Space Odyssey - The Astral Episode
Regain Records
Progressive Power Metal
8 songs (53'34")
Release year: 2005
Space Odyssey, Regain Records
Reviewed by Alex

Where would the world be if there were no people who were willing to stick to their guns no matter what. Hell, death or high water, right or wrong, some people are going to follow their convictions to the end. Politicians, athletes, artists … Richard Andersson, a famed Swedish keyboard player, whose bands and projects would be too numerous to list here is one of those people. I have a feeling he could care less what I or any other scribe would say in their reviews. As long as the creation pleases Richard, it would be recorded and then see the light of day. And I have a feeling that what pleases Richard must be recorded in his studio with musicians he carefully selected, the eventual product a progressive metal piece where musicians’ skills must be front and center.

I have reviewed Space Odyssey’s previous output, Embrace the Galaxy, and was somewhat surprised how much Malmsteen influences were showing through, the album quite more so neoclassical in nature than prog metal in the style of The Flower Kings or Symphony X. Don’t know whether Richard critiqued the album in similar manner, but The Astral Episode is seeing the definite shift away from Master Yngwie. Still not progressive power masterpiece Richard may have envisioned, The Astral Episode appealed to me personally a bit more, while still paying homage to bands who most likely shaped Richard’s musical outlook.

It is Rainbow, Black Sabbath circa Eternal Idol and Richard’s old partners in crime Symphony X who I am forced to reminisce about while listening to The Astral Episode. When progressive moments are weaved in beautifully in the overall fabric of a song, like an excellent overture of the title track where instruments slowly join in one after another, Michael Romeo can take note. Dazzle the Devil spells Rainbow in just about everything, song’s title, fast solos, the chorus you will hum forever and even Blackmorish outro guitar wail. With Back to the Dark and The Seventh Star Fantasy (reference to Iommi??) things tend to get a little heavier. Almost doomier in Back to the Dark, and definitely symphonic with Celtic overtones and choirs, the latter twosome bring to mind Black Sabbath, especially in the guitar riffs department and the way Nils Patrik Johansson (more on him below) flexes his throat muscles a la Tony Martin.

We have to give the credit where it is due. Richard definitely tried not to emulate, make the production heavier and, most importantly, make the songs sound more cohesive than on Embrace the Galaxy. Still, some “wander off” points remain. The opener Through Dreams and Reality is the last thing from cohesive, and long protracted keyboard and guitar solos must be the plague of progressive metal. I do not have enough instrument playing skills to call it wankery, but how does one know why the instrumental portion on Lord of the Winds fits there better than in Dazzle the Devil? And not vice versa? Maybe, and it is just a thought of a dilettante, the albums like The Astral Episode need to have more instrumentals, as this is obviously the musicians’ strong suite. Everything just holds together so well when it is a full blown instrumental (Presence of Mind). So, why not just go and do more of them instead of breaking up the flow of the aforementioned Lord of the Winds and Dazzle the Devil?

I guess then others would criticize that Nils Patrik Johansson does not get enough exposure with his voice. And the man certainly deserves it. I have been a fan since the latest Wuthering Heights, and Nils Patrik does nothing to disappoint me on The Astral Episode. A dead ringer for Dio and Jeff Scott Soto at times, this vocalist is one of the best in the genre. Of note is the also the performance of 17-year-old drummer Andreas Brobjer, who can be both fast and syncopated.

The fans of Richard’s other bands: do not listen to me and pick up The Astral Episode, I have a feeling you will enjoy it just as much as Embrace the Galaxy or more. Those people who only go for the best of the best in the prog power world: you wouldn’t want my opinion anyway.

Killing Songs :
Astral Episode, Dazzle the Devil, Presence of Mind
Alex quoted 78 / 100
Other albums by Space Odyssey that we have reviewed:
Space Odyssey - Embrace the Galaxy reviewed by Alex and quoted 69 / 100
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