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Sky Architect: A Billion Years of Solitude

From Rotterdam in the Netherlands comes Sky Architect, and their third and latest effort, A Billion Years of Solitude, introduces a space rock/science fiction element into their brand of melodic progressive rock. Hints of Genesis, Porcupine Tree, Hawkwind, Gentle Giant, Eloy, Pink Floyd, Dream Theater, and King Crimson pop up from time to time, especially on the rousing 18-minute opener "The Curious One", which kind of combines all the influences of the band into one killer epic. But, before we really dive into the music, let me report that the current line-up of the band consists of Tom Luchies (vocals, guitars), Wabe Wieringa (guitars), Guus van Mierlo (bass), Christiaan Bruin (drums, backing vocals), and Rik van Honk (keyboards -Mellotron, Grand piano, Hammond organ, Rhodes piano, - Clavinet, Moog synth, Wurlitzer, plus flugelhorn, trumpet, backing vocals).

Back to that opening epic, it's an explosion of space rock and heavy prog musical & lyrical themes, with waves of Mellotron and various keyboards floating over throbs of bass, jagged guitar, intricate drumming, and layered vocals. Gentler than Hawkwind but more explosive than Genesis, it's a perfect half-way meeting point of both styles, and there are some sizzling solos here and plenty of haunting atmosphere. It's easily one of the 'must hear' songs of the year. "Wormholes (The Inevitable Collapse Of The Large Hadron Collider)" is a more rocking piece, but still firmly in the prog camp, reminding at times of Spock's Beard as well as Todd Rundgren's Utopia, and it's a real workout for guitarist Wieringa but also containing some great vocals courtesy of Luchies. "Tides" is one of the shortest tracks on the album, but it's also one of the heaviest, as churning guitar & keyboard riffs blast away over intricate rhythms, eventually giving way to lush acoustic guitar and floating vocals, before succumbing once again to Dream Theater/Gentle Giant styled complex bombast. The mighty Mellotron comes back for the engaging "Elegy of a Solitary Giant", another lengthy number complete with sci-fi drenched lyrics and plenty of spacey sounds, a perfect trip for all the Hawkwind/Eloy/Nektar/Pink Floyd fans in the house. After the quick little heavy space rock instrumental "Jim's Ride to Hell" (an awesome piece that I wish was longer), the band deliver one of the quirkiest numbers on the album, the complex "Revolutions". With plenty of keyboard textures from van Honk and acrobatic guitar from Wieringa, this one is a wild ride that zig zags from intricate prog-rock to ethereal space rock and back again. Closing 13-minute epic "Traveller's Last Candle" is another sci-fi yarn with some incredible musical passages, and the way the band go back and forth between lush atmospheric sections, to spacey explorations, to rumbling, bombastic heavy prog is just amazing.

There have been a lot of excellent albums released here in 2013, and A Billion Years of Solitude certainly is among those and will be looked at closely when people are putting together their 'best of the year' lists. I just love the way this band perfectly meshes heavy progressive rock with the more otherworldly sounds of the space rock genre, making for a truly intoxicating listening experience. Stunning stuff really, and highly recommended.

Track Listing
1. The Curious One (18:06)
2. Wormholes (The Inevitable Collapse Of The Large Hadron Collider) (5:52)
3. Tides (3:24)
4. Elegy Of A Solitary Giant (10:43)
5. Jim's Ride To Hell (2:27)
6. Revolutions (8:00)
7. Traveller's Last Candle (12:43)

Added: December 4th 2013
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 7028
Language: english

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Sky Architect: A Billion Years of Solitude
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2013-12-04 09:07:25
My Score:

I've lived with A Billion Years Of Solitude by Sky Architect for quite some time now before wanting to share my thoughts it's that sort of album. Deeply absorbing, slowly revealing, skilfully crafted, yet at times distant and remote. An easy cracking nut, this is not. However on the back of their two previous albums, Excavations Of Mind and A Dying Man's Hymn, in truth you would expect no less.

It could be suggested that in places this amalgam of Prog, both classic and slightly more contemporary, and Space Rock possibly takes itself slightly too seriously, even for this genre and that in places there's an suspicion that Sky Architect are a band "trying too hard". However those observations could also be viewed as nit pickingly difficult on my part. So suffice to say that if you are searching for even the slightest hint of levity in your music, this could be hard going. That said, serious Prog heads will simply scoff at that suggestion and dive head first into this complex, rich affair. The album is inspired by the sci-fi movies from the 50s and 60s and while that ethos of uninhibited adventure and naive hope does come through, this is far from b-movie fare.

Sky Architect are a band capable of rolling out the lengthy epics and interspersing them with short infectious, impacting bursts. Three songs on ABYOS laugh in the face of ten minutes, with opener "The Curious One" - in many ways the centre piece and standard bearer for this album, diving headlong into luscious vocal interplay, jostling jazzy outcries, searing six-string solos and crazed keyboards. That it is all brought together through a mix of full pelt Prog aggression and considered introspection makes the journey across over eighteen minutes of music an uncompromising pleasure once you have experienced it a number of times.

The other lengthy tracks, "Elegy Of A Solitary Giant" and "Traveller's Last Candle", continue down a similar path, elements of swooshing Spaceyness being mere jumping off points into more focused and succinct guitar forays and vocal passages. Both know how to ease off the peddle, in a Porcupine Tree kind of jazz-prog manner and both can challenge you to keep up. However the rewards if you do so are plain to hear.

The shorter tracks, "Jim's Ride To Hell" - a suitably frantic two minute roar, "Tides" a funky three minute slice, on their own don't always amount to much, but in context with the rest of the album actually act as clever diversions from less immediate outings. That's not to suggest that you'll end up humming the likes of "Wormholes (The Inevitable Collapse Of The Hadron Collider)", or "Revolutions", for good those these and the other tracks are, nothing here is "catchy" in that sort of fashion.

In some ways what Sky Architect have created here is an old fashioned, backward looking serving of Prog values, in others, this is an album which is as cutting edge as this genre can be. Combined you are left with something Prog lovers will indeed love and those who are not, will scratch their heads over. Me? I've not an itch in sight.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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