10th November 2014 – Basick Records
03. Idle Minds
06. New Devil
08. Guiding Lights
10. The Constant
As band histories go, Skyharbor‘s is somewhat unique. Debut album Blinding White Noise was a bit of a (nevertheless beautiful) Frankenstein’s monster – bolted together gradually onto the skeleton of guitarist Keshav Dhar’s home studio demos. With members spread across three continents, live performances have been few and far between, limited to one-off festival appearances and just a couple of short tours – probably fewer than twenty shows in total. With the line-up solidified and a very successful crowdfunding campaign under their belts, Skyharbor have delivered their second album Guiding Lights.
Right from the start it is clear that Guiding Lights is a more focused affair than its predecessor. Possibly with the benefit of having a better idea of what they are aiming for together as a band, it sounds much more cohesive and sure of its own identity.
Guiding Lights is also slightly more restrained than Blinding White Noise. The guitars are more driven by texture than out-and-out riffing, and there are fewer djentisms. There’s also barely a vocal scream to be heard throughout its duration, which may be a disappointment to those for whom that kind of thing is important.
Obviously, a significant chunk of the spotlight will fall on singer Dan Tompkins, especially because of his recent decision to re-join TesseracT – but Dan has used the time he spent apart from the band in which he really made his name to show how capable he is at managing multiple projects simultaneously. Since the summer of 2013 alone, as well as Skyharbor and TesseracT we’ve seen him record and perform with In Colour, White Moth Black Butterfly and Piano, not to mention a host of one-off guest appearances – yet it is clear that Guiding Lights received his undivided attention, and the result is potentially his most captivating performance to date. There is a shift in his approach in the direction of Maynard James Keenan, particularly in his phrasing, which both suits his voice and compliments the music.
This is especially apparent on “Halogen“. Falling around halfway through the album, the song is very probably the best Skyharbor have written. A genuine masterpiece, with no fewer than three sections vying for the position of chorus. It is one of those rare tracks that practically demands skipping back for a second listen the moment it has finished. Glorious.
Whilst there are some more uptempo passages, particularly in “New Devil“, the majority of the album is mid-paced. It carries a vibe that seems to draw inspiration from the likes of Tool, Karnivool and the dreamier parts of the Deftones‘ discography. Anup Sastry’s inspired drumming also has similar flavours to Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction, which provides a subtle sense of urgency under Keshav and Devesh Dayal’s intertwining guitars.
Guiding Lights feels particularly well-named. It shimmers, glistens and sparkles throughout its near 70 minute run-time with an uplifting feel that is frequently close to euphoric. But more than this, Guiding Lights is Skyharbor coming of age. Blinding White Noise showed what enormous potential this collection of musicians had together, and the album is all the stronger for having them all working together on the material from day one.
Guiding Lights is an enthrallingly beautiful album that should help warm the hearts of progressive metal fans as the winter nights draw in. It would be easy to see Skyharbor as a kind of side-project supergroup, but that feels like it sells them short. We can only hope that with all the various commitments the members of Skyharbor have on their collective plates, they are able to carve out the time to keep the band as a going concern.