Audio Mixers: Daniel Schwartz ; Brett Boland.
Overuse of superlatives often threatens to distract from how great a piece of work really is. Astronoid's debut LP Air is one such instance. Overwhelmingly powerful and cathartic, Air is an album to get lost in, a single-listen journey over emotional peaks and through sonic valleys. There is so much happening at once that descriptions make it sound like a confused exercise. The terms "dream thrash" and "blackgaze" could be thrown around -- and it really is an exhilarating mish-mash of everything from black metal to shoegaze to thrash and even to pop-punk (those harmonies!) -- but Air demands to be experienced firsthand for ample subjective appreciation. As a unit -- vocalist Brett Boland, guitarists Casey Aylward and Mike DeMelia, bassist Daniel Schwartz, and drummer Matt St. Jean -- Astronoid channel everything they've got into explosively climactic crescendos, eliciting euphoric physical responses. The Massachusetts band's style has evolved from their initial EP offerings, which were more furious, more black metal, and less gossamer (there's nothing like "Lightspeed" or "Astronoid" here). Familiar hallmarks like zigzagging time signatures, ethereal vocals, dense layers, and thrash riffs remain, amplified by gorgeous harmonies, incessant kick snare drumming, and tighter structure. Air is a technically tight and polished work. Indeed, the brutality of their metal streak is deceptive, since the bulk of the album is giddily lovely. This immersive experience kicks off with the ominous atmospherics of "Incandescent." The goosebumps come early and remain, rising with an epic swell as the riffs float off into the distance like M83 colliding with Deftones. Comparisons to Deafheaven and Mew are also appropriate -- combining the fury and the prettiness of those bands -- but Astronoid channels the vibes of so many disparate artists that much of the fun is trying to make individual connections for the ultimate personal experience. Within that first track alone, so much happens at once -- dream pop choir harmonies, shoegaze fuzz, and pummeling drums -- and yet it all works. Seamlessly, in fact. The one-two punch of "Up and Atom" and "Resin" keeps the affair firmly planted in the metal world -- they are signed to Blood Music, after all -- but with guitar riffs that bounce like pop-punk and vocals that are borderline reminiscent of Jimmy Eat World/the Juliana Theory, heads are banging while smiles spread across the face in bliss. Major-key uplift is a prime weapon in Astronoid's arsenal -- the big break halfway through "Tin Foil Hats" is a prime example of their expert execution -- popping up at crucial moments to break the thrash clutter. Their astral aesthetic is appropriate, but Air is not the sound of one serenely floating in space. It's the manifestation of the intensity, anxiety, and pure elation that comes during blast-off, as the rockets blare and the spaceship rumbles and the body is propelled into the unknown. ~ Neil Z. Yeung