Album Review: Friends from Moon – “Astray” (Experimental Alt Rock)

Written by: Valkyrjiaa

>Release Date: April 15th, 2022
>Experimental Alt Rock from New Delhi, India
>Label: Independent
>FFO: Muse, My Chemical Romance, Devin Townsend, and Danny Elfman
>Friends of Moon Bandcamp

Friends from Moon is the one-man band, captained by Indian musician Ritwik Shivam. The name, inspired by his first hallucination trip under a full moon was birthed from his vision to create a world where every broken soul could feel a certain strength, and soar through acceptance. Utilizing his inspirations and influences from the world’s own sounds, there are a few prominent styles he has adapted into his own music including Prog/Symphonic Metal, Alt Rock, Electronics, and Ambient Music with notable themes including fear, melancholy, and escapism.

After releasing his debut EP The Spectator in 2021 that built a half-hour long journey through a wall of sound and groove orchestra, his newest album titled ‘Astray’ is an eight-track long concept with a heavy existential narrative. It features a state of mind where one can dive beneath the surface of everything to question worth and detach from the optimism to embrace the pessimism. Songs transition from happy and upbeat to tragic and depressive with a flair for drama using long, dragged out tone and sound.

‘Astray’ is influenced by the stories of H.P. Lovecraft and his fixation on the concepts of Humanity’s insignificance and decadence. There is touches of madness, distressed heroes, and eccentric cosmic beings that somehow give an answer to life’s riddles.

Friends from Moon explains the concept album as “a tragic tale of a youthful man and his encounter with formidable portions of his own personality which eventually consume him.”

We start our journey through “Rage On”, a guitar heavy track that’s both upbeat and catchy from the get-go.  It’s got a Devin Townsend vibe to its underlying tone, finding the influence with ease and making it his own through lyrical creations like “don’t go out glow on me like a shooting star higher, I’m leaving release me.” The chorus is catchy, with vocals dropping into harsh tone and giving us a unique play, “rage on, rage onward, conquer the greys, rage on, rage my friend, go lead the hero’s way.” It’s simple in its composition but, holds depth in even the simplest lines to capture both wonder and provoke inquiry.

The second track, “Rebellion Road” furthers the introduction of our main character through a sort of punk/alt rock tune. It’s the search for belonging in a society all too niche for his existence, that, after repeated attempts, finds him settling on the outskirts. “I will never step away. You and I will never be the same,” is a verse all too relatable to many, and is followed by lines like “Leaving with my fantasy, you and I can never feel the same,” which offers a nod to our own, individual identity that the character, and we, acknowledge yet, often overlook for the sake of ‘fitting in’. The vocals on this track reach beautiful highs that play delicately on the darker undertones of this ballad-like track, leaving us as conflicted as the main character once its faded.

“The Enemy” is our turning point in the story, where recognition of character and transition begin. The resistance of our own nature has been silenced until this point, and now awakens the deep desire to explore darker, deeper subjects before us. We feel the tone drop from cheery and misunderstood to foreboding, thus confirming the foreshadowing of this album’s concept. “Tell me I’m the One, Hear me I’m forgotten,” settle in like a voice calling to us from beyond. Vocals shift from upbeat to darker, and deeper with low growls and demonic screeches coming through to further the shadowed tones. The acoustics are steady, lingering on melancholy rather than stringing high to build the tension and create the ambiance of falling away into our inner darkness.

The title track “Astray” let’s the darkness take hold as we take the left-hand path forward. This track utilizes the influences of world sounds to create a dystopian and frightful atmosphere that shifts from outer imagery to an inner state of being. It’s an expressive, instrumental introduction into our downfall that portrays not only a loss of innocence but, a man willing to step forward with newfound conviction despite the mysterious before him. There are ethereal upbeats, and darker undertones that keep the pace and the tone steady, allowing for the otherworldly sounds to chime in and create conflict both in our hearts and minds. Is it hope before us, or doom that awaits us?

We get a break with “Come Together” as it plays out as a musical description of our surrounding landscape with eeriness and hostility. There’s industrial influence in the melody of this song, amplified by synthwave-like transitions and experimental wonder. The well-known chorus of the signature Beatles song rings in like a siren, trying to call out in warning to our protagonist to no avail.

Descending further, we are met with “Marvels beyond Madness” – the self-proclaimed highlight of the album as said by Friends from Moon. It’s the longest track on the album and is fueled by macabre horrors and malevolence. The Eldritch horrors of old are found here to serve as a reflection of inner darkness. The need for acceptance and belonging become too strong, and our man’s frantic quest for home has left his soul twisted and his mind distorted. The atmosphere of this track is bleak, with car crashes and dramatic sounds building tension and fear with increasing mayhem. Drums pick up the beat, with brutal vocals coming into play. It’s got elements of thrash and metal in its core as lyrics slip into darker territory. “The essence of reason dies, burning, it’s learning, it’s turning me,” slip into “blood murder blood, scream murder no,” in quick succession. Serving as a favourable track both to artist and listener, it isn’t hard to be captivated be the fierce imagery this track paints in both viciousness and inner battles.

The sweet release in “Riverine” comes like a rainbow after the storm. With darkness enveloping us through chaotic sounds, and maddening melodies, this track comes off like a hymn. It’s got the essences of old Greenday, or MCR in its strings and tone, with vocals cascading downward in a gentle caress. The curiousness of our leap forward is lifted from darkness to one of beauty. As our journey comes to an end, we’re almost mockingly greeted by Kitten mews and serenades of silver waters that wave farewell to our hero. Swept away by an end-credits feeling song is “Of the Spirit” that follows the transition from our Metal soundscapes to the more Soundtrack feel of this tale. It serves as the only fully instrumental track on the album and holds true to its inspirations with vividly painted imagery through imaginative composition and seamless transition.

The Bottom Line:

This album is a wondrous journey through the frailties of life, and how, no matter at what age, many of us still struggle to belong. While we meet otherworldly horrors, and battle darkness within, our hero battles them both on the inside, and the outside through reflection and turmoil. It’s a well-crafted album filled with tremendous inspirations and influences, each one taking its turn in the spotlight to build a fantastical and tragic world that’s reminiscent of a Tim Burton work, and musically executed by Friends from Moon with the utmost care.

Favourite Tracks: Astray & Marvels beyond Madness