Asrai - Touch in the Dark
Transmission Records
Gothic Metal
10 songs (47'51")
Release year: 2004
Asrai, Transmission Records
Reviewed by Alex

Purple tone of the booklet art, roses adorning the edge of every page, abstract sculptures, black leather dresses of band members, long black eyelashes and numerous tattoos and piercings, female singer – there is no mistake Asrai wafts gothic rock-metal a mile away. Asrai music largely delivers on the first impression expectations staying true to what their image projects.

I have no idea whether the band’s guitarist Rik Janssen is in any way related to Marc and Floor (Epica, After Forever). The latter last name is spelled with only one “s”, so I would think not, but just like the above two bands Asrai hails from Netherlands and is signed to Transmission Records label. Unlike Epica and After Forever Asrai does not have many symphonic elements in their music, and can be better described as a purely gothic band comfortably nestled between Finnish goth rock-metal scene and Amanda Sommerville/Anneke von Giersbergen school of singing.

Many songs on the album follow a standard “don’t mess with goth style” recipe. In Front of Me, Dream, the first half of Shadows, all feature heavy guitar chords, melody lines carried by keyboards, especially in verses, and choruses that strive to be catchy. I am certainly not turned off, this works for my morning ride, but I am not overly giddy about it either. Lighter electronic verses and more layered heavier choruses make for the simplest songwriting. Some of the choruses (Whisper, Child) feel like they were lifted directly from the Nighttime Birds-era of The Gathering, both a good and not-so-original thing. Good, as it is probably one of my favorite The Gathering albums, and the lack of originality speaks for itself. Asrai also does not mind treading over the new The Gathering territory either with Whisper verse and Tower bordering on the trippy rhythms popularized by their Dutch colleagues. A few experimentations do exist in the form of the darkwave electronic beginning of Tower and industrial dance-goth ending of Shadows with the processed male vocals. And what gothic album would be complete today without a song with mid-Eastern melodies and voice modulations (Dream)?

The band certainly would not even be in the running without the female singer Margriet Mol. Her voice is attractive, clear and switches between boyish and sultry in the same paragraph. She does come across very heartfelt (title song, Pale Light) or at times hypnotic (Tower). The hysterical screams (In Front of Me), however, is not her thing. Drumming, by Margriet’s (twin?) sister Karin is steady, but extremely non-inventive. It comes across very machine-like, but the song parts where only the voice and drumbeat exist attracted me (Restless, Child). They show the beauty of Margriet’s modulations over steady rhythmic rolls. Guitars hardly ever lead (Pale Light), and mostly are reduced to those heavy gothic chords we all have become accustomed to.

For those who think sensual female vocals with heavy guitars and electronics should be outlawed, i.e. you think Lacuna Coil should cease and desist, I am not sure why you are still reading. For the rest of you - if I was buying everything gothic coming out on the market, I’d not hesitate going after Touch in the Dark. However, I certainly don’t do that, so “middle of the road” is where I would place this album. Not a star on a gothic horizon, it certainly has clear production, atmosphere and dark melancholic melodies to captivate more gothically inclined fans. So, if you ever get this album, please, drop me a line of where else I saw the band’s keyboard player Manon van der Hidde (real name?). Her face looks very familiar, but I simply can’t place it.

Killing Songs :
Pale Light, Restless, Touch in the Dark
Alex quoted 64 / 100
Other albums by Asrai that we have reviewed:
Asrai - Pearls in Dirt reviewed by Alex and quoted 54 / 100
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