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After releasing Timeless Departure and Mind Revolution, I should have known what I was getting myself into when listening to Skyfire's third full length release, Spectral. It's the same as the other two, only this one doesn't quite sound as happy as Timeless Departure, but it most definitely still has the very predictable songwriting structure involved in just about every damn song. In my opinion, Skyfire is probably the most creative band when it comes to writing a catchy good melody. But sadly enough, that's all the songs have to offer.
Never does this album take an unexpected turn, never does it even incorporate a feel-good solo here or there (except this extremely short and bland one during Effusion of Strength). There are two 6 minutes songs on here (which feel like they drag out too long, honestly) and the rest are either 3 or 4 minutes. It easily becomes apparent that these guys wrote this entire album in like a week's time. With every song, there's an intro, an opening riff with vocals and then there's that melody which the song continues to revolve around until the end. The instrumentation in this album is very average. Simple chords being played with very uneventful drum beats throughout, and the vocalist with his generic harsh tone that is bound to be ignored.
Anyways, if you like Timeless Departure and Mind Revolution, then there's no reason why you shouldn't like this. It's simple and very predictable "melodeath" that repeats itself song after song. There comes a time when all the band members should definitely start giving their two cents into a project, because it's very evident that the song structures are all being arranged by one or two guys on this album and they cannot seem to come up with anything creative after their melodies come into play. This is by no means a bad record, it's just nothing new and certainly nothing you haven't heard before.
The rest of Skyfire’s discography I either don’t like or can’t stand. The melodramatic, keyboard-laden, melodic death attitude and power metal leads are dandy for certain bands like early Kalmah and mid-era Eternal Tears Of Sorrow. That stuff rules, but most of Skyfire’s material sucks as their music tries to outdo what Children Of Bodom were doing at the turn of the century. Well, after this band did itself in with a lame debut and sophomore album, they dropped Spectral, while I shat bricks. Not only did this album ultimately slay (even when I liked most of Skyfire’s work), but it still manages to hold up today as a catchy, intense melodic death epic while remaining to the point.
Spectral offers modern production that’s also slightly muffled, a great balance of mixed instruments, and a tight sound and flow. It’s the great middle ground between the tinny garbage sound they had with the material preceding this album and the overly polished fodder they released later. Beyond that, the songs are exquisite – keyboard-infested melodic death with power metal leads that are intricate and incredibly fun to listen to because the compositions work. Nothing feels longer than it has to be, nothing drags on, nothing’s too short, and everything has a place and purpose. The riffs are bludgeoning and very crisp, as well as heavy and passionate while the leads are striking and arcane. The keys do play an important role as they define the melody and atmosphere for each track, but the focus always goes back to the riffs and leads as they trudge and are trusted with enhancing the fantasy-like tone of the album.
The melodrama of Skyfire’s music still exists, but to a lesser degree in part because of the tighter band sound, the increase in intensity, the structure of the compositions, and those riffs. Honestly, it’s the only time Skyfire sacrificed theatrics for competent playing. Songs like “Conjuring The Thoughts” and “Tranquillity’s Maze”, with the burly grumble of the bass tailing the charging riffs and leads, show a more skilled band at work. Wenngren’s vocals are probably the only thing I can criticize, as I think they aren’t as passionate as the rest of the music. His screams sound like he’s not even trying, and when you compare them to other vocalists (typically ones in black metal bands) he’s useless. The screams he does are exhaled and loud, kind of like older Children Of Bodom, but Wenngren doesn’t take any chances and has practically no range. It’s the one thing I can knock down, but they still don’t detract heavily from the music as one would think. In fact, they’re quite the afterthought when delving into the frenzied riffs and well-endowed pummeling of the drums.
I’d recommend this album as the only thing you listen to from this band. For those breaking the ice with extreme metal, then this band has more use. That’s what Skyfire did for me, but today when only one album of theirs still remains up to standard, that says three things: how much their other material sucks; how much I’ve changed my taste; how valuable Spectral is. Skyfire is inherently forgettable and insanely tame, although when the music has more than an ounce of vigor, then lasting power begins to make an impact.
Having deviated from the symphonic elements that made their first album so unique, Skyfire now boasts a more guitar-centric sound with the keyboards adopting a more back seat approach. This modern approach was fully realized and mastered on Spectral, the band's third full-length release.
