Much like the recently reviewed Iron Savior album, Worship or Die is a work of comfort. Doing exactly what they’re good at. Being their ninth full length, Astral Doors cram out an enjoyable listen with few quirks and little innovation, but all the more in the way of catchy heavy power metal in all the classic fashions. Sure enough, there are no innovative, Astralism (2006) antics like earlier in their career, but unlike so many other current bands - Bloodbound, Sabaton, etc… - the change into comfortable, even predictable territories, does not come at the cost of what the band is actually good at. Unlike the aforementioned, Astral Doors haven’t devolved their sound, but stay true to this day to what the music is about; pure heavy metal, and in that sense Worship or Die delivers the goods.
The album is also a step up from its predecessor, Black Eyed Children (2017) which while decent was a work carried by a couple of highlights. Worship or Die is a more cohesive album, and while a couple of songs could have been trimmed for a tighter runtime, it’s about equally strong throughout, taking a slight dip around the middle with a few tracks, like Desperado and Light at the End of the Tunnel being meandering, uninspired pieces, but picking up towards the end. A few songs have been stroked with linings lent from Johanssons tenure in Civil War, giving a more grandiose feel to the songs in the use of Joakim Roberg’s keys, while still having them rooted in the guitariffic handy work of Joachim Nordlund and Mats Gesar. Opener Night of the Hunter is all the right kinds of fun power metal with the catchy chorus, cheesy lyrics and flashy guitars, which have that clear, crisp sound and the gritty Dio like feel that hearkens to bygone days while staying firm with a modern touch.
It’s not the kind of album that will surprise you and grow with each listen, though you might find yourself enjoying the craft with a few replays. It shows what it’s about at first glance, and it might be a bit boring for when you’re looking for something challenging. A few of the hooks here and there, and tracks like St Petersburg that hint of more epic realms show what might have been had Astral Doors pursued a slightly more experimental path, but I dare guess this is an answer to the fairly lackluster Black Eyed Children. It might not be a career highlight - then again, Astral Doors never really unleashed a full fledged masterpiece - but it shows Astral Doors still have the know how for efficient, fun songwriting. The guys get to be themselves, and while it won’t win them any awards, the album is enjoyable from start to finish.
Standout tracks: Night of the Hunter, Marathon, Ride the Clouds