By J. Cey
As their creation myth states, Astrakhan was “born out of years of failure, frustration and stifled creativity.” The Vancouver band has stores of creativity on tap, buoyed by a keen sense of composition. On their brand new record A Tapestry of Scabs and Skin (a 12-inch 45, to be exact), they provide intriguing hints at what these heavies will do with their first full-length.
Side A opens with “Blinded by the Diamond.” A scratching guitar slide brings sweeping chords cut with dissonant questions and bass licks that all set the scene for heads to roll by candlelight. When ecstasy and agony finally descend into riffery, full bangs are on as a vocal shout of “Precious! Glittering!” blasts out of Rob Zawistowski. Baroness inspired vocals, buttressed by sweet harmonies, give way to shouts that hint at Opiate-era Maynard James Keenan and a section of circular riffing à la Adam Jones.
“Cupid’s Fist” rolls out with a tapping riff that ends in double time, and sees the band’s rhythm section and guitar play with accentuating rhythmic nuance and chord progression. Here are more pleasingly strong vocals (both clean and dirty) shared by Rob Zawistowski and bassist Dustan Toth, that sometimes are tonally similar to Layne Staley, when not John Baizley, when not Maynard James Keenan. Fundamentally, Zawistowski’s voice is its own thing, and his melodic choices, supported by the developing dynamic between him and Toth, are exciting and suggest a relationship that will prove fruitful.
The B-side displays more of what makes Astrakhan a winning combination: disjointed, yet groovy riffs unfurl with hints of mysticism in guitar melodies that are supported by clear, powerful vocals.
Altogether, Astrakhan’s influences may be on their sleeves, and they may do well to temper that. However, one of their strengths is weaving a cohesive statement from their predecessors.A Tapestry of Scabs and Skin, Astrakhan