Burden CallsJump Start Records
By Cole Faulkner
European pop-punkers Astpai aren’t afraid to get their chords a little dirty. The melodic four-piece understands that in order to rock out, you have to get gritty, and front man Zock’s coarse cries more than fit the bill. Fans of acts like North Lincoln, The Menzingers and Gatorface all stand to enthusiastically belt along to the various antis with brain-scrambled heads banging. Combined with some unpredictable riffs that shred melody lightly through a blender, Astpai should be sitting buddy-buddy with fans of No Idea Records and the like in their fifth full length, Burden Calls.
Opening lightly with “Single Use,” the band’s initial, instrument-less statement “we were all born in boredom,” explodes feverously into an abrasive hard rock fixture that is anything but boring. Zock’s strained shouts fluctuate somewhere between hardcore barks (early Against Me!) and forceful pop-punk commands (The Flatliners). The final moments of “Out” get particularly wild as Zock morphs from assertive to demanding, mirrored in the outright crunching riffs giving way to an oddly fitting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles exert. “Death Everywhere” pulls back the reigns with a jumpy melody that sounds as if born of a more dynamic Banner Pilot. The band further retreats from the remaining grit as they settle comfortably into the atmospheric showpiece, “After All.” Suddenly transforming into a near-acoustic performance, Astpai gives way to an emotional downturn that finds Zock speaking quietly with the weight of a burden. With so much to speak of so early on, the band’s appeal sets in quickly.
That being said, the back half of Burden Calls is comparatively a mixed bag. Two thirty-second tracks, “Down By Love” and “Resignation,” feel under-developed; the former being a backdrop to another movie exert that doesn’t quite connect and latter serving as a hurried failure to launch. Considering that follow-up “Careers” develops into one of the album’s most cleverly composed, anthemic takes on conventional chorus-verse formula, the need for these scattered micro-tracks is questionable. Thankfully these are only minor moments that mostly disrupt flow and are easily forgotten by the time catchy sing-along closer “Emotion In The Way” concludes the disc.
Above all Astpai has written a coherent and musically thematic album. Truthfully, the songs aren’t all that memorable on their own, but when taken together Burden Calls makes for a very distinct listen boasting plenty of breakout moments that compliment the Austrian act’s rough edge. Easily recommendable for those enjoying the gruffer side of modern punk that still have a hankering to sing along to something light and catchy.