Fearless. That’s the word I keep coming back to when trying to describe this Boston quintet’s debut. Sure, there may be better ways to describe the music – carefree, blissful, soaring – but nothing captures the spirit of Air quite like “fearless.”

Perhaps it’s because, as I write this, there are probably dozens of people out there hunched over their keyboards, churning the gristmill of the metal blogosphere and reciting the eternal litany: “It’s all been done before. There’s nothing new out there.” Yet Astronoid proves them all wrong by disregarding every “trve metal” cliche in the book, rejecting that litany by rushing headlong into a style that should have every self-respecting metalhead up in arms. And by doing so, they’ve created what may be the defining metal album of 2016.

I’ve read several attempts to describe the sound here, and I’ll try to coalesce the comparisons that seem most accurate. This is what would happen if Deafheaven was fronted by the singer of Coheed & Cambria, who also happened to be a massive Devin Townsend fan. This is what would happen if Alcest went pop-punk. Hell, were it not for the layers of blustery guitars and blastbeats, I’d hesitate to call Air a metal album at all. But while you could probably make a Watain fan’s head explode by playing this on repeat, moments like the playful melodic licks of “Up and Atom” or the bright ascending chords of “Tin Foil Hats” feel so pure and unencumbered that it’s almost impossible not to crack a smile with this record, if not fall in love altogether.

Fresh style aside, what really makes Air an outstanding album is simple: its songs are excellent, and their arrangement is impeccable. Each of these nine tracks is comprised of spirited hooks and transcendent guitar-work, from the crescendoing soundscape of opener “Incadescent,” to the rocketing call-and-response chorus of “Homesick,” to the plaintive arpeggios and vocoder crooning of early interlude “Violence.” The melodies are bright and bouncy, the riffs are massive and stratospheric, and it’s all overlaid by the hold-nothing-back vocals of frontman Brett Boland. When more restrained he channels Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine; when letting loose he sings like every last oxygen particle is being ejected from his lungs.

Rounded out by a smooth and breezy DR7, Air is the kind of destined-to-be-classic that conjures a world of timeless innocence and youthful wonder. This is the soundtrack to walking on the beach alone on the first day of summer, the soundtrack to kissing your high school crush in city park, the soundtrack to a five-year old kid learning to ride his bike for the first time. This is the sound of being old enough to know how incredible the world can be, but young enough not to have been tainted by its negativity. Even the lyrics have a picture-book simplicity about them, with simple phrases about drifting away and looking toward a better future. Astronoid isn’t just a band that knows how to write great music – this is a band that knows how to dream. Simply put, this is music that’s pure. Unfettered. Fearless.

Tracks to Check Out: “Up and Atom,” “Tin Foil Hats,” “Trail of Sulfur”

  • This is one of my favourites of this year no doubt, and I love how you describe the album, especially since genres cannot define it all that well. It is the spiritual follow up to “Ocean Machine: Biomech” that I have searched for so long. So smooth, and so magical

    • Frost15

      Good album, but calling it spiritual follow up to Ocean Machine is blasphemy! No album as good as that one nor able to be a follow up.

    • Kronos


  • Max Williams

    I love the way your describe the album, and I’m loving the posted song. Sounds like just what I need right now. Thanks for the recommendation. Can’t wait to check out the whole album!

  • Dudeguy Jones

    Very great description. I still always think of Mew when I hear those vocal harmonies, but the band defies easy categorization no matter what angle you approach it.
    Its one of the best things Ive heard this decade.

  • VikingSchism

    First time commenting, but I stumbled across this album on Bandcamp, and I instantly searched for it on this site (because I only started reading in November), but – finding nothing – I just listened to it. Bought it after hearing two songs. It’s truly incredible

  • Thatguy

    Unexpected and excellent. Horrible cover art though.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Reminds me of Eno’s Ambient I cover art, whose musical style couldn’t be any futher from Air.

  • Akira Watts

    This one might very well be my favorite album of the year. It’s certainly the one I’ve listened to the most. It may only barely qualify as metal, but it makes me inexplicably happy every single time I hear it.

