Astral Doors Biography
The third album in the career of Astral Doors is set to be a landmark in modern metal. After releasing two already classic albums, the band knew that on their third album, they once again would have to perform at the top of their skills to please themselves and their fans. Determined to create a masterpiece, Joachim Nordlund, Patrik Johansson, Johan Lindstedt, Mika Itäranta, Martin Haglund and Jocke Roberg moved into the studio, locked the door and threw away the key. When they broke out, about 5 months later, the result was more than brilliant: A pure metal/hard rock album with loads of classic tunes. Songs like "Black rain"; "EVP", "Apocalypse revealed", "London caves" etc. are pure dynamite. The release date of "Astralism" is set to March 2006. But let's travel back in time a bit here. What did the guys do before they started creating classic hard rock together in Astral Doors? How did they meet? Here is the full story of Astral Doors:
The early days
In Borlänge, a small town in the middle of Sweden, there is a place called The Rock house. It's a place with a lot of rehearsing rooms for bands that can't afford to rent flashy rehearsal studios. Patrik Johansson had his melodic metal band Staircase, which rehearsed there. He often ran into Joachim Nordlund who played guitar and sang in the strange progressive group Erina. They were by no means friends, but said "Hi" to each other when they met in the corridors of The Rock House. Keyboard player in Erina was Jocke Roberg. Martin Haglund rehearsed with his death metal band Enslavement a few doors away at the end of the corridor. And at that moment not aware the existence of the other guys except for Johan Lindstedt and his current band.
When Patriks band needed a new drummer, 1991, they asked a very young and talented guy, who played techno trash with a group rehearsing in the room next door. His name was Johan Lindstedt. Johan played with Staircase for a month or so before he decided that it wasn't his cup of tea. He went on to the rap metal combo, Buckshot OD, made a record and went on a tour throughout Europe. Buckshot OD became quite a success and Johan lived the "rock star life" for a year or so, before he had to quit the band. Patriks and Johans month in Staircase didn't give so much musically, but it was the birth of a friendship, and if you want: the seed of Astral Doors. Erina did some successful appearances in a couple of rock competitions, but they never reached the stars. Neither did Staircase.
The opening of the doors
The nineties describes by many metal bands as a dark era: The grunge kicked the poodles off the big scenes and stole the attention for classic heavy metal. For the guys, that almost ten years later would start Astral Doors, however it was a good decade in many ways. They slowly but surely grew as musicians in various local acts. Thousands of hours of rehearsing, recording demos and performing live gigs, taught them the business of rock'n'roll: -The hard way!
1998 Johan Lindstedt and a friend of his, Michael Wolf, wrote a couple of songs in old Sabbath-Ozzy-style. When they needed a singer to the project, Johan wanted a hardcore-singer. Wolf refused and suggested one of his band mates from the Purple-cover band, In Rock; Patrik Johansson. Patrik gave it a shot, the guys were thrilled and a new band saw its light: Barfly. With a powerful rhythm section, Sabbath-guitars and vocals by Patrik who sounded like a mixture between Ozzy, Plant and Dio, the band recorded three extraordinary demos and received great reviews. Unfortunately the members of Barfly were not as good at promoting themselves as they were of playing rock'n'roll. Their fourth and last demo, recorded early 2002, was not in the same division as the previous and the split up was a fact. But with something bad there's usually something good: The engineer through the recordings of the last Barfly session was a guy Johan had learned to know from work, Joachim Nordlund, the former front man of Erina. Joachim had a great experience of recordings and under a couple of years he was the lead singer (!) and bass player (!) in the great stoner combo, Earflog. By that point already put to rest. (The guitarist in Earflog was a guy named Martin Haglund, also a friend of Johan since childhood, but we'll come back to him later)
One thing led to another and soon Johan and Joachim decided to write some songs together in classic Purple-style. Patrik was contacted and the trio started writing songs. Almost at once, people started to pay attention to their music and within a couple of months the guys had signed a management deal with the Danish Intromental management, led by Claus Jensen and Lars F. Larsen.
The funny thing was that at this stage, the guys had no band name, and they had to come up with something fast. One thing that Johan, Joachim and Patrik had in common, besides the music, was their growing interest for the spiritual, cosmic and occult side of life, a thing reflected in the song "Far beyond the astral doors". So, Astral Doors it was.
Under the guidance of the Danish Vikings; Johan, Joachim and Patrik had to form a complete line up to stand prepared for what was about to happen. They had used keyboard wizard Jocke Robergs services already on a couple of songs and he was invited to be a full member of the band. The job as bass player was offered to an old friend and soul mate of Johan and Joachim: Martin Haglund. Yes; the same guy that played the six strings in Earflog. Martin, also with a past in erlier mentioned death metal act Enslavement (later named Coffinman) didn't hesitate and the line up was complete...almost.
Of the son and the father
The first songs of Astral Doors went in all kinds of directions. The guys searched through the hard rock-spectra to find their own formula. Patrik, with a crush for fast Rainbow songs, asked Joachim and Johan if they could come up with something in that style. A week or two later, Joachim and Johan played Patrik the riffs of what was to become "Cloudbreaker". Patrik had the vocal lines ready the day after and the song was recorded. The Astral sound was born and a couple of days later they wrote "Of the son and the father", the powerful anthem about the wicked catholic priests in the United States who abused young boys.
