Astarte is one of those bands that has a quiet history, usually making their presence known only when they release a new album. I’ll admit to not listening to them much at all over the years but when I pulled out my copies of Doomed Dark Years and Quod Superius, Sicut Inferius , which I needed to do to refresh my memory, I found that I remembered quite a few songs and could easily anticipate the music.

So, how have these Greek beauties evolved since then? The music is mostly slow to mid paced semi-melodic with occasionally fast drumming and a nice heavy rhythm guitar sound, clear lead guitar and keyboards that try to stay out of the way, adding depth but never dominating. The bass is present in the sound but should be louder. Tristessa’s suitably harsh vocal delivery has good range. As a side note, Tristessa is also Lady Lilith of Vorphalack. There are many acoustic guitar parts, which is not a problem but they are rather simple and sloppy, which weakens the effect, especially on the title track. The keyboard interludes are more effective than the acoustic ones.

The songs are relatively simple affairs with a good flow and are well crafted for memorability, making it easy to know what song you are listening to with just a brief passage. The intensity is down from past efforts, leaving brief bursts of aggression to do the job instead of sustained blasting, which actually helps because it plays to their strength. While I would not recommend them based on the mellow passages alone, it is the profuse slow and melodic sections that really give the songs their identity. I also give them high marks for not toning down the vocals. Check out the beginning of “The Ring of Sorrow” to hear some of Tristessa’s most venomous vocals ever. Their early efforts were their least original but having gone through the bullet belt and spikes fully corpsepainted necro years earns them credit in my book so while they have ventured far into more mainstream black metal, even featuring Shagrath on one song, they have my respect, having earned it long ago.

 If you already call yourself an Astarte fan this album is not a surprise change and is not a disappointment. There are excellent guest vocals by Sakis of Rotting Christ on “Oceanus Procellarum” and guest vocals by Shagrath of Dimmu Borgir on “The Ring” that Tristessa blows away. If you do not know this band check them out if you are willing to spend some money on a disk that will probably not see sustained time in your cd player but may surprise you.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Grimulfr
April 10th, 2004


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