ASTRA (The Black Chord) LP/CD
I am very picky about progressive rock. This is because I can't stand complacent musical masturbation and I think that most prog rock bands are very good at showing off. So, if you want to torture me then you only have to lock me in a room and play records of bands like Yes or Emerson, Lake and Palmer over and over again. I can guarantee that I will go insane within one hour. But you can also use 'The Black Chord', which is the new album of San Diego's ASTRA who are currently everybody's darling. With regard to the latter, it doesn't bother me. The only thing that bothers me is the music.
In the world of ASTRA time stands still and we are still in the year 1973. It is therefore not a surprise that they have a lot of Mellotron and Moog sounds on the album, but there is also a bit of space for guitars and vocals. Nevertheless, almost each of the included six songs is pompous and frantically artsy. Or in other words, 'The Black Chord' is an overblown drama. There is only one track that I can bear and that is the last one named 'Barefoot In The Head'. This is mainly due to the Beatles-esque vocal lines and the guitar-based heaviness.
Apart from that, though, this album embodies everything that I hate about kitschy 1970's prog rock. And the fact that ASTRA consists of talented musicians doesn't change anything. I rather listen to an old black bluesman with a broken four-string guitar than to an academically trained musician. For me, a heart and soul is more important than all the technic around. Besides, sometimes less is much more. At least, in my world. So, if you want to listen to really good heavy progressive rock, then I recommend to watch out for a copy of Buzzard's 'Churp!!!'. That is really mind-blowing prog stuff but not ASTRA.