• 5.5/10
    ASTRAL KINGDOM - Into The Fire - 5.5/10


Release date: February 24, 2007

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Last year, Metal Express Radio reviewed a demo CD from Astral Kingdom, and only a short time later the four Swedes return with another 4-track EP. Last years’ output showed decent craftsmanship and delivered three good Power Metal tunes. Now the band thinks they are ready to climb up another step of the ladder to success, or in this case, maybe a recording contract?

Generally, not so much has changed in the eight months between the two releases. The formerly six man outfit downsized to four musicians, having parted ways with both guitarists. But, the core of the band stayed, which is the Fredin brothers and Thor Olsson on keyboards, and singer – and now also guitar player – Robert Nilsson. No surprise that musically the band picks up where they left off with Power Metal Through The Universe.

With the opening track “Sons Of The Stars,” Astral Kingdom did not choose a fast track to start the EP, but instead a mid-tempo rocker in the tradition of Riot. The song is not bad, but suffers a bit from a keyboard solo that lacks inspiration, and the hymnic sing-along part at the end is not only unoriginal, it seems Robert’s voice doesn’t like the woh-oh-ooohs at all. But, after that, “For The Damned” not only picks up pace, but is also a giant leap in quality! This is the highlight of the EP, and in spite of the rather simple guitar work, sticks in your ear due to a great chorus of the Manilla Road type. Twin guitar leads in-between Maiden and Helloween round off a track that is definitely better than the average Power Metal composition fans continuously buy on new releases.

Third in line is the title track, “Into The Fire.” Starting with nice guitar harmonies, it evolves into a good, but also somewhat standard, Metal track. It is again the simple guitar riffs that keep the track down, as the hymnic melodies are catchy and well done, only the heaviness is missing when the keyboard accentuates the track more than the six strings. Fortunately, the twin guitar part returns later and keeps the song from sinking.

The demo closes with a ballad … not something to expect from an underground band. “For Eternity” was written in classic power ballad style and has everything it needs, even though singer Robert has to push the boundaries of his vocal limits audibly at times.

In total, rest assured that this EP is definitely an above average Power Metal piece with good production and skilled songwriting. The members are not virtuosos, and they should invest time in this department for their next compositions. But overall, fans of this particular style should definitely check out this release -– especially since the band makes it easy and has all tracks on their Web site for download. The next step for the band should be to seek outside assistance (hopefully of a producer after having been signed to a label), somebody to help them fine tune their compositions, add a little in the musical complexity department, and subtract the substandard parts. These tasks are easier for an outsider than for the musicians themselves –- and then all can look forward to their full-length debut with high expectations!


  • Frank Jaeger

    Frank was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio, based out of Bavaria, Germany. He has worked in the games industry for more than 20 years, now on the manufacturing side, before on the publishing end. Before this, he edited and handled the layout for a city mag in northern Germany ... maybe that is why he love being part of anything published. Frank got hooked on Metal at the age of 14 when a friend introduced him to AC/DC. They were listening to The Beatles, Madness, and The Police, and he decided they should move on. Well, they did, Back in Black became Frank's first Metal album, and since Germany is reasonably close to England, they had some small New Waves Of British Heavy Metal washing up on their shores: Tygers Of Pan Tang, Samson, Gillan, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Sweet Savage, Diamond Head, etc. If he had to pick his favorite styles, Prog and Power Metal would be at the top of the list.

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