Astral, "Filicetum Lunare"
This is a rather eclectic release from the Czech Republic. Judging from the opening track, I thought that Filicetum Lunare would offer some folk-inspired black metal. However, the style Astral plays could be described as dark metal, somewhat similar to Russia's Rakoth. While it took me several spins to get into Filicetum Lunare, I must say that it was time worth spent; I began to enjoy this album more with each and every listen. The music that Astral creates is not heavy, yet there are some guitar and vocal moments on Filicetum Lunare that make me call this metal. The music is more keyboard and drum oriented, with occasional luscious synth passages and well-executed acoustic guitar work. All the lyrics and song titles are in Latin and are mostly based on the folk mythology of the region.
The album opens with the title track, Felicitum Lunare, a guitar instrumental that moves into a spoken word passage with a female choir in the background. The second track, Conspectus Noctis, is one of the strongest songs on the album. It possesses an excellent acoustic folk breakdown [1:17-1:43], somewhat reminiscent of Nokturnal Mortum's The Return of a Vampire Lord [6:12-6:21]. The acoustic guitars play a large role on Filicetum Lunare, and work really well within Astral's songs. For example, on Oblivio they create a majestic and tranquil atmosphere [3:32-4:22], while on Conspectus Noctis, they serve as the base of the song.
At times, the music takes a different direction and transcends into a synth-pop sound, similar to Wolfsheim, as seen on Nocturnum De La Christi [1:00-1:30] and on Stigmata Amore [2:04-2:17]. This creates an interesting sound that Astral can call can their own. My only complaint on this album are the vocals that come across too melodramatic. However, this is a minor flaw.
Overall, the music Astral created on Filicetum Lunare is quite interesting and might be too eclectic for some of the more conservative listeners out there. Yet, I can't fault the musicians for trying something new, and I think that Astral do it rather well on Felicetum Lunare.