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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prog-Rock Classic From The New Gods Of The Genre.
Having made something of a splash with their debut LP 'The Weirding', Astra return in no uncertain terms with 'The Black Chord' which will surely go on to attain 'classic' status as it takes what was great about their debut and moves the band into the realms of sonic perfection.
Opening instrumental 'Cocoon' sets the scene, coming on like late 70s Pink Floyd,...
Published on 7 May 2012 by M.G.A

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Depends upon your expectations
To be honest, I was ready to condemn it after the first listenings, but then I got to like it!

It's too easy to be too proud of the sources of the band's material, but what's the point? We aren't getting anything new, and I like the style of music offered here, and always have.

You could say that it's a mix of Pink Floyd, The Moody blues, Yes and...
Published on 9 Sep 2012 by sussexbowler


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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prog-Rock Classic From The New Gods Of The Genre., 7 May 2012
This review is from: The Black Chord (Audio CD)
Having made something of a splash with their debut LP 'The Weirding', Astra return in no uncertain terms with 'The Black Chord' which will surely go on to attain 'classic' status as it takes what was great about their debut and moves the band into the realms of sonic perfection.
Opening instrumental 'Cocoon' sets the scene, coming on like late 70s Pink Floyd, shimmering synths coming over the horizon like the sunrise, the track slowly building momentum before guitar takes center stage as the band start to flex their muscles on this exhilarating prog-workout which acts as a perfect intro to this, frankly, awesome album.
The production is a notch above that of 'The Weirding' as the drums are mixed perfectly into the musical fabric, while the synth and guitars are melted together to produce a sound that shines like Floyd's '...Crazy Diamond': Heady stuff indeed.
Unlike their debut, this album clocks in at a more modest 47 minutes, the band somehow being able to optimize their approach without losing the epic, sun-kissed textures their first album had to offer.
The vocals ease their way in on tracks such as 'The Black Chord' & 'Drift', sounding mellow and well-suited to the dreamy landscapes which will enthrall you - like a mix between the aforementioned Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream's more prog-inspired albums from the late 70s.
The arrangements are strong throughout, as guitar and synths playfully combine on a series of prog masterpieces, each track ending up as a journey in it's own right, as imaginative instrumental passages coupled with strong melodies clinch the deal.
This really is 'all killer', and one in the eye for those who choose to dismiss progressive music as something which punk destroyed back in the day. Nowadays it's appeal is more selective, but nevertheless, if you value musicality coupled with a stunning sense of vision, you need to hear this. Buy now.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Astra II - Good but could have been better!, 28 Jun 2012
By 
Cornish Deadhead "Happy Harv" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Black Chord (Audio CD)
I've played this new Astra album 4 times now,twice through the main system, once through high quality cans, and once through high quality earphones. I've waited until I've had a few listens in order to give a fair opinion on their new endeavor.

Firstly, the positive: this album contains only 6 tracks which are sweeping soundscapes of modern prog. Good playing and melodies which appealed on the first play. However, I do not consider it out-shines their marvelous The Weirding.

On the negative side, the production is no better than their first with the drums so far back in the mix, and sounding like someone hitting the arm of a leather chair. Secondly, the voice has an annoying effect imposed on it for the third track "Quake Meat" which is otherwise superb. Once again, the lyrics are difficult to decipher in their entirety yet no lyrics are included with the booklet, just a series of photos. Finally, some (for the want of another word) juvenile effects have been included, wind-like sounds, guitar alternating between channels etc. Whilst such antics were novel back in the late 60s/early 70s, it really is old hat now!!!

Don't get me wrong, my criticisms are meant to be constructive as overall this is still a very good album, however if they had a decent production and dropped the gimmicks, it could have been a great album, therefore only 4 stars from me.

Packaging is a standard jewel case with a cardboard slip case. I'm all in favor of using cardboard packaging for CDs rather than the horrible plastic boxes, but the trend of a slipcase on top of the box is useless in my opinion and environmentally wasteful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Depends upon your expectations, 9 Sep 2012
By 
sussexbowler (Sussex, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Black Chord (Audio CD)
To be honest, I was ready to condemn it after the first listenings, but then I got to like it!

It's too easy to be too proud of the sources of the band's material, but what's the point? We aren't getting anything new, and I like the style of music offered here, and always have.