Now the guys were in business. The song writing went smooth and their management received a lot of offers from different labels that wanted to sign this new bright star on the hard rock scene. The Spanish/German label Locomotive gave them a very serious offer and the managers advised them to go for it, since (quote)"it's better to be a big band on a small label than a small band on a big label". When recordings were ready, the quintet realised that it would be tough to perform the songs as good live as on the record without another guitar player. Martin, who didn't consider him self to be a bass player, suggested that he would pick up his real profession and play the other guitar in the band. He also suggested that they would offer Mika Itäranta the job as the bass man in the group. Said and done. The band that started as a trio was now a six piece.
"Of the son and the father" was recorded in Joachims own studio, Big Turn. The mixing process however took place at THE ABYSS, with Peter "Hypocrisy" Tägtgren in charge. A strange connection some people say, but for the band it was natural to contact Peter, not only for the fact that the man is a metallic genius; he's also a long time friend of both Martin and Johan. Peter has worked with the band ever since and will always be the bands no.1 choice.
The album was released in October 2003 and went top 5 in the German metal bible, ROCK HARD's top list. ( Patrik Johansson was actually the first artist in the Rock Hard history being on that prestigious dynamite-list with two different bands at the same time: Astral Doors and Space Odyssey, but that's another story)
In Japan, the label didn't like the cover art, with the crucified priests, based on the title track, and they wanted another cover. Things went fast and before they knew it, the Japanese release of "Of the son and the father", had another more neo-classical-style-cover. The band members liked the picture, but agreed that they couldn't call an album with a strange looking space ship on the cover for "Of the son and the father". They decided to change the name, just on the Japanese version, to "Cloudbreaker". It became a huge success in the land of the rising sun. The band was chosen as "brightest new hope" by BURRN! Magazine's readers and Patrik reached a top 15 position on the "singer of the year"-list.
"Of the son and the father" received great reviews all across the world. The big open air festivals paid attention and Astral Doors performed at the monster festivals Wacken Open Air and Sweden Rock Festival. Two amazing appearances, already considered legendary.
Evil is forever
After the success of the debut album and the live shows during the summer '04, the band returned to the studio and started the work of their second creation, "Evil is forever". This second release is, if you compare them song by song, a much stronger album than the debut. The title "Evil is forever" was first a wordplay with the classic James Bond-song, "Diamonds are forever", but the subject of evil is also something of a red thread through the entire record. Lyrically it's a very dark and angry album.
On the album, most songs are written by the original trio Nordlund, Lindstedt and Johansson, but Martin Haglund also contributed with a couple of fantastic tunes.
From the bombastic opener "Bride of Christ" to the closer, the epic and dark "Path to delirium", the album brings out an impressive collection of classic tracks. The brilliant song- writing, the mixture between a modern sound and the old school classic hard rock, spiced with Peter Tägtgrens stunning mixing work, makes this album superior within its genre.
Shortly after the release, they toured across Europe together with German metal heroes Grave Digger. It was a very successful trip, which once again proved the greatness of Astral Doors as a live unit. To sound great on records is one thing. Live is another cup of tea. Astral Doors are as good live as they are on record, if not better. Many fans and critics think they are even stronger live than on studio recordings.
The summer of 05', the band members decided to take some time off. A decision they had to give up. Several festivals begged for their services and the band spent most of the summer rehearsing and making live appearances. Their creativity seemed to be larger than ever, and between gigs and rehearsals, they started writing songs for their third release. The song "Raiders of the Ark" was chosen to be the title track of an EP, released autumn '05, an appetizer for the fans while waiting for the next full length album and a classic Nordlund-Lindstedt-Johansson-tune. The EP also contains one un-released track from the "Evil-sessions", three tracks previously only released in Japan and a brand new video to the song "Time to rock". A collectors item for the die hard fans.
The rise of the Astralism
During their time together, the members of Astral Doors have become more and more interested of the occult and spiritual. When the recordings of the third album started, they already had the title ready for it: "Astralism", a term sometimes used in the spiritual. However, "Astralism" in this matter does NOT stand for anything spiritual. It's more a reflection of the world today and a fitting title considering the bands name. In a way "Astralism" is a concept album since many of the songs deal with scary subjects like for example: Hiroshima; religious mass confusion; dictatorship; the destruction of the Earth etc. The album contains music and lyrics for the thinking man, and is a quest for peace.
Not many albums are worthy to be called "masterpieces", but "Astralism" is a metal-bomb that will shake up the world. Once again the band will use Mr.Tägtgrens's services and the mixing will take place December 05'/January '06. The release is set to Mars 2006 and is to be followed by massive touring. At the end of the day, that's what it's all about for the guys in Astral Doors: playing live, meeting the fans and salute them for all the positive energy they bring to the band.
To be continued......
(written for Astral Doors by Stephan Lehback, December 2005)
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