Astma | 600 Pounds of Body (review)

Astma '600 Pounds of Body' cover artwork

Astma ‘600 Pounds of Body’ cover artwork

Hailing from Örebro, Sweden, Astma has just released their debut album, 600 Pounds of Body on Toronto-based Electro Aggression Records. Astma was initially a side-project of the band Stroma, which began in 2001. In that sense, it’s entirely accurate to say that this debut album is about 15 years in the making, give or take. The deluxe release is worth the wait, with 2 discs containing a total of 42 tracks – an obvious Front 242 reference in case you missed it.

The main disc, 600 Pounds of Body contains 23 tracks. If you’re familiar with Swedish old school EBM you know what to expect here. Astma’s music for the most part consists of 4-on-the-floor drum patterns and repetitive basslines, essentially an electronic version of punk rock. The style harkens back to the early 1980’s when bands such as Nitzer Ebb were just starting out. The simplistic structure to the songs was initially a product of limited technology at the time, yet there are countless bands worldwide that are still loyal to this unique sound and aesthetic. The “old school EBM” sound is especially popular in Sweden, home to bands such as Container 90, Spetsnaz, Ekotbrottsmyndigheten, Autodafeh and many more. Sweden is also home to Pouppée Fabrikk, one of the originators of the sound and legends in their own right.

Astma’s debut provides hard-hitting EBM with distinctive vocals, lovingly mastered by Arnte of the band Pyrroline (also signed to Electro Aggression Records). The band’s sound is infectious, if at times formulaic. At times Astma does stray into other realms musically, such as on the album closer “Dead End”, and the result is truly great, a brooding, melancholic number crossing into New Wave/ Gothic territory. I’d be curious to hear the band branch out more over time, as the old school EBM sound is very limited in its scope. Lyrically, Astma covers many of the common themes in EBM music, such as war, conflict and suffering, on tracks such as “Unknown Soldier”, “No Surrender”, “449 Metal Bullets (New Version)” and “Suffer and Pain”. Elsewhere, the band brings a sense of humor and levity to their music with songs such as “Perculator” referring to their love of coffee, “Cut It Short” which advises hippies to cut their hair and “A Global Game (New Version)” about the world’s love affair with football (soccer).

As with the other releases from Electro Aggression Records, the bonus disc ‘Asthmatic Percussions & Contagious Basslines’ features a Who’s Who of EBM remixers compiled by label owner Nader Moumneh, including legends such as Signal Aout 42, Armageddon Dildos and Plastic Noise Experience. Proud to support one of their own, fellow Swedes Ekobrottsmyndigheten, Autodafeh and Ondska likewise contribute mixes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the disc features remixers from the Electro Aggression Records roster, including Serpents, kFactor and Pyrroline. Other remixers include Japanese act DRP (providing their take of the kitschy “Body In Japan”), Cardinal Noire and Invoke The Insult, among others. There’s even a cover of the song Astma song “Snake Bite” provided by none other than cult act Brigade Werther.

Between the main album and the bonus disc, Astma’s debut has something for everyone. The music will appeal mostly to old school EBM fans, but every fan of electronic music will find something to like here.

Bonus tip: for a previously unreleased (and exclusive) song ‘Honor And Glory’ search out the expansive 4-CD compilation Old School Electrology, Volume 1 available for purchase from Electro Aggression Records.

(This review was originally published for the webzine Reflections of Darkness. You may find the original review at this location.)

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