You could say that it's a mix of Pink Floyd, The Moody blues, Yes and Rick Wakeman. But remember, it's NOT them! People were suggesting that it was like the Floyd, but I'd tend to disagree.

Astra try to find bits of the 'classics' that worked, and then incorporate them into their music. It's like trying to dig five tunnels under a river, and getting them all to meet up successfully!

Where it all fails (for me, at least), is that it isn't reflective enough. (See, I told you that it wasn't like Floyd.) She runs at quite a pace.

Anyway, the surprise is, that that album has a great ending, in the true spirit, no less!

Yes, I was cynical, but the download was well cheap. I wanted to see if my brother would like it (he's a Floyd fan), but I don't reckon he would because it's too fast-paced.

Nothing new here, of course, but if you like this type of 'traditional' Prog, it's probably worth a go.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If there is such a thing as a perfect album, this could very well be it..., 20 May 2012
This review is from: The Black Chord (Audio CD)
I'll start by simply saying that this is the best album I have heard since Astra's debut 'The Weirding', and it will probably remain as such until their next album. This is an album for anyone who appreciates music for what it truly is - a vehicle for self expression, experimentation, emotional channelling, and true creativity. It would be easy to describe this album, and indeed the band themselves, as '70s-style prog-rock'. Yes, Astra are clearly influenced by everything amazing that came out of the 70s, and as another reviewer mentioned below, The Weirding was drenched with Pink Floyd worship, but with The Black Chord they have become so much more.

When Astra emerged with The Weirding a few years back, I was quite blown away. It was massive album, filling up every second of available space on the CD, and can be a tough one to sit through in one go - but compared to the majority of new music released these days, it was absolute musical heaven, a true journey of epic proportions. I was so impressed with this band that for a while I thought The Weirding couldn't possibly be beaten. But The Black Chord has at the same time exposed the flaws with The Weirding - those being some overly long jam sections which take a rather long time to go anywhere (though they do usually eventually go somewhere rather magnificent), and a little bit of filler material in the form of Silent Sleep, a song that doesn't particularly go anywhere at all, contrary to the rest of the album - and it has improved on them in every possible way.

The Black Chord is nearly half the length of The Weirding, and so much better for it. The songs (a couple of which still clock in well over the 10-minute mark) are more well written, better structured, more varied and more concise. Astra seemed to have reached a new level of confidence with this album. They are no longer scared to hold back as they appeared to be at some points on The Weirding, and they have come out in full force with maximum musical monstrosity. The album embarks on an emotional journey that I honestly have not experienced on any other album I have heard. The highs and lows of the album are all so perfectly timed, the opening instrumental 'Cocoon' being a wonderful example. It begins softly and gradually builds up into such a brilliant rocking and powerful jam, then finally explodes into an uplifting melody, which is just a perfect example of how powerful rock can make you feel. As it fades into the monstrous title track, the real journey begins. 'The Black Chord' could be one of the greatest pieces of music I have ever heard. It is an absolute masterpiece. It never gets boring for a second, and achieves more in its 15 minutes that most bands achieve in a lifetime. It takes you from a nice relaxing verse right up to an unbelievably intense finale, you'll be left gasping for breath at the end, but craving a whole lot more. Lucky then that the rest of the album lives up the standards of the opening two tracks, culminating in the mighty 'Barefoot In The Head,' which sees the Pink Floyd worship returning with a fantastic twist of space rock riffage. The ending of that song has to be heard to be believed, and when the album finally closes, all you'll want to do is listen to it all over again, immediately.

It's difficult to put into words how ridiculously brilliant this album is - though I have tried quite hard - but you just have to go and buy this album right now, and after a couple of listens taking in all the musical splendour Astra have to offer, you won't want to listen to anything else ever again. Apart from Astra's next album. Well, and their first one. The Weirding is still a fantastic album. The Black Chord just takes what The Weirding did, shaves off the fat, and multiplies the intensity, the emotion, the rocking, and just the all-round musical genius by a bloody million. There is not a single ounce of self indulgence or pretentiousness to be heard on here at all - just pure passion, energy and creativity.

