Astrakhan wasn’t officially created until all of the members came together, but the core members and founders of the band, the Schelander brothers (Per Schelander on bass guitar and Jörgen Schelander playing keyboards), started work in 2005 on what would eventually become this debut album, Retrospective. Eventually Alex Lycke (vocals) and Martin Larsson (drums) joined the band, as well as the multitasking Marcus Jidell, who is handling the guitars, mixing, and production of the album. While the band refers to their music simply as “rock,” and hopes to bring many genres together for this album, there is definitely a progressive nature to the entire album.
Under the Sun Part I
The album begins with the first part of Under the Sun, with bells and a neat bass riff acting as an intro. The vocals soon come in, and immediately strike the listener as being quite different from the typical style of this genre. While Alex’s vocals may at first sound better suited for a band like the Winery Dogs, they fit well and blend perfectly. One of his best qualities is how smooth his voice is. This is a relatively simple track that doesn’t introduce most of the band, but works perfectly as a simple teaser to draw the listener in.
Shadow of the Light
The first proper full band track of the album contains quite an epic central theme and riff. The keyboard sounds are chosen perfectly, and add an impressive atmosphere to the track. The vocals have plenty of room to shine here. The lyrics are well thought out and interesting, which I am thankful for, as it is quite easy to focus on the vocals. The guitar solo and the vibe surrounding it works so perfectly, as the song simply calms down and lets the solo step out front.
Having a super proggy nature from the start, the odd melodies, strange passages, and vocal samples will likely strike a chord with listeners that favor bands such as Yes. The entire song carries a late 80s/early 90s vibe, and it works so well. This is one of those rare tracks that I would absolutely recommend listening to even if you may not like anything else you’ve heard from the band. The keyboard driven section starting five minutes in has amazing atmosphere and perfectly brings the song to its closure.
This track is one of the slower ones on the album, with a definite focus on the vocals. A lighter, acoustic guitar performance perfectly accompanies the beautifully sung melodies, with heavier choruses breaking up any monotony. The guitar solo is great, and a second listen is required to hear all of the interesting parts going on in the background.
This song begins (and also ends) with what sounds much more like a live or amateur recording, which creates an interesting vibe considering the somewhat depressing nature of the track. It has a vulnerable sound to it, and works perfectly for this track. This is not a showy track, as it is quite slow, but not a ballad in the traditional sense. I quite love Noname Lane, as it actually brought me close to tears with its depressingly beautiful melodies and lyrics.
Extreme Media Makeover
Vocals and the guitar dominate this song, in a good way, as the melodies are excellent, and the guitar part exudes emotion, with effortless switches from mysterious and acoustic to upfront and metal. There is a flute on this track that also shines, especially when played lightly behind the heavy, and fantastic, guitar solo. This is an excellent follow-up to Noname Lane.
Long Gone Generation
Starting with an Indian vibe, the song never lets up with a strong vocal performance, as well as the keyboard taking its turn in the spotlight and truly shining. Martin is no slouch on the drums, however, and delivers an interesting and progressive part that is just fun to listen to. The best part of this track is most certainly the out-of-nowhere guitar and keyboard solo. It is brief, but pure progressive fun.
Modern Original Sin
Carrying over a little bit of the Indian vibe from Long Gone Generation, it quickly mellows into a somewhat dark keyboard and vocal section. The angry vocal performance and lyrics might come off as cheesy to some, but I believe it to fit perfectly. The harmonious sections sound epic and greatly add to the overall atmosphere of the track. An instrumental version of this track would be perfect for Halloween, as it actually sounds quite spooky. The keyboard solo channels the 1980s Yes and Genesis sound, but manages to not sound out of place, and helps to perfectly accentuate the creepy piano melody that follows to end the track.
State of Mind
While the intro picks up pace, it does settle down, but never loses the energy present at the beginning. The guitar and keyboard solo is fantastic and eclectic, particularly the section beginning at 2:38. Another noteworthy part is the ending of the track starting at 4:00. The piano part mimicking the earlier guitar riffs conveys so much emotion.
Under the Sun Part 2
This track actually consists of Under the Sun Part 1 being played back through some sort of filter to make it sound like it is coming through an old speaker, or perhaps an older turntable setup. It creates a rather nostalgic feeling, even though it is just a normal length album. It brings the circle to a close, so to speak. It may not necessarily be worth listening to out of the context of the album, but it works perfectly for a full album listen.
I’ve listened to a few excellent albums this year, such as Dream Theater’s self-titled record and the latest Ayreon album. I can justifiably say that this deserves to be mentioned alongside those albums. I’m extremely happy to have been exposed to this band, as I can certainly call myself a fan now. The only problem I can see some people experiencing when listening to the album is not immediately clicking with the vocal style, but they fit the music perfectly. I highly recommend this album.
The first single, Shadow of the Light, is available for a free download from Power Prog records