Astral Sleep - We Are Already Living In The End Of Times

Finland’s Astral Sleep has gone through quite the sound changes in the last few years. Originally a Death Doom band with a thick, almost Funeral Doom sounding sound with the lo fi production but also having gothic and psychedelic tinges. Over time, especially with the psychedelic touches, they got more prominent and more present, and now with the new album “We Are Already Living in the End Times” (which is their wordiest title yet) it sounds like the former Death Doom elements heard back on “Unawakening” from 2008 have almost all been stripped away fully and replaced with a very different side of the band. Those who are more used to their Death Doom elements will probably be disappointed, but this doesn’t mean the album is bad. In fact, it actually is surprisingly decent despite the lacking early Katatonia or Opeth influences that the first few albums had. A bit of a short release (but not their shortest), each track is pretty digestible without stretching to that epic Doom territory past 10 minutes.

One thing Astral Sleep has done well with their music consistently is create a sort of hypnotic quality to their music (not boring) and it just tends to entrance the music. Starting off with the title track, one gets a bit of a lulling, drone guitar with clean vocals similar to that of Pasi from Amorphis and Ajatarra. It is still slow paced and there are some Death Doom styled growls mixed in, but like their previous effort, this is a very different route than what has been done before. The core of the sorrowful guitar tones keep the past musical structure together though. On other tracks like ‘Torment in Existence’ the band opts for some maniacal vocal lines that add variation, but don’t quite keep up with whole atmosphere of the music, before going back to the dramatic cleans that sometimes try too hard to impress sometimes coming off more Stoner Doom abrasive than lulling Psychedelic. The drums are thick and percussive here, like most of the tracks, and shine best when the acoustic guitar bits come forth. For those looking for a ‘balanced’ track to show both past and present Astral Sleep, then ‘Invisible Sleep’ is the best choice as the familiar growls dominate most of the track with some of the cleans, and the more older (or newer) Paradise Lost tones become more familiar. For those who like the more Psychedelic side will like ‘The Legacies’ has a bit of a cleaner sound with less distortion and crunching pace with a bit more melody, despite the presence of the growls still.

The last two tracks of the album are pretty similar in structure, so there is a little disappointment there that Astral Sleep did not further their experimentation. However, the style is more the comfortable side of the hazy mix of Psychedelic Death Doom with little surprises and more of the familiar territory heard on the first half of the album. Perhaps listeners were really hoping for a bit of a curveball thrown at them, be it a very spacey instrumental track mixed with Doom elements, or a different guitar driven style that is out of element for the band but furthers their Psychedelic side, especially in ambient territory. But, the album kind of just trails off in a bit of dramatic fashion with some backing choirs to add Doom elements in, once again leaving listeners unsure of what direction they are really going in. It sounds like Astral Sleep will still continue to tread the line between past and present; long as it stays balanced, they shouldn’t alienate too many listeners who have followed this band for some time. “We Are Already…” is a healthier mix of Doom styles though compared to the past, and also a little less drawn out as far as pushing tracks a bit longer than they needed to be, so those who are even new to this group should check the album out for sure, than try a small album like “Angel” for comparison of some of their heavier Death Doom elements.

3.5 / 5 STARS

1. We Are Already Living In The End Times
2. Torment In Existence
3. Invisible Flesh
4. The Legacies
5. Time Is
6. Status Of The Soul