Thousands of musicians have excellent ideas for the next all-encompassing all-conquering progressive rock album. Hundreds of them bring their dreams to reality, and actually produce a working, playable album. Dozens of these show promise and are worth owning. Very few show enough promise to really make it in the progressive rock world – and one of those is Acuity .
Skyward is largely a solo project of Michigan-based Bradley Styes, who wrote the songs and most lyrics. Chuck Mitchell contributed to the 22-minute epic track and provided the cover-art, and Matthew Parmenter (Discipline) makes a Ragsdale-like guest violinist appearance. The music here is hard-edged symphonic prog. The songs are varied, the compositions imaginative, and although no two songs sound the same there are common threads that successfully pull it together as a cohesive block of music. Styes breaks molds with a Van Der Graaff Generator / Discipline disdain for convention, and while it is far from avant garde, it is certainly unusual and refreshingly original. Highlights in the instrumentation are the synth, Mellotron, electric piano, acoustic guitar and well-played lead guitar.
Three of the six tracks run over ten minutes, with "Milwaukee (An Essay On Morbid Hysteria)" being a 22-minute epic broken down into 9 sub-parts. Without doubt, the standout is closing track "Voyager", a wonderful 4-part / 17-minute progressive piece which keeps your attention riveted through shifts and changes and wonderful extended instrumental sections.
In summary, the compositions are excellent, execution is very good, and the vocals are a bit tentative but … okay. Production needs work, though. Skyward is an excellent debut from a band we hope to hear again in the future. Despite the tentative vocals and the home-brewed production, it is a very enjoyable listen.
1. Vector (5:28)
2. State of the Art Love Song (3:57)
3. Transcendence (Culture of Hospice) (14:42)
4. Milwaukee (21:58)
5. Cul-de-sacs of Venus (4:22)
6. Voyager (17:21)