Astral Tears - Hypnotic
Reviewer: Tiphany Mataï - 2012-08-02
Highlights: Obsession, in your face
[Translated By: Carmina Khairallah]
“Arabist and fresh, “Hipnotic” brings a bit of new blood to the French Metal scene”
Currently, women aren’t that honored, and even though we hear a lot of chicks in everything that has anything to do with Symphonic and Gothic Metal, it’s not necessarily easy to hear a feminine voice in other styles of Metal. Eths, Arch Enemy, The Agonist and friends haven’t had anything to prove for a while, but we would like more bands to show some femininity in genres where we don’t really expect it.
Oriental Metal, for instance. In all existing bands, it’s hard for us to hear a woman, except with Orphaned Land, and maybe also Arkan. But in any case, ladies don’t really have the monopoly and are moved to the background, simply to add an additional arabist touch. Astral Tears, French band from Orleans, has not made this mistake and I have to say that it’s the female vocalist’s charm that creates its strength. Here, Beyza, of Turkish origins, is THE vocalist of the quatuor and I have to say that she is really well put forward in this ensemble trapped between Melodic, Modern and Oriental Metal.
Astral Tears, that’s acoustic debuts that turned into Metal. It’s also a need to quench an overwhelming energy by trying to create original compositions. The combo succeeds in this mission nonetheless, as in standing out from the masses and offering an album with an identity that is personal to them. In fact, the Orleanais don’t settle with Melodic Metal, even though it is the term that strikes the ears most, but they take advantage of this “melodic” status to integrate a panel of elements, may they be a relatively modern sound in the mood of today, progressive elements, experimental touches in some passages, a fairly neo groove on the edges, but especially, and what really creates its strength, the oriental elements.
France isn’t necessarily the most renowned country for its Oriental Metal, even though there is Arkan, a real spearhead. Here, in any case, Astral Tears don’t do too much of it but adds the needed touch to transport the listener into Orient. Not wanting to cause you any disillusions, Oriental is not the compositions’ primordial element, although the band does take advantage of Beyza’s cultural origins to bring the necessary touches. And it works well…
Prima Facie, while listening to the first pieces as in “Hate the Enemy” or “Sinner”, it is impossible not to think of the Italian band Lacuna Coil. The resemblance is quite striking, as much in the riffing as it is in Beyza’s charming voice. Although, for the start of an opus, it kind of leaves us wanting more… certainly, the guitars are heavy and the rhythm dynamic, and we immediately feel that this is Astral Tears’ trademark. But a touch of originality is missing along with a dash of pepper, and for a beginning, it’s enough to leave us doubting about the rest of the opus.
It’s as you have moved beyond “Desire” that you realize Astral Tears’ strength and its quite innovative side in the French scene: the exoticism. The title is quite oriental in the introduction and verses, may it be the use of the percussions, the guitars or Beyza’s voice, very sensual and arabist during the melodies. Astral Tears manage to mix heaviness and charm without putting a lot of effort into it. They also manage to make the titles follow each other coherently. This is proved by the “Desire”/”Behind the Curtains” duo: we feel as though it’s one same title. Special reference, in any case, to its unexpected rise in power.
The rest of this “Hypnotic” seems very punchy and pushy, although without falling into the extreme. The instruments are thus well used but we regret the lack of modulation of the guitars, and of Beyza’s voice. It’s hard to hear her tone change as she often stays on the same plan that may make some passages very dull. Ditto with the riffs, which are not very varied, but heavy enough to keep the listener interested. Except maybe with “Awake”, nevertheless quite experimental, with its changes of style during the track, may it be the Metalcore type breakdown, the very oriental background, the quite Djent beginning with its technical and dissonant guitar, and this atmospheric vibe, again not so far from Lacuna Coil, adding to the exoticism. This time, don’t expect typically oriental instruments such as the traditional oud, sitar and other kawalal flutes. In reality everything is focused on the voice, some riffings, some types of percussions, and nothing more. Like in “My Reality”, for example, which emphasizes an arabist atmosphere, without nonetheless doing too much.
In any case, the more we move forward into the opus, the more arabist touches we discover. As aforementioned, it is not while listening to the beginning that you will be able to make out an idea of Astral Tears’ personality. And it turns out that the Orleanais aren’t that easy to corner. It’s a good thing, in a away, as it allows us to spend more time discovering their music and the additional listening make us realize things we hadn’t yet grasped.
The soft touch for example: even though the whole thing remains very “in your face”, very snappy, the band brings calm and serene touches, such as “Rebirth”, which sizzles (warning, it’s done on purpose), “Obsession”, high and heavy at the same time, or even an acoustic “Forgotten” which is very warm and makes me feel like home.
Apart from that, Astral Tears takes advantaged from itsmodern side while adding electronic sonorities. Those are rather rare, but present enough so that they can be located quickly. Reassure yourself, those are just “touches”, nothing quite bad or stifling, on the contrary. They tend to enhance certain passages and add an additional atmosphere, may it be on “Desire”’s bridge, “Back to Life”’s introduction (which precedes a concatenation of tough riffs), on “Obsession” as to accompany the guitar, or on “My Reality”, thus working as a rhythm.
Despite its appearances (the cover seems more cybernetic than oriental, except on the back, where we can find minarets), Astral Tears’ “Hypnotic” remains quite full, exotic and dynamic. Although it would be exaggerated to do much of it, since there are still many things to review, may it be the variety in the riffs or Beyza’s singing’s modulation. On the other hand, the production remains very good and is a strong point in apprehending Astral Tear’s music.
Finally, if the band is going through that, it might mean that female fronted non Symphonic non Prog non Screaming Metal will take a blow, since the Orleanais seem to have a good future ahead of them. Let’s hope they’ll have enough ears to appreciate their work.
Posted as part of our partnership with Tiphany Mataï, reviewer from the French Spirit of Metal Webzine. Original French review can be seen here.