Creation should feel like a moment of self-actualization. Full potential and promise become fulfilled, and the next step can be taken. Astronoid reach such a moment on their self-titled second album. The Boston quartet—Brett Boland [vocals, guitar], Daniel Schwartz [bass], Casey Aylward [guitar], and Matt St. Jean [drums]—actualize the scope of their dynamic and dreamy deluge of thrashing guitars, soaring shoegaze, progressive pummeling, and ethereal vocal emissions. The music reflects the ebb-and-flow of two years marked by intense life changes.
“The main themes of the record are overcoming self-doubt and creating art in general,” explains Boland. “We were away from home for so long that we’d be lying if we said the road had nothing to do with the material. A lot happened. Dan got married. I got engaged. There were ups and downs. Our lives are ultimately reflected in the music.”
After making their introduction with the 2012 EP November and 2013 EP Stargazer, Astronoid arrived as an enthralling, engaging, and entrancing voice for heavy music on 2016’s full-length debut, Air. It graced year-end lists by Consequence of Sound, Stereogum, LA Weekly, Invisible Oranges, Loudwire, No Clean Singing, and more. Noisey dubbed it “the happiest dream thrash record you’ll ever hear,” while MetalSucks proclaimed it “an instant classic.” In the aftermath of its release, the band toured alongside Tesseract, Periphery, Animals As Leaders, Zeal & Ardor, Ghost, and many more. Meanwhile, the music cumulatively tallied over 3 million-plus Spotify streams and counting. Along the way, they started kicking around ideas for what would become Astronoid as early as summer 2017.
However, the process presented a new set of challenges for the musicians.
“At the beginning, we were trying to outdo Air,” admits Boland. “It took us about six months to get into the groove. We realized we didn’t have anything to prove, and we got back to writing for the personal fulfillment of it. There’s a lot of pressure on a second release, so many of the lyrics are about overcoming self-doubt and the perceived opinions of others. We decided it should be self-titled, because this is us in our purest form. We ended up taking more chances. We were able to be Astronoid.”
Recording drums at Futura Productions in Roslindale, MA and tracking everything else at a home studio in one month, the music captures a palpable and powerful sense of urgency as evidenced by the first single “I Dream In Lines.” Distorted guitars curl around swells of feedback as the vocals echo with emotion during a hypnotic hook.
“It’s about seeing through the eyes of a painter,” explains the frontman. “My fiancée loves to draw and paint. It’s an artform I highly respect, but it’s not something I can do. I tried to assume that view though. It’s another instance where you’re overcoming doubt and creating.”
Then, there’s “Breathe.” It hinges on tight fretwork as a rush of melody takes hold on the mantra, “Breathe in, breathe out.”
“I started doing meditations before we play, and that’s what ‘Breathe’ is,” he goes on. “The lyrics are almost like a guided meditation of something really light and floaty, but it’s Astronoid.”
The album also represents a pronounced evolution as the likes of “Water” and six-minute “Lost” dramatically dip between musical peaks and valleys. This unpredictability illuminates a 360-degree scope.
In the end, Astronoid embrace a newfound confidence and bring listeners closer than ever.
“There’s a lot more of us in this record,” he leaves off. “It’s super personal. It gave me the affirmation I needed that I can still write music and that it’s not about besting what you’ve done in the past, but rather being who you are. That’s what it gave me. I hope it aligns with something a listener may need.”