Seriously, get this album now. It will change your life.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent advance from their debut, 18 May 2012
By 
C. S. Caps (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Black Chord (Audio CD)
This is going to totally mess up my Amazon recommendations, filling it with assorted modern prog that I have very little interest in! Generally speaking, my listening is punk and metal and when it comes to my prog-rock I generally like it traditional (as in from the original era). However, there are exceptions and a good album always needs praising. So far, this is probably my favourite release from this year and, I'll be honest, I was not expecting that. The Weirding was a very enjoyable prog-rock debut but, with hindsight, undeniably bloated. It was a little tough to take in one sitting and the songs laid-back style occasionally bordered on the complacent. Besides this, there was Pink Floyd all over it; loads of Pink Floyd. It would not be inappropriate to start a review for 'The Weirding' with 'Pink Floyd fans, Astra...' In contrast, then, this is much better.

About half an hour shorter, the fat is obviously trimmed. The longer songs are still lengthy and there are still lulling moments but the songs have a much greater vibrancy and better energy. The songs twist and turn much more, very much for the better. This makes the album immediate and it grabs your attention rather than letting itself wash over you. The guitar work is a lot more dynamic as well, it's more captivating. In every way, it just makes for a superior listen. What's more, the Pink Floyd influence has been mixed more fully into a unique sound. Other prog notables, such as King Crimson, rear their heads more. Besides that, while this is still classically influenced prog, it's wholly modern. It's contemporary and individual; while the band recognises its legacy, with this album they have truly come into their own. The result is a fantastic, spaced-out, energetic and controlled intergalactic jam. You cannot give a prog album much more praise than that, can you?

Is it perfect? Debatable but it's damn near close. The gift of the briefer, no-filler running time is the curse of leaving you wanting more. The instrumental introductory number seeps so nicely into the second song that they become almost one long but quickly-passing track. Quake Meat is briefer and trippier and also passes speedily. Then the next two songs almost get sucked up by their brevity compared to the grandeur surrounding them. This leaves the closing Barefoot in the Head which is excellent and closes so monumentally that you don't want it to end but, before you know it, it does. Truly, this is an album that does leave you wanting more and, in some ways, that can be a criticism. However, that's probably about as complementary as a criticism can get and there is always the recommended option of playing the whole damned thing again.

I very much wasn't expecting to feel so taken to this album or to feel compelled to award it such gushing praise. But when excellence reveals itself, you have to give it it's due. Highly recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars all the chops, 14 Nov 2013
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This review is from: The Black Chord (Audio CD)
These boys have studied fragile, argus, DSOTM and octopus to good effect.

Accomplished, anglophile and convincing - give it a go!
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5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful, 2 Jun 2013
By 
T. Thomas "Tomasito" (Venice, Italy) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Black Chord [VINYL] (Vinyl)
just te vinyl that i was looking for! amazing and with a very good price!
in italy i couldnt find it for this price.... thanks amazon as usual
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5.0 out of 5 stars How have I found this band?!, 25 Sep 2012
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This review is from: The Black Chord (Audio CD)
I still don't remember how I got to know Astra, but I'm glad I did! It's been a long time since I heard a recent band play Progressive Rock like they were in the 70's! "The Black Chord" is an album that starts incredibly good with the song "Cocoon" and its fantastic riff that plays in my head all the time, the album is never a let down ending with "Barefoot In The Head" wich is one of my favourite songs of the album. I hope this band keeps giving great albums like this one and "The Weirding". And please continue to use that awesome Mellotron! In Prog We Trust!!! Waiting to see them live!
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5.0 out of 5 stars AN AMERICAN PROG CLASSIC, 22 July 2012
By 
ALASDAIR ROY (IRVINE, AYRSHIRE United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Black Chord (Audio CD)
I bought the first Astra album The Weirding in 2010 following wonderful reviews in Classic Rock Presents Prog.At the time I thought it ok but far from the classic they hinted at.However when a friend played me The Black Chord blind a few weeks ago I was instantly hooked.This is truly the first time that I have heard an american rock band in any period make progressive rock which sounds as if it is straight from the British mould of 1971.The quality of the music is terrific throughout with brilliant heavy instrumental passages using old style analogue sounds and instruments.The music is never a pastiche of classic prog but it is definitely in homage and I cannot recommend it enough to fans of this type of music.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another superb album, 11 July 2012
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This review is from: The Black Chord (Audio CD)
Another superb album from the new masters of prog. This second collection takes us to places familiar from the previous "The Weirding", but with a different tone and pulse. Can't wait for a third ....
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