Astrolabe is an El Salvadoran progressive rock band, self-described as progressive and stoner rock. They are:
Victor Osorio Jule- guitar, vocals, synths
Jim Lopez- Bass guitar
Cesar Rodas- Drums
Shock of the New is their first release, out April, 2018.
Astrolabe: “An instrument formerly used to make astronomical measurements”; “An elaborate inclinometer”; literally translated as “The one that catches the heavenly bodies.”
In this album I was impressed with the depth of ideas, the lyrics seeming to be poetic, and searching themes that require(d) thought. The music was wild, sometimes chaotic, heavy, brutal- then suddenly gentle or quietly discordant.
“Deep in faith therein lies now- now?- NOW, NOW, NOW!”– lyrics
To these ears, this more closely sounds like eclectic and heavy progressive music. It is filled with intricacies, experimental sounds, changes, and textures. It begins with the pastoral, gentle sounds of
Then some heavy riffs and harsh vocals change the tone, in The Shattering”. We hear complexity and encounter the beginning of the spiritual journey- to my ears, of the creative soul.
1994 begins with clean (female?) vocals, dreamy, then increasingly fierce riffs, and again the harsh vocals.
Grown Up Mask is a change of pace with clean chords on the guitar, synths, and again some intricate passages.
Next To You begins what seems to be a section of the album that marks a considerable shift. Sweet love seems to be the subject, yet, is it the “muse” of the creative spirit?
Gone are the brutal vocals and heavy, complex riffs (and these guys can whip up a storm).
Instead we have Down, a lovely acoustic guitar interlude, morphing quickly into River of Life. The protagonist seems to be losing hold, and heart-broken, the music begins to reflect heavier, harsher tones.
“You’ve got nothing left to lose when you no longer have a soul.”
With Light of Times the transition from the quieter, more reflective section of the album begins to clarify. The protagonist is despairing and wounded.
“I’m just a thoughtful fool, blinded by the Light of Times”. It reminded me of dreams I had when I was younger. Dreams that were dashed, but how does one continue?
Socionaut suggests bitter acquiescence. “Escape or bondage, both are shattering illusions.”
When the creative spirit is denied, and dreams are derailed, how does one carry on? Relinquish the soul and become a “hissing and grieving (spirit) among the living”?
Yet, there is a suggestion of another path: “We are free to choose between heaven and hell, we are free to choose…”, and,
“Things can happen if you wish them to…”.
I found Shock of the New a stimulating, thoughtful, challenging journey. For me, it’s one I’ll likely return to, in order to continue to absorb the layers of music and lyrics, and the implications of their ideas.