Although he is regrettably no longer a member of the band, Henrik Wenngren is in top form here. He is a brilliant death metal vocalist and lyricist, the likes of which nearly any band would kill to have as their frontman. His harsh shrieks contrasting with lower gutturals provides a brilliant aural balance matched by few. Band masterminds Andreas Edlund and Martin Hanner cover both guitar and keyboard duties. Skyfire never has and likely never will be a band to feature guitar solos; Spectral is no different. That said, ample room is left for the band's signature riffing style backed by supple keyboards. The keyboard approach yields quite a disparity whilst comparing Spectral to the group's earlier work. No more symphonic undertones here; a spacey, dissonant sound more akin to Mind Revolution is present instead. The keys are also much less prevalent, leaving room for the guitars and vocals to carry the lion's share of the load. Jonas Sjogren is adequate on the four-string, benefiting from the album's warm, quality production job.
Joakim Jonsson provides quality drumming, with more cymbal/tom hopping grandeur than blastbeats present. Remarkably, this fits the sound better as some of the more epic, multi-faceted tunes such as "Conjuring the Thoughts" and "A Dead Man's Race" wear on. Not surprisingly, these are some of the better cuts here along with "Shivering Shade" and "Void of Hope". None of the songs are particularly bad, but the album does kind of mush together near the end, with little to differentiate the separate tunes. The guitars are at most responsible for this anomaly, as many of the riffs are rehashed throughout the duration.
With an average track length of around five minutes, the listener will find the longest sounds to be the most engaging. Tracks such as "Awake" and "Shadow Creator" feature catchy, solid sections, but fail to inspire fully and are ultimately interchangeable. What we have here is another impressive release from the Swedish Skyfire crew, fans of melodic death metal can't miss this one, besides a couple of underwhelming tracks, this is a damn good release.
To start off, I want to say that I bought this album on a completely blind (wouldn't "deaf" be a better way to describe a purchase made having never HEARD the music? But I digress) purchase. I had never heard a single song by Skyfire, I only knew their genre. And when I listened to the whole album the first time, I was really happy. I thought I had found something great that I would enjoy for years. However, I soon discovered (as is usually the case when I really like an album the first time I hear it) that a lot of the songs on this album sounded exactly the same. I mean really, really alike. Like to the point where I would expect one part of a song to be coming up next, only to discover later that the part of the song I was expecting was on an entirely different track.
And as the title suggests, it is not as though the music is bad, it is pretty much straight forward, European keyboard-driven melodic death metal, which in my book is not a bad thing. I really like Follow The Reaper by Children of Bodom, however I can pick out each individual song on that album in just a few seconds. On Spectral though, I can get through a whole song and not be able to tell you which one it is, as chances are it sounds exactly like the ones that came before it and the ones that will come after it.
The vocalist on this album pretty much never changes his style, every song is pretty much in the same tone: a death growl that is significantly lower-pitched than say, Alexi from Bodom and Petri from Norther. He never really changes his pitch throughout the whole album. Again, I would like to stress that his delivery is not bad in and of itself, it's just that some variation would be nice.
The keyboards are definitely what drive this album, and they are certainly played well, they just seem to be played the same way. The melodies appear to be recycled song-by-song; it's like the band heard one Bodom melody they really, really liked, and tried to fit it into every song. The keyboards are definitely the instrument that plays the most significant part in the repetitve nature of this album.
The guitar is definitely a secondary instrument for Skyfire, and although it fits in neatly with the keyboards, it is just kind of there. The album consists of a lot of low-tuned, driving riffs that don't change too much song-by-song. Most of the melody is done by the keyboards, the guitar seems to be more of a rhythm instrument of this album. There are a few guitar solos, but none that will make you stop and take a second listen.
I could keep going on instrument-by-instrument, but I think by now the point has been made. I would like to stress once again that despite the generally negative tone of this review, it's not that I find this album particularly bad or that there is anything really wrong with the music, as I previously stated that I really enjoyed it when I first got the album, it's just that it gets boring after a while (and not a long while either). I still listen to the album every once in a while, it's just that the tracks on this album do not have an individual character, they are basically all interchangeable with each other. To listen to one track on this album is to listen to all of them. This band is not doing anything too unique or original for their genre to be making albums that really have only one sound. There is definitely potential here, but they need to come up with some new ideas to complement those they already have.
