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(50:08, Three in One Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Surface of Last Scattering 11:01 2. Lament 6:52 3. Cradle to Grave to Life I 9:21 4. Cradle to Grave to Life II 7:24 5. Cradle to Grave to Life III 4:35 6. A Gift of Peace 1:44 7. Pathways 9:11 LINEUP: Doug Bowers – vocals; keyboards, programming; guitars Christopher Flynn – guitars; vocals With: Henry Jablonski – bass; vocals Jeremy Ribando – vocals Mitch Rall – percussion Chuck Tidwell – guitars
Prolusion. The US project AD ASTRA first appeared with "Beyond Our Bounds" in 2008, and in 2014 their second album "Surface of Last Scattering" appeared on Bandcamp. One year later the CD edition of the latter was released through the fledgling label Three in One Records.
Analysis. The musicians that drive this recording project onward are seasoned hands in the field of music, although I get the impression that they have focused their creativity in that department more in the religious field than in the commercial one. With two albums under their belt it'll be interesting to see if they will continue creating music aimed towards the progressive rock audience. I rather suspect that many with a taste for good, old-fashioned symphonic progressive rock would like them too, if they should ever encounter this band. That being said, this album isn't one to be showcased 20 years from now as a forgotten jewel from this day and age. This production does suffer from too many weak points to be able to accomplish that. Some of the transitions come across as clumsy, the drums are programmed, and the lead vocals are a bit too functional and lacking in finesse at times, although this may well be a result of mix and production just as much as actual performance. The aspects of this production to take note of are the stellar use of the keyboards, however. Bowers is an able and deft hand with his instruments, and his skills in that department alone make for some intriguing listening. From majestic orchestral-like arrangements to Mellotron and keyboard interactions, layered Mellotrons, classical guitar and organ combinations, as well as organ and keyboard combinations, and some fine instances of swirling, surging and fluctuating keyboard solo runs. Many minor weaknesses are ignored, as the keyboards can provide some moments of pure brilliancy, and that is certainly the case here. The songs as such, despite some weaker details, are by and large well made too. We get the ebb and flow of pace and intensity progressive rock fans tend to find interesting, passages delicate in mode and delivery revolving around acoustic guitars and frail keyboards, as well as more majestic, darker toned sequences that approach the borderland of progressive metal at the most intense. First and foremost this is a classic era symphonic progressive rock album in style, where the keyboard presence is the clear selling point, as far as I'm concerned.
Conclusion. Those who tend to enjoy a band exploring symphonic progressive rock with a firm emphasis on the keyboards being the main instrument should find a lot to enjoy on this album. The opening title track is arguably the most impressive here, so those who desire to check out the album can start with that cut and if it appeals, then the album should be a safe acquisition, one to take note of for all fans of vintage era symphonic progressive rock.
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