By Albert Mansour
Originally forming in San Diego, California during 2001 under the moniker Silver Sunshine, this progressive rock quintet changed their musical style from psychedelic pop to prog in 2008 and also decided a name change was in order too, settling on the new name of Astra. However, Do not be mistake Astra with the Italian progressive metal band that also goes by the same name. This Astra’s debut album, The Weirding, is an eight-track album of pure music genius, untainted by commercialism and overproduction. If I had to use one word to describe it, that word would be masterpiece. The album brings to mind early Pink Floyd, Hawkwind and Ash Ra Tempel. Some of the guitar work on the album’s long instrumental piece makes me think a little bit of Topographic-era Yes too.
I’m sure this album will appeal to fans of Porcupine Tree, Ozric Tenticles, Hawkwind, and Melting Euphoria. The sound also incorporates heavy guitar riffing as well as symphonic organ and mellotron infected elements. Based on the skilled songwriting this is presented in a rather 70s retro style, including some long tracks where the band members let the music flow, breathe and evolve. Simply listening to this album is not just suggested…this is an aural experience for both your ears and your mind to take delight in. The stunning front cover artwork by Arik Roper (Athur Magazine, Comets On Fire, Sleep) is just icing on the cake. Like I said, The Weirding is a masterpiece.
(Rise Above Records)