Image © The End Records 2004
(30 December 2006) Asrai are a female-fronted goth rock/metal band much in the same vein as other female-fronted bands in that genre, but Asrai seem to capture that gothic label many of those other bands tout a lot better. Asrai formed in 1988 by sisters Margriet (vocals) and Karin Mol (drums) and even back then their sound was very melancholic and dark, though with a more punk, new wave vibe to it (think L7 meets Bauhuas). For a band that has been around for almost 17 years you'd expect them to have released more than two full length albums. Unfortunately the band has been more of a demo band so their earlier work--the pre-debut, As Voices Speak, material--is very hard to come by. Luckily, though, what is easily accessible is pretty damn good!
Admittedly this album did not do much for me on the first spin. I liked it, but wasn't blown away and the album was thus placed in shelfcore status. Fortunately I pulled it off the rack a few weeks later and gave it another spin, but this time much more to my delight. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I first listened to it, but my opinion changed drastically. All of a sudden the album was a very nice piece of work.
Touch In The Dark is not your typical goth rock/metal band. This is due to the extremely intelligent placement of pop and dark, moody new wave elements throughout the album. Musically the band is similar to a band like Flowing Tears who's synths and more power chord-oriented approach--typical of the goth rock/metal genre--gives the rhythm section a much bigger boost than a band like Sinergy whose lead guitar is much more in the forefront. Vocalist Margriet is an accomplished singer with a solid mid- to high-range vocal style (more mid than high), she will neither disappoint nor blow you away, but she does carry the songs well. There are no male vocals on this album except for the robotic-like ending to "Shadows," but you won't find anyone screaming or grunting on this album.
The album starts off with their second single "In Front Of Me," an appropriate pick for a single as is the second track, "Pale Light," the first single released. The next four tracks--"Whisper," "Restless," "Touch In The Dark" and "Tower"--follow suit leading into some of the slower moments of the album. It picks back up on track seven, "Dream," followed by the album's heaviest track, "Child." The album finishes in style with two more mid-tempo tracks, "Garden" and "Shadows" (an acoustic version of "Shadows" is included on some versions as a bonus track).
In conclusion this CD is recommended to fans of the female-fronted goth rock/metal genre, or metal in general. You'll read a lot of reviews comparing Asrai to Lacuna Coil which is the "acceptible" comparison for a metal reviewer similar to how Lacuna Coil are compared to Evanescence in the mainstream reviews. Neither are true and both are simply cop-out comparisons given because the reviewer knows no other band who is similar. Asrai are a good, solid band that deserves attention. They're not groundbreaking by any means, but they are far from undeserving.
Check out their website for sound samples throughout their history and hear for yourself.--Kenneth Wood in New Hampshire