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The Pitch: The return of Vancouver's progressive sludge outfit Astrakhan with an album that chronicles our unfortunate rush to adulthood that ironically leaves us yearning to regain the innocence and blissful ignorance of youth. FFO: Mastodon, Tool, Bushwhacker
What I Like: When last we left Astrakhan, I was delving out some mixed feedback for their 2016 effort, Reward in Purpose. This was an album that had me praising the "Tool meets Mastodon" energy and catchiness of their strongest tracks, but also frustrated with the overall dull opening 15 minutes. I am happy to report that with the appropriately-titled Without New Growth..., Astrakhan have substantially stepped up their game; abandoning the bland without losing a single one of their strengths in the process.
The band gets right down to business this time around with these strong points and never looks back. "Dominion," in particular, really sets the tone for this impressive fusion of progressive, sludge, and post-metal with its memorable hooks, tight performances, and moody atmosphere. This carries over nicely into the equally solid "Cutting Teeth," which features great earworm basslines and just an overall fantastic progression. Across these 40 or so minutes, expect to find yourself heavily immersed in the overall journey thanks to the admirable pacing and dynamic range; not to mention the often Maynard-like vocals of Dustin Toth. Whether going full-steam-ahead or exploring more expansive territory as with the psychodelic and string-laden "A Change Begins," Astrakhan is nothing short of captivating.
Critiques: No major complaints here. This is a massive step in the right direction for this band. I could nitpick some trimming here and there, but for the most part this is perfection.
The Verdict: Goddam guys, you really outdid yourself with this one. Without New Growth... is the perfect representation of what I like to see with returning bands. While I can't at all take the credit for the improvements, I like to think that groups like Astrakhan, while remaining true to themselves, are taking fair criticism to heart to make each subsequent album better than the last. I'm excited to see were this goes in the future
Flight's Fav's: Dominion, Cutting Teeth, A Change Begins
-Review by FlightOfIcarus
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