Album Review – The Astroplex / The Chronicles of Azhul’Tar (2016)

In the distant world of Azhul’Tar, who will reign supreme in the battle between the young and brave Satis and the tyrannical emperor Zarkhonn? Only this excellent Canadian band can answer you that through their cinematic blend of Melodic Death and Black Metal.

Rating4

the-astroplex_artwork“Way beyond our stars, lies a world in ruins. Kingdoms where people are left fighting over basic needs. Independent groups of space explorers, named Travelers, are hired to look for such resources throughout the different planetary systems.

One band of Travelers, led by the young Satis, has struggled for years to find such scarce goods. Flying an old war vessel, the Astroplex, Captain Satis and her crew are about to see their fates changed.

A monumental event that will take its toll throughout the entire galaxy…”

Deeply rooted into science fiction soundtracks from the 80’s such as the masterpieces Alien, Blade Runner and Terminator, creating a cinematic blend of that vintage sound with contemporary extreme music, Canadian Modern Melodic Death/Black Metal act The Astroplex will take you on an exciting journey to a world far, far away in their debut full-length album The Chronicles of Azhul’Tar. From the opening credits to its climatic ending, The Chronicles of Azhul’Tar tells a compelling and epic post-apocalyptic story of survival and death, all embraced by high-end metal music.

Born inside the minds of two former band mates in 2014, Herr Nox (lead singer, lyricist, keyboardist, graphic designer and instrumental composer for the project) and Commander John Steele (guitarist, bassist, drummer and the one responsible for the background story in The Chronicles of Azhul’Tar), The Astroplex aim at blurring the line between science fiction and heavy music, bringing forward a fresh and exciting experience to the listener. As the third member of the project we have the charming Lindsay Schoolcraft, keyboardist for British Extreme Metal titans Cradle of Filth, who beautifully portrays the story’s main character Satis and, consequently, makes you more and more attracted to the events happening in the distant world where the story takes place.

Just like in any good sci-fi movie, The Astroplex provide us all the Opening Credits, an instrumental intro from outer space (sounding like the iconic Terminator theme at times) informing the journey is about to begin, before Prophecy explodes into a modernized version of Melodic Death Metal led by the bestial growls by Herr Nox. At this point, the story already starts to take shape and form (“The world is changing / The suns are rising / Light fills the empty ship / Darkness is gone / There may be hope, there may be One / Time is running out / Life is running short / ‘Tis Azhul’Tar that you’ll behold”), and the music itself couldn’t sound more perfect for the whole concept proposed by the band.

In the atmospheric instrumental track Travelers, our brave captain Satis leads her crew in pursuit of a spacecraft named Xenova-2, guiding the listener to A Dying World, with additional elements from Groove and Progressive Metal giving the song more stamina and heaviness. Herr Nox has a precise performance, blasting some deep guttural vocals while the guitar riffs by Commander John Steele pierce your brain until the song’s ferocious ending. Modernity blended with old school Death Metal is offered once again by the band in The Red Emperor, where Commander John Steele and the stunning Lindsay beautifully craft the futuristic ambience needed for Herr Nox to tell the story through their magnificent guitar riffs and solos, potent beats and operatic backing vocals, turning this into one of the best compositions of the entire album.

the-astroplexVa’Hel (The Prison Moon) is another sci-fi movie-inspired instrumental track that shows us Satis became a prisoner to Zarkhonn (also known as the Red Emperor, ruler of Azhul’Tar and its three moons, master of the Life Stream, to the people of Earth), an exotic voyage through space and time in the form of music with highlights to the crisp sound of its keyboards and synths; whereas the epic and gripping composition The Rise and Fall of Satis presents a melodic approach of Extreme Metal with the exciting guitar lines by Commander John Steele guiding the musicality, while Herr Nox continues to translate the world of Azhul’Tar into words.

And as the story advances to its ending, we have Battle for Azhul’Tar, another epic hymn where you can feel the agony and pain of all characters of the story being told and the perfect soundtrack for an intergalactic war, with its lyrics depicting the brutal devastation caused by this sanguinary battle (“The sky is burning, bombs are droping / Lazers blazing, who’ll get out of here alive / Such suffering, greed is causing / People dying, who will see the next sunrise”). Moreover, Commander John Steele lets his beast arise through his Black Metal-ish blast beats and sick guitar solo, only making things even more exciting. Lastly, the cinematic outro The Heir (End Credits), highly inspired by classics such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Blade Runner and many others, leaves us questioning what will happen next to the newly crowned empress Satis, to the fallen emperor Zarkhonn and to the entire world of Azhul’Tar. If this will become a trilogy, only time will tell.

While we all wait for the next episode of such metallic saga (if it happens, of course), you can go check The Astrpolex’s Facebook page, YouTube channel (where you can listen to The Chronicles of Azhul’Tar in its entirety) and SoundCloud page to know more about the band, their music and their plans for the future. You can also buy this movie in the form of heavy music through their BandCamp page, and if you don’t do that, well, I have a special message from Zarkhonn himself (wherever he is now) telling you what he will do to you in case you “forget” to buy your copy of The Chronicles of Azhul’Tar. He seems to be a very reasonable guy, don’t you agree?

Best moments of the album: Prophecy, The Red Emperor and Battle for Azhul’Tar.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing 
1. Opening Credits (instrumental) 1:53
2. Prophecy 4:29
3. Travelers (instrumental) 0:56
4. A Dying World 5:17
5. The Red Emperor 5:51
6. Va’Hel (The Prison Moon) (instrumental) 4:00
7. The Rise and Fall of Satis 6:14
8. Battle for Azhul’Tar 6:11
9. The Heir (End Credits) (instrumental) 3:26

Band members
Herr Nox – male vocals, synthesizers
Commander John Steele – guitars, bass, drums, additional synthesizers
Lindsay Schoolcraft – female vocals and voices

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