If 2009’s debut hinted at the power and grace of their vision, then The Black Chord is perhaps the full realization of their spellbinding prowess. Like a Meddle-era ‘Floyd supercharged by a Mahavishnu-intensity not seen for eons, The Black Chord is an album of blinding light and abysmal shade, of bone-jarring rhythmic density and vast, breathtaking mental vistas: nothing less than an epic journey through the outer reaches of musical possibility tinged by an elegance and knowingness that suggests a creative maturity beyond the members’ collective years.
Therein lies their redemption, because this is a record at home in 1972 as it is in 2012. Think wailing guitars and dulcet harmonies thickened by Mellotrons and given hypnotic qualities by the kind of drumming that borders on the shamanic. Cinematic in scope but frequently yielding to a kind of melodic fragility that can only be the product of genuine emotion, The Black Chord’s musical ebb and flow prove Astra to be a band’s band capable of an artistry all-too-rare among their generation, and it’s a sound to behold.