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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Album Review - Astrosoniq: Quadrant

Astrosoniq from Oss, The Netherlands have been "exploring the ends of the rock universe since 1999". And in case you aren't familiar with them, one listen to their latest opus Quadrant (their fourth full length) will undoubtedly validate that statement once and for all. These guys may as well call themselves the kings of space rock as far as I'm concerned. Mixing a healthy dose of quirky voiceover samples and sound snippets with their high energy rock, Astrosoniq sounds like something you might hear at an all night kegger…on Mars.

"Faustian Bargain" gets us started with some dance club synths and a voiceover that states, "there's a whole world of new sounds waiting to be heard"…and oh what a fitting beginning to the sonic odyssey that is Quadrant. Ron van Herpen's guitar eventually weaves its way into the mix and the song begins to pick up a little steam as vocalist Fred van Bergen sings "we ain't gonna stay no more, in this lifetime…just waiting for a sign…take a trip to somewhere unknown, a dedication to life, another home". Next, bassist Robert-Jan Gruijthuijzen, guitarist/keyboardist Teun van de Velden and drummer Marcel van de Vondervoort simultaneously make their presence known by unleashing a monstrous groove that, when combined with the other pieces of this cosmic puzzle, brings to mind a heavy version of Pink Floyd. How's that for whetting your musical appetite?

The album continues with "Cloud of Decay", an industrial metal juggernaut by way of Dio era Sabbath. This one will wreak havoc on your eardrums in all the right ways. "As Soon as they Got Airborne…" continues the flow of Quadrant, and it is a near fifteen minute epic that begins with another perfectly placed voiceover…"journey into space"…with the word space resonating right into the heavy ass bass groove. Combined with the funky guitar and psychedelic keyboards, the song sounds something like the Doors…if they were performing on the Moon. And this all goes on for a good five minutes before Astrosoniq completely loses their shit and the song transitions into a 70's style stadium anthem, full of enough swagger and attitude to topple 10,000 galactic empires. I'm telling you…you gotta hear this!

"Play it Straight" is a sort of post-glam/heavy sleaze number…like something you might hear from a band like Beautiful Creatures. For the most part, this one does away with the samples and vintage sound clips in favor of a more straight forward approach to kicking you in the balls. And it's followed by the equally hard rocking "Lured", which finds Astrosoniq dabbling in Black Label Society biker rock territory…that is, if Zakk Wylde and company dabbled in sound effects and synthesizers. And you know what, as good as this shit sounds, maybe they should consider it?

Astrosoniq isn't finished however and Quadrant continues to evolve with "Bloom", which, believe it or not, is a countrified, twangy, rock jingle that sounds more Nashville, Tennessee than Oss, the Netherlands. How's that for mixing shit up? But no worries, the band is quick to return to the samples, the voiceovers and the heavy, as "Zero" takes on a very Mustaine-esque vibe, at one point even quoting the Megadeth main man with the lyric "so far, so good, so what". And then "Downfall Lover" sees them fall back on the slower, more Sabbathy fare where their roots so obviously lay.

"Bored" is another no frills rocker with plenty of guitar bombast and the kind of lyrics that seem intentionally juvenile…try "I don't like Monday morning" and "life sucks" on for size. And then Quadrant comes to its ultimate conclusion with a song that, not surprisingly, sounds nothing like the nine tracks that preceded it. With "Sin", Astrosoniq starts off all bleeding heart alt-rock and then throws you their last curveball as they shift into a sinister, classic heavy metal sound.

On Quadrant, these Dutch space rockers have seamlessly blended the past, the present and the future of rock music into a tight bundle of sonic energy. Their ability to weave multiple influences amidst an array of sound clips, samples and voiceovers creates a truly original aural concoction that is best described as space age rock. So c'mon, strap yourselves in and get ready to take a ride across the galaxy…get ready to explore the ends of the rock universe with Astrosoniq…liftoff in t-minus 10…9…8…7…

Track Listing:

01 Faustian Bargain
02 Cloud of Decay
03 As Soon as They Got Airborne
04 Play it Straight
05 Lured
06 Bloom
07 Zero
08 Downfall Lover
09 Bored
10 Sin

Band Members:

Marcel van de Vondervoort - Drums/Production/Mixing
Ron van Herpen - Guitars/Vocals
Fred van Bergen - Vocals/Samples
Robert-Jan Gruijthuijzen - Bass/Vocals
Teun van de Velden - Keyboards/Guitars/Vocals

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