ASTPAI – Burden Calls review

ASTPAI promo imageASTPAI are possibly the hardest working band you’ll come across, in twelve years having toured across the UK, Europe and America more times than you can count, and spending months on the road at a time, whilst still finding time to record four full-length albums and more EPs. Their fifth LP, Burden Calls, will be released in the UK on August 22nd via Ass Card Records, and it’s a punk rock explosion.

The faint instrumental build up of opening track, Single Use, leaves your attention to fully focus on the vocals, akin to a slightly harsher version of old-Green Day’s. The music picks up to full-on, heavy punk with instrumental to push you a step back and vocals harsh enough to hurt to join in with, before a final screeching feedback stunt ends the two and a half minute welcome. Almost matching the opener in length, Dead End Talking almost promise to be a touch more melodic, but with percussion being such a driving force to the track, it’s not a massive difference. There’s less of the full-on effect with the musical structure becoming more prominent with the slight variation in vocal styles, and a chorus appropriate for gig gang-vocals.

There’s light relief in Out, once the initial exclamation of sound is over, with simplistic guitar supporting lyrical emphasis. Noise breaks loose again, though, and there’s a great temptation to learn the lyrics and join in with the half-shouted vocals, before they cut out to a film quote. Not an especially classic film, but the few lines of dialogue from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze are a bit brilliant. There’s something I never thought I’d write. Death Everywhere opens with more musical attention, and when the vocals kick in they’re much closer to a dead-pan, clean style, before dropping away to let the guitar continue to drive the track. Slower vocals give way to the repeated shouting of the title lyrics, which will undoubtedly churn up some enthusiasm in live audiences.

At first, fifth track After All seems to be set in an entirely different style from the genre, the two minute blast intertwines compassionate lyricism with simplistic guitar. It keeps the links to the opening riffs strong throughout as the song erupts, only to close with a few hanging bass notes, before sixth Departure picks up where it left off and ropes in a heavier instrumental. Back again are the signature vocals, this time almost as a rougher version of Emily’s Army, and although some of the lines feels a tad cliched (“you’re the exception to every rule”) the same firepower of lyrics is back, bringing back the punk energy.

Little variation is provided in the opening of Ground Control, but the distinguishable lurching between vocals and instrumental sets it apart, before two of the shortest album tracks take hold. Half a minute Down By Love contains entirely spoken vocals, and although the same riffs open forty-six second Resignation, the grunge-punk and harsh vocals return. Careers seems to hold something philosophically closer to concern than outright anger, with the drop away of music half-way through leading to vocal attention – “these days I question everything // and find myself asking if we are soulmates by nature // or soulmates by choice? // Do we share the same content  or just produce the same noise? // Do we care for another when we face our deepest fears? // Are we the difference that we’re praising, or just stuck in shitty careers?” being possibly the most powerful lyrics on the record.

Small Change is a track of more brilliant riffs and cymbal-heavy percussion, creating lighter sound to the heavier lyrics, before penultimate self-depreciating Oxygen sincerely reflects on life and progress. Compared to many of the short blasts off the record, almost five and a half minute closer Emotion In The Way comes as a bit of a shock. As a band with a lot of experience creating and touring music, this track pays homage to their career with vocalising the difficulties faced once past the initial excitement of starting a band.

Throughout, the album oozes experience and angst, years worth of refining their sound making this a must-listen for any fans of heavy punk.

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