Album Review: Astpai – True Capacity

Austrian grit-and-guitar maestros Astpai reach melodic punk perfection on their fifth studio album. FFO: The Flatliners, Gnarwolves, RX Bandits.

Article by Sarah Williams.

Since beginning Shout Louder, I’ve been sent a lot of records. I listen to every single submission, so it’s easy for an album to pass me by, falling into the mediocre cracks in the floorboards of scruffy punk fodder. As a result, it’s a rarity that an album will grip me from a first listen but, guess what? True Capacity has done just that.

Astpai have been on the gruff-punk radar for many years now, pulling big, dedicated audiences in the UK as well as on the mainland. True Capacity is the fifth studio album from this Viennese five-piece; a strong melodic punk offering that will instantly appeal to fans of The Flatliners and Gnarwolves.

Main single, Best Years, has to be the one of the best melodic punk songs written in 2018. It hooks you in with a devilishly catchy riff before slamming you with understated, earworm lyrics. Astpai have nailed a unique and enticing combination of written-in-your-bedroom simplicity and owning-a-huge-stage atmospherics that resonates through the whole record. I’m singing along with the my fist in the air, nodding my head and tapping my feet for, “That’s the best you can do.” The more I hear this song, the more it resonates with me.

Zock’s gruffer, gently accented vocal is something of an acquired taste, but he’s outdone himself on this recording, bringing a passionate depth to the lyrics without being show-offish. “Rejection is the final nail to your coffin of despair,” on No Hero is another instantly memorable lyric, as is, “Love is a strong word when you don’t mean it.”

The guitarwork is pure Gnarwolves, albeit it will less of a skate-bent and a gentler, more indie-punk style of composition. On songs like Fallen Trees and the intro to Rotten Bait they incorporate some janglier riffs that’ll appeal Menzingers and shoegaze fans, all the while maintaining a gritty overall feel. Another miniscule moment of perfection is the little fret-run at the beginning of No Hero, which brings an instant grin to my face. Although they have light moments, Rotten Bait also shows they’re not afraid to delve into a pool of heavy, frenetic chaos when the moment calls for it.

The title track True Capacity is the heaviest, dirtiest track on the record, opening with a distorted riff and a barely-contained shout, before unleashing a storm of metal-influenced madness. It brings some variety to the record and works as a palate cleanser on the track list, although the lyrics continue in a somewhat philosophical, self-reflective theme that runs through the whole record.

Astpai

I think the opening lyrics to Saving Up are some of the most heartfelt and resonant I’ve heard in a long time: “I’ve got two tickets on the southbound train for me and my despair; early morning, day ahead, full of failure and regret.” Zock’s captured the frustration and mediocrity that so many of us experience, in a tune that’s extremely memorable. The whole record is replete with soaring atmospheric noise, and yet these small moments mean it feels grounded and relatable.

True Capacity is out on Jump Start Records and Shield Recordings now. They are touring the UK with equally earworm-worthy heartfelt punks Harker in August. You can catch them live here:

 

Jul 11  DE  Berlin @ RAMONES MUSEUM BERLIN
Jul 12  DE  Berlin @ Astra Kulturhaus Berlin
Jul 16  AT  Wiener Neustadt @ Jugend- und Kulturhaus TRIEBWERK
Jul 17  SI  Ljubljana @ Gala Hala
Jul 18  DE  Zwiesel @ Jugendcafe Zwiesel
Jul 21  DE  Hormersdorf @ KNRD Fest 2018

Aug 09  AT  Bildein @ picture on festival
Aug 13  FR  Lille
Aug 14  UK  Brighton @ Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar
Aug 15  UK  London @ The Lock Tavern
Aug 16  UK  Bristol @ Exchange
Aug 17  UK  Manchester @ Fuel Cafe Bar
Aug 18  UK  Cardiff @ DA IAWN FEST #4

Aug 29  DE  Hamburg @ Frau Hedi
Aug 30  DE  Wiesbaden @ Kreativfabrik Wiesbaden
Aug 31  NL  Breda @ MEZZ
Sep 01  DE  Münster @ Gleis 22

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