In the hands of quartet Skyharbor, progressive metal has taken leaps and bounds into a softer, ambient realm. Since 2010, Skyharbor have set a high standard to follow, approaching a melodic turn for the genre with ease and effortless proficiency.
Self-produced work of art ‘Guiding Lights’, their sophomore album takes its lessons from previously flawed ‘Blinding White Noise’ and consequently brings a more perfected atmosphere to the table. An 11-track lullaby album combining romanticised, experiential and dream-like sequences, ‘Guiding Lights’ appears to depict life through sleepy, tainted eyes.
Hailing predominantly from India, Skyharbor consist of Keshav Dhar and Tesseract frontman Daniel Tompkins, combining expectations of expert guitar work with beautifully passionate lyrics. With Krishna Jhaveri on bass and Anup Sastry, the prog ensemble is full to bursting with flawless passion and talent. Following impressive sets at Download Festival and Graspop this summer, Skyharbor are reaching out wide, to which their rapidly increasing following is testament.
Subdued, romanticised opener ‘Allure’ portrays emotion-driven vocals alongside ambient, atmospheric effects. The success of the record lies in Dhar’s guitar mastery, taking centre stage in all the right places and proffering support in the rest. Rising to astounding crescendos at times, the overall subdued atmosphere commends each member’s talent in turn, showcasing the band’s artistry in creating a gripping, gritty reality. “You don’t need to envy me” cries album-stealing main single ‘Evolution’, where bassist Krishna Jhaveri provides a strong, albeit rarely seen support. Tompkins’ quintessentially 80s vocals alongside Dhar’s beautiful guitar accompaniment create the atmospheric cries of suffering from the understated ‘Idle Minds’.
“Never let your temper take control”, warn the swaying vocals of ‘Miracle’, bringing also a philosophy to remember at this time of year – “all I ask is please don’t fill your life with treasure and nothing more”. ’Halogen’ closes on a psychedelic, existential note – “satisfaction left for dead, armor for my weakened head” encompassing the album’s recurring theme of overcoming life’s disappointments. Devoid of grating, heavy vocals throughout, the title track ‘Guiding Lights’ provides the finishing touches to a versatile, wholesome record, summing up despair and succumbing to pain for the sake of love.
With consistently marvellous existential lyrical content forging a commendable contrast with heavy, contemplative guitars, Skyharbor have cemented ‘Guiding Lights’ as a landmark in prog, and a standout record for any rising stars of the genre to look up to.
’Guiding Lights’ by Skyharbor is out now on Basick Records.
Words by Ali Cooper (@AliZombie_)