  • William Stanbury

    The whole album is awesome. I 100% agree with all the comments in your last paragraph, it is almost saddening how good it make you feel to listen to it

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Outstanding, Mark. Music that in some ways captures both the joy and Weltschmerz of this time of year.

    And that voice! Dear Satan! “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Sheesh the art for this is a clunker up there with worst for the year…
    Nice review
    I’ll check this out. I’ve skipped it because I’ve mostly read bad things about this… but you make a compelling case!

    • VikingSchism

      I actually quite like the album art, at least it’s better than whatever the weird head thing was on Hardwired

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Ugh every thing about hardwired for blah blah is crap…

    • Kronos

      Truly awful cover art.

  • John

    Dan another tymhm that is one of my favs of the year. Nice review.

  • Luke_22

    Interesting sound, I think I could get behind this. Nice write-up.

  • Only listened to the first 2 tracks so far but I really like what I’m hearing. I don’t know much about Deafheaven, but you other references sound pretty spot on to me.

    I even like the cover art. It reminds me of 70s scfi for some reason.

  • The Unicorn

    Excellent review, excellent release.

  • Jazzcastle

    I found this album on Spotify a couple months ago and fell in love with it. It’s what I imagine flying feels like. Also, “Air” is such a perfect name for the album.

  • SuzyC

    Easily my favorite record of 2016. And it’s 101% metal.

  • Heard this one a little earlier in the year and definitely got a strong Devin Townsend vibe from the disc in terms of the layered harmonies and instrumentation. And maybe Mew in the vocals a little?

  • Levly

    Wow, I had indeed completely missed this record, but now I’m addicted. So powerful and uplifting, it’s truly amazing :).

  • RuySan

    This just sounds so weird to me. It’s as if Blink 182 invited Devin Townsend to the band. I can’t decide if I like it or not.

  • Kryopsis

    I’ve been listening to this album a lot for the past few months and I’m glad to finally see it mentioned here. Excellent piece, Mark. I think your description really does the band justice and the comparison to Deafheaven in particular is spot-on. As a matter of fact when I first heard the title track, I immediately thought of Deafheaven and how THIS, this is what they should’ve sounded like. Having said that, ‘Air’ is a very optimistic, positive album and a far cry from the ironic cynicism of Deafheaven. Yes, it is not trve kvlt Metal but Astronoid never pretended otherwise. It’s definitely one of my favourite discoveries this year.

    Also the album is Pay-What-You-Want on Blood Music so there’s really no reason to miss out on a really enjoyable listen!

  • Sand and Mercury

    Loved this album- the hook in “Up and Atom” was the catchiest thing I heard all year.

    You guys are killing it on the TYMHM- keep up the great work!

  • I liked Dekadent when I first heard them, liked Deafheaven when I first heard them and loved Astronoid when I first heard them, I think their vox set em apart. But overall, I think there’s definitely a time and place for these metal bands that bring forth such positive, triumphant vibes to their music!

  • Thanks Mark, just in time. This will help me to set my mood properly for the next year.

  • contenderizer

    This is fucking glorious. Decidedly NOT my kind of thing, but nonetheless instantly one of the best albums I’ve heard all year. While Astronoid’s sound has clear antecedents, ‘Air’ emerges not merely possessed of an unique voice, but (forgive me) better than most of what it seems to reflect. Had it on constant repeat for days now.

    Thank you Mark Z. and AMG in general. I’ve only been following this site for a few years, but you all have led me to more great music than I ever would have otherwise heard. Gingerbread kisses all around.

  • Hideous destructor

    Enjoy the embedded track to some extent but I think a whole album of this happy bouncy kinda thing might really piss me off.

  • Requiem

    Who knew a song called ‘up and atom’ could be so poignant, refined and lovely. Wonderful stuff.

  • jersey devil

    I don’t like this. I mean, its ok music, but the airy vocals and indy rock sound don’t do anything for me. I am really surprised to see this get so much attention from metal websites.

  • The Bear

    Wow, this sounds great! Uplifting, intense, catchy – and featuring blast beats. The embedded track is promising, looking forward to listen to the full LP.

  • David Prawira

    When Alcest meet Devin T with Cynic Vox