Skyharbor – Guiding Lights

© Naki Kouyioumtzis. SkyHarbor, on a roof top with London skyline behind them

Whilst Guiding Lights did not exactly blow us away as it might have, there is nothing but praise and recommendations which can be offered over the new album from progressive metallers Skyharbor. The successor to the band’s acclaimed 2012 debut album Blinding White Noise: Illusion & Chaos, the new ten track exploration reaps all the essences which made its predecessor standout and explores even richer and more adventurous landscapes of technical and imaginative invention aligned to impassioned creativity. Taken individually, the tracks within Guiding Lights tempt, enthral, and impress without exception but as a whole for whatever reason, the album becomes one thrilling immersive journey but which loses the definition between the different exploits, tracks often blending in without very intensive attention. It is a personal issue we came up against and will not apply to all, and to be fair still could not stop the album standing out as a remarkable and seriously appetising next step in the striking evolution of the band.

Formed initially as a studio project by songwriter/guitarist Keshav Dhar, Skyharbor, the India based band has grown to become one of the rigorously captivating propositions in world progressive metal, in the studio and as the live touring band it evolved into. Starting its line-up growth around 2011 with the linking up of drummer Anup Sastry (Jeff Loomis, Intervals) and Another Vertigo Rush bassist Nikhil Rufus Raj, the band soon emerged as a potent and persistently intriguing presence, its first shows seeing Skyharbor as an instrumental trio. Signing with Basick Records led to the release of the double-disc album Blinding White Noise: Illusion & Chaos, the album seeing Sunneith Revankar (Bhayanak Maut) the vocalist on one disc and Daniel Tompkins (TesseracT), who had previously contacted Dhar with the suggestion of collaborating, on the other. Soon after confirming Tomkins as permanent vocalist, the band with second guitarist Devesh Dayal joining the line-up found themselves sharing stages with the likes of Lamb of God, Bass Monuments, and TesseracT as well as going on to play numerous festivals up to the latter part of last year when the band took time out to write and create Guiding Lights. With Goddess Gagged bassist Krishna Jhaveri replacing the departing Raj, the crowd-funded new album also released via Basick, has stepped forward as a dramatic and riveting next step in the band’s ascent.

Opening track Allure instantly transfixes; melodies and sonic enterprise vibrantly rippling across the song’s fluid canvas like warm summer rain on a clear stretch of water. Almost as swiftly though there is an intensity of passion and GuidingLights_Coverrhythmic incitement which with an agitated beckoning, streaks across the immersive embrace of the track. It is a masterful lure of a song, the outstanding vocals of Tompkins, as across the whole album, smooth and clean with engrossing expression to their narrative. Every aspect of the track and band impresses it is fair to say, the dark toned shadows of bass excelling in the clarity given and guitars bewitching whether laying down elegant designs or brewing up a more tempestuous persuasion.

The impressive start is emulated by the following Evolution, the track a rawer fiery proposition than the opener. The imposing beats of Sastry which commanded attention in the first song take an even more grievous pose in their swings here, though they are unafraid to temper the attack in the more temperate passages of the song. Though not a violent storm, the track still blusters from its rugged start with rigorously heavy scything riffery before finding a mellow and reflective emotive calm to explore, not quite the eye of the tempest but a temporary peace in a gripping maelstrom.

Both Idle Minds and Miracle keep ears and thoughts firmly engaged, the first taking on a poppier breath with its contagion without drifting from the raw emotion of its provocative exploration and a sonic endeavour where the throaty predation of the bass and sensuous melodies from guitars align for another intriguing captivation. The second of the two tracks soars through a celestial atmosphere, vocal and resourceful invention from guitars a radiant and acidic beauty which flares perfectly across the more vigorous traits of the song. As across the release, both are as excitingly unpredictable as they are skilfully sculpted and a potent continuation of the rich creative parade already unveiled.

Through the mesmeric and dramatically flavoursome scenery of Halogen and the more tenaciously challenging adventure of New Devil, the album whips up further greed in the appetite; the second of the two with its provocative and ferocious energy an irresistible incitement and with its intrigue drenched ingenuity, another peak to the album. Both leave thoughts and emotions bound in their creative emprises as does the Porcupine Tree like elegance and resonance of Patience which is subsequently followed by the long mystical temptation of the album’s title track. From its haunting opening ambience, the track brews up into a stormy flight merging rhythmic and emotional turbulence with thought encroaching melodies and vocal passion. As with so many of the tracks, once departed the song is a slim memory but in its hug the track steals ears and thought from the outside world with ease.

Guiding Lights is completed by firstly the excellent seduction of Kaikoma, a song exploring electronic and sonic temptations within an infectious and lingering progressive immersion of the senses. It is a thrilling investigation, one of the major pinnacles of the album which sets up the expansive realm of the finale. The Constant is an undulating terrain of thick and subtle structures, sublime and concussive textures, and gripping creative drama. It is a powerful and thrilling encounter which epitomises the album in that it is absorbingly and bracingly enjoyable as company and inspiration but whether it is its length or there being so much going on, it loses attention at points within its impressive landscape.

