Astarte is three really hot chicks plus what seems to be some session dude on drums. There, I got it out of the way. Now on with the review!
Astarte play black metal in that Dark Funeral/Belphegor vein, with a bit more polish courtesy of keyboards and the occasional acoustic guitar. Vocalist/lead guitarist/bassist Tristessa plays a mean axe and has a scream similar to Angela Gossow without the mastery of voice, as she sticks to a singular style throughout the album. Keyboardist Katharsis drapes synthesized atmosphere over the whole thing, while guitarist Hybris lays down tight rhythms for the rest of the band to work within and around. Session drummer Ivar does a good job providing the backbone that drives each of the tracks. Still, the first couple of tracks are the most difficult to get through, as they alternate between sloppy and uninteresting and headbang worthy. The instrumental “Lloth” seems to serve as some sort of transitional membrane, after which the songs just seem to get better.
It is also around this point that the guest vocalists start showing up, most notably Shagrath of Dimmu Borgir on the track “The Ring (of Sorrow)” and Sakis of Rotting Christ on “Oceanus Procellarun (Liquid Tomb)”. The dynamic of the additional male vocalist works very well here against Tristessa’s singular tone. The track “Deviate” sounds like it has an additional vocalist, but there isn’t one credited, so perhaps she indeed possesses a lower register and simply uses it sparingly. Regardless, it may be the best track here.
By now, I’ve discarded my notion that Astarte are just another black metal group, as there is a lot more happening here musically than usual. Album closer “Underwater Persephone” is a short instrumental of piano and cello, an odd choice of closing for a disc that has been a fairly brutal listen, but then again totally fitting considering the roads the band explored throughout. Sirens seems to have been largely overlooked so far, but is worthy of your attention. Not staggeringly brilliant, but still a very strong effort.