Astrakhan – The Pillarist EP


By Matt Hinch

Montreal could be considered the Metal Mecca of Canada, at least in terms of death metal, and especially of the technical variety. But if you shift your focus to the left coast and the city of Vancouver you’ll find a wealth of talented bands emerging. Just this year releases from three Van City bands with sludgy bases are making a name for themselves, Anciients, Black Wizard, and the band at hand, Astrakhan. The quartet released their second EP last month, two-song The Pillarist.

Comprised of Dustan Toth (bass/vocals), Rob Zawistowski (guitar/vocals), Adam Young (guitar) and Jerome Brewer (drums), Astrakhan wasted no time putting together a sound that incorporates a myriad of influences while still sounding unique.

“Rest in Depths” features a High on Fire-styled opening which moves into some latter-day-Kylesian melodies and a big sludgy riff. The track alternates between powerful riffs and more sensitive melodies, driving rhythms and frikken’ sweet solos. As good as that bread and butter is, the real payoff is the vocals. Toth and Zawistowski’s dual vocals are both gruff and epic. Their tradeoffs are well timed and when they come together it gives the songs that extra measure of power. “Rest in Depths” may incorporate many parts but it never loses focus.

Neither does “The Pillarist”. It also follows their sludge chug ‘n’ roll/melodic standard, but it’s even more epic. The vocals come from a deeper place and approach Alan Averill of Primordial levels of declaration. There are some heavy grooves in here with the overall vibe falling somewhere between Mastodon and Tool. Yup, there’s some progressive movements weaving themselves amongst the sweet solos and big riffs making the spaces between those mighty notes just as important.

For a band that has only been together a couple years, the chemistry is incredible. They’re already crafting their art in such grand fashion that before long they’ll be forcing the bands now considered influences to up their game. The step up from last year’s self-titled EP is huge and if that rate of refinement is exponential, a full length will be off the scales.

Sean is the founder/publisher of; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.