1. Dark Infected Circles (Outbreak) 2. Black Mighty Gods 3. Lloth 4. Bitterness Of Mortality (MecomaN) 5. Deviate 6. Oceanus Procellarum (Liquid Tomb) 7. The Ring (Of Sorrow) 8. Twist, Nail, Torture 9. Sirens 10. Underwater Persephone
From the first time I saw a promotional photo for the group Astarte, I became extremely skeptical on the legitimacy of their releases. It absolutely reeks of a record label cash-grab to release an album that features an attractive all-female black metal band from Greece. When you think of it, isn't metal's main demographic disenchanted young men? Come on, this isn't to insult females in the world in extreme metal but here's an example: I've heard enough horny metal guys drool over Marta from Bleeding Through while lauding the laughable concept that she is some amazing keyboardist (which, she isn't). Another example, anyone notice that Arch Enemy really didn't become a huge seller until Angela started singing for them? So it can be pretty obvious that an attractive female in a metal band can be a huge selling point and record labels know that for a fact. I can see some record label guy saying this now, "So why not create entire group of attractive women playing metal?! It'll sell like hotcakes fellas!"
However, with a little more research, it seems that Astarte might actually be something of a real musical project, spearheaded by main member Tristessa and a rotating line-up, they've released five albums since 1997 and worked with some pretty reputable artists in the past (i.e. Septic Flesh and Dimmu Borgir). So maybe this isn't a part of some evil record label scheme after all...
When listening to "Sirens," you realize that this is most definitely a Greek metal band. When listening to the album, I'm frequently reminded of other Hellenic bands like Septic Flesh, Necromantia, and Rotting Christ (vocalist Sakis has guest spot on "Oceanus Procellarum"); but incorporating more melodic structures and aggressive female vocals like older Opera IX. One thing that should be noticed is that Astarte is NOT some watered-down cliché gothic metal band. Tristessa's vocals are almost always in a blackened growl which reminds me of old Opera IX. I think through the entire album, there is one extremely short clean vocal part that she sings normally.
Being that this album was recorded at Tico-Tico studios in Finland, so it's no surprise that the production is really well executed. The guitar tone are pretty thick sounding for a black metal release and I honestly find a lot of the guitar riffs to be the most infectious sounding parts to the album. I sometimes catch myself humming riffs from "Dark Infected Circles" or "Black Mighty Gods" every once and awhile. I also enjoy the lush acoustic guitar interludes in "Oceanus Procellarum" and "Lloth." What impresses me the most is that unlike most black metal albums; the bass is actually audible and frequently becomes a melodic element within the music (as in the songs "Black Mighty Gods" and "Ring Of Sorrow"). Keyboards are definitely present, but not too over the top, but more as an atmospheric element with the occasional piano parts. One thing that bothers me is that I'm pretty sure that the drums were programmed on this album, but its well done convincingly enough to the point that it doesn't detract from the rest of the music (see any nameless "bedroom" black metal bands for those examples).
After listening to "Sirens" it helped put my suspicions aside and I can say their music is a pretty satisfying listening experience. However, I do have to say that the promotional video that comes with the disc wasn't too impressive. It's well edited and filmed but the performance isn't too good from the band members. The singer just looks like she's mouthing along with the words without any real emotion. To me, it just makes the video extremely boring, pointless, and a waste of my freaking time. But putting the dull video and the programmed drums aside, I find this to be a strong album worthy of repeat listens. Definitely if you miss old Opera IX or if you dig symphonic black metal, this is right up your alley!
Maximum Metal Rating Legend - Click for Full Details