With every member of the band mouth-wateringly exploring their stunning individual technical and creative depths, the bottom-line is that Skyharbor has not only created another exceptional proposition to bask in, but one pushing them to the forefront of progressive metal. Guiding Lights is an outstanding journey which challenges for all the right reasons and though for us it works better taken as individual trips in its extensive emprise, it is nothing to complain about and only something to enjoy.

Guiding Lights is available now digitally and on CD via Basick Records @ http://music.basickrecords.com/album/guiding-lights and http://store.basickrecords.com/home/products/guiding-lights-cd/

https://www.facebook.com/Skyharbor7

RingMaster 11/11/2014

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Devoid – The Invasion

 

devoid

     Formed in 2005, thrashers Devoid has emerged as one of the most noticeable and notable bands to emerge in recent years in Indian metal through their accomplished and commanding sound and their acclaimed debut album A God’s Lie. The Demonstealer Records released mix of thrash with a healthy shadow of death metal to its breath put the band in a brighter spotlight certainly at home if not quite as potently further afield. Now with the release of their impressive new EP, The Invasion, the Mumbai quartet has unleashed a darker, heavier, and more dramatically intensive declaration which could thrust the band into the widest awareness and recognition. Exploring more of their death metal brutality without diminishing the thrash endeavour and voracity which set the band’s rise in full flight, the release is an absorbing and ferocious encounter with a craft and imagination which intrigues and places Devoid onto a new lofty plateau.

    Starting out as a trio consisting of vocalist and rhythm guitarist Arun Iyer, drummer Shubham Kumar, and lead guitarist Keshav Kumar, with bassist Frank Pawar joining the following year, the band first made their mark by winning Campus Rock Idols, a big competition for rock and metal bands back then. Shows and tours with bands such as Demonic Resurrection, Bhayanak Maut, Myndsnare, Kryptos, Brute Force, and Infernal Wrath brought the band’s sound and presence into an eager and swiftly growing fanbase. 2010 saw the release of A God’s Lie as well as a tour across cities such as Bangalore, Mumbai and Pune with UAE death/thrashers Nervecell. Since then the sharing of stages with the likes of Cradle of Filth, Decapitated, and Sybreed has only cemented and accelerated Devoid’s stature in India and surrounding areas which The Invasion threatens to take to new climates. With line-up changes seeing guitarist Sanju Aguiar replacing Keshav Kumar in 2011 and Abhishek Kamdar coming in for the departing Pawar a year later, Devoid has evolved its sound and intensity into a stronger and darker yet just as contagious creative savagery; a powerful storm to thrill the full global presence of thrash metal.

     The release emerges with a provocative and atmosphere instrumental intro, a guitar shaped design filling intimidating and covertowering epically sculpted walls of sound. The acoustic caress which expands throughout the piece coaxes the imagination to dare a journey through the imposing and epic heights surrounding them, leaving thoughts exposed for the following ferocity which explodes in the shape of the title track. The opening narrative of the concept of the world under an invasive fury is expelled though a rasping vocal malevolence as punishing rhythms aligned to exhaustive riffery and sonic causticity lays welcome siege on the ear. It is a furious and compelling mix, the thrash heart and core of the song irresistible in its brutal consumption of the senses and the malevolent death bred breath of the track an insidious but potently alluring temptation. Opening up its melodic arms with a great solo and reducing the energy of the attack with an equally intensive yet more respectful thickly caressing ambience, the rage dissipates into a closing fade but leaves a lingering menace which is soon taken up by its predecessor.

    Pandemonium Is Over goes straight for the throat with even more dangerous and vicious rhythms in league with corrosive riffery whilst the excellent vocal squalls of Iyer are like lightly grained sandpaper and pleasingly abrasive and inciting. As the track impresses and steers a wide awake appetite for the EP into even greedier urges of hunger, it is fair to say that the band is not delving into new unexplored realms but still creates a proposition which is fresh and antagonistically eventful, a predacious chewing of the senses and imagination which stands aside of plenty of other bands uniting the two core essences of the band’s sound.

     To this point The Invasion is a tremendous adventure but soon given a new adrenaline shot of contagion and riveting hostility with Brahma Weapon and the hellacious closing track, The Grand Design. The first of the pair is an exhilarating and exhausting blistering of the ears, riffs insatiably hungry and acidic whilst the rhythms of Kumar are so accomplished and malicious in their bone splintering sculpting  that they hardly seem to break sweat, something the listener cannot say once drawn into the intensive tempest of addictive enterprise and sonic violence. The best track on the release it is almost matched by the EP closer, a song with a lumbering heavyweight presence and an almost Pantera like vehemence and ferocity to its stalking rabidity, musically and vocally. Crawling over the listener with an intrusive leering breath and potentially lethal sinews, the song never quite unleashes its full vitriolic energy but certainly increases its intensity and hunger allowing its fearsome rancor to soak every second of the outstanding quarrel.

