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”