Asrai
Touch in the Dark

Simply being on Transmission Records should clue you in as to this album’s style. Sharing the label with Epica and After Forever should get your female fronted, Goth Rock Spidey sense tingling away, as Asrai deliver basically the exact same sound; lush, epic and heavy on the dramatics and emotion. Still, while not quite Nightwish, this veteran Dutch act serve up a decent offering for those predisposed for this kind of sonic pomp.

Of course, it’s well produced with the guitars possessing a decent crunch and the suitably Goth synths up front, with one part of the sisters Mol, Magriet having the typically soaring The Gathering/Lacuna Coil like voice, while her other half, Karin Mol surprisingly and competently provides the drums. Stylistically, Asrai seem to want a piece of the ever growing female fronted metal group pie, as they are bereft of male grunts or overly aggressive tracks, instead relying on catchy mid paced tempos with the occasional darkly romantic ballad thrown in. It’s all well put together and well delivered but nothing too awfully original, especially considering the competition within the genre.

The opening duo of ‘In Front of Me’ and the addictively catchy ‘Pale Light’ immediately offer up two foot-tapping ‘singles’ that cry for European air play with their semi-pop take on New Wave, Goth tinged rock. ‘Whisper’ gives us the first expanded ballad of sorts with the usual moody pacing and tearful tirades of lost love. ‘Restless’ continues the expected sober mood even if laced with some vaguely menacing guitars that actually give the song some girth despites Ms. Mol’s evocative crooning. The title track, as expected, is a standout with a nice mix of earthy guitar tones and an angelic veneer from the vocals and synth work.

However, the rest of the album seems to level off into inexplicably predictable and rather forgetful territory as ‘Tower’ meanders with a moody, listless New Wave retro/punk paranoia (think Kate Bush/Cyndi Lauper) and ‘Dream’ and ‘Child’ while competent, are simply full of Goth Rock structures and tempos you’ve heard a hundred times before, including a Middle Eastern interlude and child’s voice sample.

The doom like quake of ‘Garden’ redeems the albums latter half somewhat though. The Lacuna Coil-esque anthem of ‘Shadows’ gives the album a respectful but name dropping climax to an acceptable but hardly necessary album from a band that’s tried for 16 years (under different guises) to make a mark. They’ve chosen the right genre, but still haven’t done quite enough to make it as big as their obvious peers.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
May 24th, 2004

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