Ad Astra is a Latin term meaning “to the stars,” and this strong debut certainly is paving the way to a bright future for this band in the prog universe…
11 tracks / 52:55
The danger to avoid in prog rock is basically having no direction. The pretentious nature of the genre is fed by shredders of every stripe doing their best to cram speed-metal riffs into every musical nook and cranny of a given track until the song itself is forgotten and just the technique remains. All toppings and no pizza – know what I mean? Ad Astra has avoided that trap by delivering an hour (almost) of prog-fusion that delivers the goods and doesn’t leave you hungry for musical meat.
Ad Astra’s self-titled album starts off explosively with “La Cosa Nostradamus,” a heavy, fast paced composition elevated by sophisticated chord changes and featuring our first taste of what this excellent band can do. This, along with “Hiding the One” and “Wednesday’s Child,” are convincers that, yes – this band can play. Founding member/guitarist Joe Nardulli wrote or co-wrote all of these instrumental pieces along with keyboardist Eric Davis, drummer David Penna, and bass player J. Levine. Each band member gets his time to shine, and Nardulli himself is well on the way to becoming a guitar superstar.
The hard and heavy tracks are balanced by more textured, mid-tempo (although the tempos tend to change mid-song) tracks like “First Life” and “Someday Isle” – beautifully-layered songs with nice melodic lines and wonderful, clean production. “Awakening” allows for some fluid keyboard synth lines and an overall soundscape that reminds me of Phil Keaggy’s The Master and the Musician phase – any comparison to Keaggy is high praise indeed. Drummers will enjoy the furious fills and breaks on “Quantum Café,” while fans of prog organ styles will delight in “Garden Jam” – some nice, rocking prog with an atmospheric change in the middle and some tight ensemble playing throughout. Now that the band has established its bona-fides as a rockin’ prog machine, the way is paved for more solid melodies to emerge and to explore more emotional, structured composition.
Ad Astra is a Latin term meaning “to the stars,” and this strong debut certainly is paving the way to a bright future for Nardulli and company in the prog universe.
- Bert Saraco
For concert photography by Bert Saraco, visit: www.facebook.com/express.image