Is there anything that this album lacks at all? The answer, surprisingly, is no. Let's take a closer look.
I knocked a point off of the flawless rating for 'Timeless Departure', because the production was not great, only above average, which is respectable for a debut album. However, by their third album, the production has been perfected, and in fact enhances the music a great deal. The layers are more discernable, and the power of the music increased even more than before.
Yes, the music is agonizingly powerful, in a deep and philosophical manner. All their songs seem to deal with philosophy, misanthropy, and of course, depression, and the music portrays this perfectly in a furious yet serene way.
Instrumentally, this music is also flawless. The background keyboards fit perfectly, as well as the other keyboards, which while more prominent, also play perfectly off the guitar sequences. Neither overpowers the other, and coexist in complete harmony. The same has been attempted by many other bands, who have not nearly succeeded as much.
The vocals are indeed powerful, and unremitting. They further add to the music and the lyrics, giving every piece a deeply philosophical feel. There are also no 'filler' songs, all tell a story, and each and every one is equally great with no parts that just serve to pass time.
If I had to pick the best tracks on this album (aside from all of them), I would recommend 'Conjuring the Thoughts', 'Shivering Shade' (duh), 'Shadow Creator', 'Awake', and 'Void of Hope'. Though this album is essentially perfect, if there were one aspect of it I could enhance, I would make the songs longer and more epic. Of course, this would have to be with no fillers, no 'idle' sections, and no break from the relentlessly amazing atmosphere that is created in every song on the album, but I am quite sure that these amazingly talented musicians could pull it off.
Anyone who appreciates great musicianship, whether or not they commonly like metal should check this album out. Simply spectacular, one of my all time favorites.
I will do my best not to compare this band with CHILDREN OF BODOM but when you’re a music reviewer and an observer of details things take on another turn. SKYFIRE do share the same bed as C.O.B., but they have a different approach.
Whereas C.O.B. plays a brand of Power Metal that’s thrashy and symphonic, even Punkish at times, SKYFIRE’s stuff is more orchestrated, epic, less Power Metal and much more Death/Black oriented. The compositional level on the bands albums has always been ambitious, I think “Timeless Departure” was a good starting point (though not being any memorable experience to yours truly), ”Mind Revolution” went past me and now “Spectral” is reassuring my interest in this band.
The album is a headstrong presentation of Epic Death/Black Metal with semi Progressive Metal influences that easily rivals C.O.B. or any other band with complex song structures and technical instrumentation. SKYFIRE’s apprenticeship is officially over, they have a sound they can call their own regardless of comparisons coming from other reviewers worldwide, take “Effusion Of Strength”, “Shivering Shade”, “A Dead Man’s Race” or “Tranquillity’s Maze”, each of them has skilled songwriting, dream like keyboard textures and hyperactive riffs/melodies. There are some atmospheric parts that might sound experimental but they fit rather well into the sound (see “Shivering Shades”).
A perfect album!
With their third full-length release, Skyfire has rounded out and polished their unique brand of melodic death. The previous two albums had been a bit sloppy and some songs, boring. However, Spectral shows a more matured and developed Skyfire. The production is better on this album allowing to showcase the great keyboard work, melodic riffs, and some very nice drumming.
In an over-saturated genre such as this, it is very hard to remain on top of the pack and few bands have been able to do so. If you know Skyfire, you may compare them to Children of Bodom or Kalmah. However, the aspects that set them apart are as follows:
1)The keyboards play off the guitar perfectly, instead of being used as a main instrument at points (see Effusion of Strength, Awake, Cursed By Belief, etc.)
2)Skyfire creates a much less chaotic melody than that of Children of Bodom or Kalmah. Their music is very developed and layered between the keyboards, guitars, and bass.
3)Mainly a difference from Bodom, because I will give Kalmah credit for this, Skyfire's lyrics are intelligent and make sense (sorry Alexi).
If you still aren't sure about buying this album, probably the best songs to sample are Awake and Shivering Shade, which exemplify the album as a whole.
Look out for these guys in the future. I have a feeling their next debut will shake the melodic death world if they keep progressing at this rate. Who knows, maybe the Hate Crew will has finally some serious competition. Enjoy!