What would you get if you combined the high-pitched celestial vocals of Danish darling Mew with the post-rock/shoegaze/progressive metal tendencies of Animals as Leaders, GY!BE, Sigur Rós, and Alcest? Probably something quite close to Boston’s Astronoid, and specifically, their third studio LP: Radiant Bloom. Picking up where 2019’s Astronoid left off, the record is indeed a luminously life-affirming journey full of beautiful dissonance and emotional melodies. As such, it’s sure to delight and inspire all who hear it.
Each Astronoid album seems less abrasive than the last, and that's true for Radiant Bloom, too. While there are some heavy moments, it's mostly a vibrantly peaceful and unintrusive sequence. That's what the band does best, though, so the continued change in trajectory is welcomed. It's also worth noting that this is their first release without guitarist Mike DeMellia (who left in late 2018), as well as their first with drummer Matt St. Jean since 2016's Air.
Of course, Astronoid have always shared similarities with Periphery, so it's no surprise that this is their first work on the latter's label, 3DOT Recordings. Commenting on their evolution and purpose with the collection, vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Brett Boland clarifies:
"It's a reflection of everything over the past few years, and it's the most personal album we've made so far. Radiant Bloom is about the state of being human and all the trials and tribulations that come along with that. It's about mundanity and boredom and about everything moving so fast that you feel like you can't do it all. It's about the flood of feelings that goes along with everyday experiences and trying to cope with the swirling vortex of life humming around you."
Rounded out by bassist Daniel Schwartz, drummer Matt St. Jean, and guitarist Casey Aylward, the revised quartet kickstart the record's prevailing sense of cosmic conflict with "Admin." Weighty digital tones overflow around hectic syncopation, shimmering guitar riffs, and grounded bass notes as Boland sings starrily about life's inevitabilities and endless possibilities (or, at least that's what I get from it). Despite the arrangement ebbing and flowing in intensity, it achieves a consistently encouraging and dazzling wall of sound that can't help but breathe new life into your day.
By and large, tracks like "I've Forgotten Your Face" and "Drown" are equally contemplative and calming. They present the same sort of glistening anarchy beneath soaring desires and reconciliations ("I only wish I could just recognize what I want from these dreams I have," "Why am I the one to hold the torch in the dark on my own?" etc.) In every instance, Boland's philosophical assertions and universal declarations are as compelling as the melodies and timbres through which he delivers them.
Elsewhere, the band ventures into marginally more chaotic territory, such as with the feistier rhythms and speedy guitar solos of "Sedative" and "Eyes." Along the way, "Sleep Whisper" and "Orchid" instill industrial/gothic edges via slower vocal phrasing and ominous instrumentation. Happily, the penultimate "Human" balances its hecticness with hopefulness, paving the way for closer "Decades" to wrap it all up with palpable reconciliation and optimism ("Hurt someone to love someone / It's over / I'm alright").
Radiant Bloom is a deceptively relatable and resonant album, as it's easy to just enjoy the music and singing on a surface level. As impactful as those elements are, however, the true power of the LP can only be grasped once you see how those things support Astronoid's lyrics. They're poetic and significant enough to work on their own, with even the most abstract sentiments leaving room for the listener's personalized interpretations. Thus, no facet of Radian Bloom overshines any other; rather, they connect brilliantly and crucially to produce many of the group's greatest messages.