Austria’s Astpai play punk rock with a healthy dose of Kid Dynamite snarl. It’s melodic, it’s loud, and most of all, it wants to be heard. Think of all those bands in the mid-aughties who started drawing on the melodic side of hardcore and post—Make Do And Mend, Title Fight, and Hostage Calm, to name a few—bands that took to the musicianship of Hot Water Music and Fugazi but kept their feet firmly in the world of traditional songwriting. Astpai is a step once more removed from those post-hardcore roots, but it’s hard for me not to think of them as kin. True Capacity is melodic punk that wants to hit hard, to give you all its got, and have you singing along with every word.
A more direct comparison for Astpai would be something like The Flatliners. They have a similar feel of heightened melodic punk, where they take from hardcore sounds but not structures. True Capacity opens with “Rotten Bait”—beginning with some soft arpeggios (oh—how I miss 2010) and going harder and louder with sharp guitar changes and gang vocals. “Lottery” follows up with a more mid-tempo stomper, the line “when it rains it always pours,” rising above the distortion.
“Best Years” is one of True Capacity’s highlights, with the memorable opening lyric, “My name rhymes with the mess I let you drown in.” Syncopated guitar notes add tension and highlight the fact that Astpai is aiming to do more than push their songs through the chord progression meat grinder. These little details pop up all over True Capacity, again, in “Best Years,” they finish with ethereal whoas; “Falling Trees” features some spidery lead work; and while these flourishes aren’t particularly groundbreaking, they help to keep the album from being a chug-fest.
The title track is the hardest of the bunch, opening with a fuzzed out bassline that sounds like something spat out of Hell. Accompanied by gravel-coated vocals, the track has a lean, mean hardcore feel that becomes almost full 90s post when the guitars come in. Like, total Quicksand shit. Venomous to the core, shaking with rage. It’s in stark contrast to the rest of the songs on the album, but it does stand out.
Astpai are good at what they do, and if you’re a devotee of this particular style, you’ll probably find a lot to dig. Here, there are songs with big choruses and competent arrangements delivered with an emotional range in line with what we expect from today’s melodic punk. True Capacity is a good album, but doesn’t do quite enough to push is boundaries and carve out its own identity in a pretty well-tread subgenre of modern punk to be great. That being said, there are moments on True Capacity that shine, and if you’re eager for more of the sounds you love, Astpai has the tracks and the chops.