      Expanding and exploring their previous more old school trash inventiveness, Devoid has moved into being an unpredictable and imposingly darker force. The Invasion suggests this evolution is still a work in progress making the band’s next proposition easy to highly anticipate whilst the EP declares itself an encounter all thrash metals fans should make.

https://www.facebook.com/devoidindia/

9/10

RingMaster 04/02/2014

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Orion – On the Banks of Rubicon

 

orion pic

    It is fair to say that India is a potent metal scene still relatively untapped by the rest of the world. It is a shame and a little surprising as the amount of bands which thrill and impress there is a constant hint, especially in regard to extreme metal, of just how strong the scene is. Progressive death metallers Orion provide another enthralling formidable nudge with their EP On the Banks of Rubicon. Four tracks of riveting and persistently unpredictable invention, the release is a burning beacon of skill and imagination which should not be ignored.

     Consisting of guitarist/vocalist Vigneshkumar Venkatraman (also of Albatross), guitarist Ashwin Kulkarni, bassist Anshuman Bhattacharya, and drummer Pritesh Prabhune, the quartet from Mumbai was formed in 2008 and released their first demo Reverie Hours two years later. Taking inspirations from the likes of Death, Opeth, Necrophagist, Gojira, Periphery, and Protest The Hero into their blend of progressive and death metal with plenty of further essences to captivate the imagination, the band makes a compelling persuasion with On the Banks of Rubicon. Strikingly merging melodic and carnivorous intents into a landscape of provocation which startles and seduces from start to finish, the EP is a masterful exploration which sculpts a formidable declaration for not only the band but Indian metal as a whole.

     Opening track Oh Sweet Ebullition immediately seizes ears and attention with thumping rhythms and sonic craft, the guitars coverwrapping sonic tendrils around the senses whilst expanding a melodic enterprise through reserved but open grooves and instantly persuasive riffing. It is a magnetic entrance which lures thoughts and emotions into the heart of the melodic and groove metal mix brought with predatory energy and breath. A sudden dip into melodic elegance opens the door for a torrent of rapacious provocation, riffs and the heavy growls of Venkatraman spawning rabidity in the track as it goes straight for the jugular. It is an intensive evocation which commands the senses before without warning diving into a progressive and melodic stretch of beauty and mesmeric seduction. This is subsequently entwined within the sinew driven death bred aggression of before to ignite an even greedier hunger for the song. Only half way in and the encounter has taken the breath away with its power and invention, something which never relents up to the final second of the six minute plus tempting. Nothing on the song is repeated beyond the passage seeding any particular moment and along with the excellent vocal fusion of guttural vitriol and clean melodic deliveries impressively helps drive the song straight into the passions. Like a union of Motherjane, Bhayanak Maut, and Opeth but with much more uniqueness, it is a rigorously incendiary and thrilling start to the release.

    Devoured Existence enters next on a blaze of skilful sonic colouring which again ignites the imagination straight away, priming it for the harsh creative jaws of the track which scar and provoke. A thrash kissed surge to the riffing is tempered by the death metal spawned vocal delivery and surrounding imposing shadows but this itself is only subservient to the again outstanding guitar invention and menacing basslines which control it all. Predictability is once more completely absent in the creative maelstrom, classic metal spirals of sonic ingenuity descending to defeat expectations whilst the song niggles with almost pestilential efficiency enslaving the emotions as fully as its predecessor and the following triumph Astral. Almost eight minutes of simultaneously rampaging, crawling, and seducing adventure, twisting melodic and doom metal with a blackened wind over a progressive death metal, the third song is a scintillating encounter. Once more Motherjane comparisons spring to mind at times and certainly at the beginning, as does those to UAE band Absolace but it is only a small flavour in an ever evolving and shifting soundscape which entrances and violates with equal success and grandeur. The best track on the release it reveals and screams out all of the impressive elements and skills of Orion in songwriting and presentation. One of the best extreme metal tracks heard in a long time it can be the doorway to the widest recognition with a slice of luck.

     The EP closes with the most direct death metal track My Dying Prayer, but again there is plenty of invention unleashed to bewitch and wrong foot the ears for the richest satisfaction, everything from vocals to guitar mastery, bass snarling to rhythmic manipulation impressively addictive.  On the Banks of Rubicon is an exceptional encounter all should take a big chunk of time out to investigate. It will impress and thrill whilst maybe opening the gateway to an undiscovered world of invention driven metal in the band’s homeland. Be brave and go for it we say.

https://www.facebook.com/orionmumbaimetal

http://www.transcendingobscurity.com/

10/10

RingMaster 15/01/2014

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