Review: Skyharbor “Guiding Lights”

Review: Skyharbor “Guiding Lights”

I loved Skyharbor’s debut record. For about six months. For some reason it kind of lost its shine for me after that. I don’t really know why. Though there were tracks I found myself revisiting when they turned up on shuffle, I legitimately can’t remember the last time I listened to that album from start to finish.

Conversely, since I received my press copy of “Guiding Lights” I can’t remember the last day I didn’t listen this album. It is, to be completely frank, nothing short of stunning.

Skyharbor "Guiding Lights" // Basick Records 2014
Skyharbor “Guiding Lights” // Basick Records 2014

“Guiding Lights” sees Skyharbor shed any debt they owed to their djent influences replace them with the intricacies of the best alternative music and the sense of scope of post-rock without sacrificing any of their progressive edge. It’s an approach to song-writing that suits the band better and calls for more comparisons to the likes of Steven Wilson than it does Meshuggah.

Given that Skyharbor’s members are split across three continents it’s remarkable just how cohesive this album sounds. The band have hit on a unique sonic identity which, with the exception of TesseracT and Animals as Leaders, is something that cannot be said for their new wave of progressive metal peers (NWPM needs to be a thing).

The incredibly lush and textured production work (nice to hear some actual bass lines in this one) does wonders to highlight the dynamic arrangements that define this album. Whether it’s the soaring refrains over the pulsing grooves of “Evolution”, the poppy arrangements of “Idle Minds”, the plaintive emoting of the title track or the spell binding delicate beauty of “Patience” this record is positively bursting with stellar tracks.

The real test will be how well this album ages. As I mentioned earlier, the band’s first record hasn’t aged so well for me bar a few tracks. “Guiding Lights” could potentially suffer the same fate, but I’d put money on it ageing with more grace than its predecessor. I find it difficult to imagine a time that the cinematic thrust of “Halogen” into “New Devil” won’t be anything less than totally invigorating. At times some of these tracks bring to mind “White Pony” era Deftones, except without that band’s almost unique talent for condensing the experimental into the concise. Whether that’s really a weakness or not is up to you.

It might have been nice to see Skyharor contrast their sweeping beauty with the occasional more chaotic moment. Occasionally the band threaten to break off the chain, like in “New Devil”, and don’t quite deliver. That’s probably just my own preference for music that sounds like someone has put a wheelbarrow over my head and is beating it with a shovel while repeatedly shouting “Fuck you!” at me speaking though. Possibly not something to take all that much notice of.

“Guiding Lights” is a collection of some truly beautiful music. It’ll probably still be a bit long-winded and self-indulgent for those not already converted to the progressive cause, and it might not be brotlolz enough for those full converted to the metallic cause, but for those willing to lose themselves in some remarkably detailed music there’s a whole lot to fall in love with.

9/10

“Guiding Lights” is released November 10th via Basick Records 

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