Swedish band ASTRAL DOORS return with their seventh album of classic heavy metal Notes From the Shadows. Out now and well-steeped in the vein of RAINBOW, DIO-era BLACK SABBATH as well as his solo works, Notes is the third full-length since joining the Metalville Records family in 2010. The vocals of Patrik Johansson are commanding and upfront, and behind him Joachim Nordlund (guitars), Joakim Roberg (organ), Ulf Lagerstroem (bass), and Johan Lindstedt (drums) carry out their sonic battle plan across eleven tracks that delve into the black bible and all its mysteries. As is the case with many albums of this ilk there are many highs and few if any lows. As long as you accept the fact that this is a fucking HEAVY METAL album with occult themes, badass riffs, soaring vocals, and booming drums, you’ll be fine.
“Last Temptation of Christ” is the powerhouse opening track, Johansson yelling the song’s title before ripping shit up right from jump. While I get some of the DIO comparisons, this guy is in no way, shape, or form a rip-off. He sounds very much like his own man, but the similarities are there. Mid-tempo rocker “Disciples of the Dragon Lord” is next, Roberg’s organ accentuating the choruses and heavy guitars nicely, followed by “Wailing Wall”, honestly one of the tracks I couldn’t get enough of. From the delicate intro to the out-for-blood guitars in the body of the song, this was an immediate standout, along with “Southern Conjuration” which features a rib-sticking refrain that I heartily enjoyed.
Safe to say my favorite is “Walker the Stalker”, though. If the title alone wasn’t enough, once again the guitars of Nordlund sucked me right in, plus the rhythm section is on fire! Two others I also loved were “Shadowchaser” and “Desert Nights” both of which have a tremendous WHITESNAKE influence and feel, and that’s EXACTLY why I loved them, silly! “In the Name of Rock” as cliché as the title is, the song still packs a wallop and it’s one of the more biting cuts you’ll find on the album, complete with pinched harmonics. Curse you, ASTRAL DOORS, you knew just how to get to me! “Die Alone” definitely mines the DIO blueprint at times, but if it helps carry on the legacy who cares? Plus, it’s got some vicious drumming from Lindstedt and around the 4:30 mark all hell breaks loose, then the organ goes crazy, and we get a solo that shreds!
“Confessions” is a big, hooky number that actually called to mind SCORPIONS, believe it or not and closes the book on this look into the black bible. All told Notes From the Shadows, while not new or groundbreaking is another big step for these guys, ably carrying on a tradition of heavy metal greatness laid down by the greats who came before them. And for guys like me, that’s all we could ask for sometimes.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Walker the Stalker”, “In the Name of Rock”, “Wailing Wall”, “Shadowchaser”, “Desert Nights”