooth, building patterns
with vocal harmonies to psychedelic/metal guitar riffs. Even Arik Roper's fantasy art work
recalls the classic album sleeves of Roger Dean. Reminds a lot of Yes, with some Genesis,
King Crimson, Pink Floyd & Hypnos 69 thrown in. Gorgeously powerful and retro-tastic!

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