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The Astral Episode
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  • Swedish keyboardist Richard Andersson and guitarist Magnu Nilsson combine to create symphonic metal as Space Odyssey. The group's debut album includes "Dazzle the Devil" and "Presence of Mind."
  • There are some experimental, risk-taking artists who have a sincere desire to innovate but never quite figure out how to execute their ideas in a logical, coherent fashion -- artists who will get an A or B for their intentions but a C or D for how well their material actually works. And then there are artists who are totally derivative and aren't the least bit original but still deserve at least a B for providing good, solid material. Bottom line: if the innovator -- however wonderful his or her intentions -- provides an album that is unfocused, flawed, and wildly erratic and the derivative, unoriginal artist provides an album that is focused, consistent, and rewarding, the derivative artist will get the A or B. And The Astral Episode is one of those albums that -- although not the least bit original -- merits a favorable review for being pleasingly solid. Space Odyssey, contrary to what their name implies, has nothing to do with space rock. The Swedish outfit's turf is power metal and progressive metal; unapologetically retro, The Astral Episode is a 2004 recording that, stylistically, sounds like it could have been recorded 20 or 25 years earlier. Space Odyssey's intense yet melodic approach is basically Ronnie James Dio meets Yngwie Malmsteen meets Dream Theater meets Iron Maiden -- epic power metal with strong progressive rock leanings and plenty of flashy, hell-bent-for-chops guitar playing. If one worships Maiden, Judas Priest, Savatage, and Queensr?che but also fancies Rush, ELP, and Yes, it is hard not to like Space Odyssey. This overblown, larger-than-life CD (which is executed without even a trace of irony) sounds totally dated by 2004 standards, but then, dated is exactly what Space Odyssey is going for -- and there is no getting around the fact that dated yields enjoyable results on The Astral Episode. ~ Alex Henderson
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