Swedish Metalheads Need Steel

    Requiem of Time

    Astral Doors

    King Japan/Zoom

    For a band that made a mark with a power-metal portrayal of the Hiroshima ruins by the name of “Black Rain,” Astral Doors’ new Requiem of Time is as forgettable as the parade of Black Sabbath vocalists after Dio left. The Swedish rockers plod through same-speed grinding rhythms ripped straight from classic fantasy-metal bands, and every twist — like the pre-solo acoustic breakdown in “Blood River” — is 100 percent expected. No matter how carefully you listen, there’s none of the awe and mysticism that transformed the classics from just plain heavy into metal.

    Even instrumentally, the album can’t distinguish itself: Mike Itäranta’s bass is turned so low that he might as well be six feet under, while the twin guitarists trade tentative solos, reluctant to leave their comfy power-chord rhythms. Instead, an electro-clink keyboard takes the lead on “The Healer,” but rather than serving as a roaring foundation for the track, it just fills an empty space.

    The only member of Astral Doors who really taps into the power of metal is vocalist Nils Johansson, whose forceful singing dominates “Call of the Wild” with Dio’s brand of commanding, condemning contralto. With a little more imagination, his voice could make Astral Doors the next Judas Priest, but his range is wasted on trite, overdone metal anthems with names like “Testament of Rock.” Especially in a world where most of heavy metal’s godfathers are still putting out fresh and deadly tracks, why bother with a cheap knockoff that’s stuck in 1979?

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