At first, the debut full-length from White Arms of Athena sounds like your undistinguished post-hardcore record. The amalgamation of clean vocals and throat-shredding howls from Josh Everett blend well with the sonic battering perpetrated by the rest of the Texas-based band, but there really isn’t anything new right out of the box.
But wait…there’s more.
Astrodrama mutates into something, well, remarkable. The progressive metal act exercises some pretty mean thrash chops, but there are hints of jazz, blues and free-form moving around that help draw it all together under one roof.
Indeed, under closer examination it turns out that Astrodrama is presented in four “acts.”
The first includes two songs, “Evince” and “Ascend.” These cuts are fairly typical, but they lead the way into the riskier breakdowns to come with a sort of adamant savagery.
Drummer Austin Rupp and bassist Thomas Sifuentes deliver an exhausting attack that holds things together, while the guitar work of Andrew Swinson and Colin McDonnell is methodical and exacting down to the wire. With the jam that closes out “Ascend,” White Arms of Athena prove that there’s a lot more prowling beneath than first meets the ears.
The second act of the record kicks off with “Creationed,” a predominantly brutal track that rocks a concoction of tempos and vocals in a bout of enraging wrath. Guitars climb up and down stairs, ripping into detailed, coarse thrusts as if urging the giant on.
“Crown Chakra” starts the third serving (my favourite “act”) with a flood of activity. An instrumental, the comprehensive jam works as a conduit to further magic as the distinct rocker slows down and deconstructs into “Astral Body.” A gorgeous piece of instrumental work with magnificent guitar and awesome drumming, the cut hits a dynamic pace just before the minute and a half mark and the tempo changes keep things wonderfully unstable.
Then there’s “In the Encephalon,” a jazzy piece with some truly polished fretwork. Amazingly, the slower piece, effects-laden as it is, doesn’t feel at all out of place on this aural ride. The boys know their Pink Floyd, that’s for sure.
The fourth and final portion of Astrodrama delivers things to a satisfying close, drawing the record full circle with more immensity.
White Arms of Athena surprised me with Astrodrama, presenting a demanding but riveting record of space, cleverness, methodical talent, and, best of all, heart. We should be hearing a lot more from these guys if there’s any justice in the world, as this album really is one to chew on.