Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.
S A Z E R's Astro Wars album creates a glowing, energetic and dramatic sonic picture of an intergalactic war waged in the vast starfields of outer space. It brims over with great melodies, charging drums and the exhilarating feeling of piloting a space fighter against waves of attackers. It combines a retro-inspired sound with video game elements to produce a fun listening experience.
I have to say that I think S A Z E R is a heck of a good melody writer. He creates memorable, interesting and enjoyable melodies that are then played on synths that add to their overall level of expression and help each different melodic line to fit into the context of the piece for which it was written. The emotional content runs the gamut from inspirational to soothing and together these melodies take the listener on a journey.
The way in which the tracks on Astro Wars combine all of their different sonic elements is another reason for my enjoyment of the album. There is a good balance between the throbbing pulse of the percussion, the deep bass lines and the melodic content played on those varied synth sounds. I don’t feel any one element is out of place and they all work together to keep painting those strong mental images that come through so well.
I also enjoy the way that S A Z E R uses “retro” elements on this album. He isn’t self-consciously trying to create a facsimile of the 1980s sound, but instead to use the overall audio palette to reference that era in music while still producing something fresh.
My Favourite Tracks Analyzed
“Astro Wars” comes to life with arpeggios that rise and whirl out of emptiness, climbing and descending as a deep throbbing beat drives under them. The chip tune sound of the lead carries a feeling of victory and adventure.The combination of deep bass rumble and the relentless beat propels this track forward.
I enjoy how bright the synth is that plays the main melody and the way the arpeggios are used to infuse the whole track with a live wire energy as that catchy lead calls out and adds to flying feeling of the music. I found myself imagining the stars rushing past in hyperdrive as I listened to the track.
There’s an open flow of sound into open space and a quick pulse of harshness that fades along with extending synth notes, cool and minor, as “EMP” kicks off. A reverberating pulse of deep synth is joined by a rapidly moving, oscillating pattern of chip sound that wanders through open space before a driving drumbeat, thick and powerful pounds into the track. T
I am drawn to the lead melody which is mysterious and soaring, full of flourishes and ornaments as the slightly ethereal synth is joined by chip sounds. The glowing synth jumps into shiny flashes and a warm tone with the arpeggiating chip sounds dancing over the top. The light melody is full of hope before returning to the initial arpeggiating chip sound.
“Codemaster” stars with chimes ringing out into a rush of airy sound and a slowly throbbing drum. The drums quickly launch into a rapid beat along with a edgy, driving synth melody and the glowing chimes. I find the distorting, bending quality of the lead synth quite catchy as harder edged bursts and pulses of sound move behind it and the drums charge onwards.
There’s a powerful, propulsive quality to the lead as the track breaks into pulses of synth soaring out and the B-section synth melody reverberates in on a nasal, medium- high synth that has a funky quality to it. There’s a subdued arpeggio and a deep bass pattern along with a drum fill that flares before the music drives on again.
Long, drifting flows of minor synth in a dense pattern move with deep bass to open “Escape Plan” as a pounding beat begins to grow into the music, increasing in intensity, before a big retro drum sound hits. The solid, throbbing bass moves under the densely stacked synths above it and now arpeggiating chip sounds rise up into the music. There’s a compelling chip lead that leaps and wanders wildly over the propulsion of the drums.
There’s a break into deep space with warm synths with a lost feeling floating across the surface of a secondary throbbing beat and oscillating bass combo is joined by vocal sounding synths. The lead returns for a moment before the secondary melodic pattern with an interwoven quality moves over the slamming drums that imbue it with energy.
“Evader” starts out with gentle drift of flowing synth moving into open space and a darker flow of sound underneath it. Delicate sounds rise into the sonic space of the track as a steady pulse of sharp-edged synth is joined by huge drums that launch into a rapid beat. Pulses of oscillating medium-high synth flutter and leap into the music over the rapid beat and some fun tom hits.
I like the lead synth’s shining quality that is still imbued with a certain tension as it leaps through the track. The energizing beat is powerful and now a surging, densely layered synth surges tidally as solid drums move over the sharp synth pattern playing underneath them. Swelling waves of shadowy, thick synth climb up as a melancholy sound imbues the lead synth before the track returns to the “A” section again.
“Cannon Law” springs into action with a rapid, explosive pulse of shifting synth that machine guns into the music as a strong drumbeat drives the track forward. Surges of higher synth dance through the track along with an expanding brightness. The main melody has a hollow, roaming feeling with a certain amount of triumph about it that I enjoy. The track slows a little but the rippling synth line contrasts with the wandering synth above it and warning flashes of sound move in and through the music.
“Quantum Drive Engine”
A warm flow of bright airy synth and crystalline sounds that arpeggiate rapidly through the music begin “Quantum Drive Engine” as the synth pulse glows and the beat throbs with a smooth energy. Crystal sparkles glint through the music and now the beat accelerates as the cut glass synth moves behind an easy melody that delicately swirls through the track.
Chiming synths add lightness before an interesting percussive beat and a minor sparkle of wandering synth flickers through in descending patterns. I am quite taken with the variety of interesting percussion sounds on this track. A varying, moving line of high synth and a medium high glide behind It drifts in. The track ends on a feeling of shimmering light.
“Interdimensional” breathes into being with a dense, swelling warmth flowing out through the open spaces of the track. I am drawn to the way that the synths glide and grow as the smooth beat oscillates and guides the music while a high, nasal synth wriggles and writhes through the music with the dense round sounds behind it. An inspirational, dreaming lead synth soars and cries over the oscillating lines of sound underneath and the throb goes on with dark edgy sounds floating off into space as the beat throbs and drives.
The balance between the strong melodic content, the nicely combined sonic elements and the galactic journey on which S A Z E R takes the listener is what ultimately makes Astro Wars an album that I thought was a super fun listen.