Austrian melodic-punk rockers Astpai released their new album, True Capacity, on 22 June via Jump Start Records and Shield Recordings. I first heard of Astpai back in 2013 when they released a split 7” with The Flatliners, which turned out to be a good introduction to the band as they share many similarities with the Flats – including an affinity for combining high-powered melodies with uniquely textured vocals. Astpai have also often been compared to None More Black, because of the similarities between vocalist Zock and Jason Shevchuk. The Flatliners and None More Black are two of my absolute favourite bands, so you know I took to Astpai quite easily once I found them. But, while Astpai do share a certain likeness with these bands, they also bring a distinctly European flavour to their songs and are in some ways closer to a band like Antillectual in their ability to maintain both a fullness of sound and an underlying rawness in their music.
‘Rotten Bait’ opens the album with some delicate arpeggios, then slowly builds up the sound with more urgent drumming, and throaty ‘woahs’ before heading into an uptempo song with a driving melody. It’s a fantastic beginning, which really sets the tone for the rest of the album and includes many of the qualities that pop up all over True Capacity – like the mixture of shouty and smooth vocals, and engaging variations in rhythm and pace. ‘Lottery’ follows this up with a more playful, straight-forward melodic punk track about the role that luck plays in life’s ups and downs, and ‘Best Years’ completes this opening trifecta with an ultra-catchy pop/skate punk inspired banger that I’m sure will be a fan favourite at shows.
The band really shows off its skill and versatility in songs like ‘No Hero’, ‘Feel Your Pain’, and ‘Falling Trees’. ‘No Hero’ and ‘Feel Your Pain’ are both mid-tempo tracks that glide between faster and slower sections, picking up the different dynamics of a particular mood or emotion. The vocal harmonising at the end of ‘Feel Your Pain’ is a particular highlight. ‘Falling Trees’ has an increasing momentum that effortlessly pulls you down into the melody. I love the little guitar flourishes in this song, and Zock’s vocals are just amazing. Chris Cresswell assisted with the vocal production on True Capacity, and I think you can hear his influence here in the way that some vocals are filled out while other lines are left relatively raw.
‘True Capacity’ is a bit of a standout track in that it’s closer to hardcore than to melodic punk. The heavy, raspy vocals lend intensity to the lyrics about reaching breaking point because of an oversaturation of information and news. It’s a common feeling in today’s world that I think Astpai have captured well. In the next two songs, the album returns to a mid-tempo, melody-driven sound. ‘Saving Up’ takes you on a ride into middle-aged malaise, beginning with the line “I’ve got two tickets on this southbound train for me and my despair”. Despite this seemingly sad topic, it has a great central hook and an awesome key change towards the end. ‘Wear and Tear’ is another poppier track, which even includes some well-timed claps. The guitar in both these songs is quite bright and fun, and I’m reminded of None More Black because of the fantastic contrast between this playfulness and the ultra-gruff vocals (and the clapping here is reminiscent of NMB’s ‘Peace on Mars, Cause you Ain’t Gonna Get It Here’). The album ends strongly with ‘Body Parts’, which begins with some heavy and resonant guitar before kicking into a more fast and technical midsection. It feels like a finale, with lots of ‘woahs’ and a driving drum beat to finish.
With True Capacity, Astpai have continued their trend of putting out really high-class, technical, and engaging melodic punk. They offer the perfect blend of punk heaviness, grit, and intoxicating melody; and the work that they’ve put into this album can be heard on every single track.
Stream and download True Capacity here: https://shieldrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/astpai-true-capacity
Like Astpai here: https://www.facebook.com/ASTPAI/
This review was written by Robyn Pierce.