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Skyliner: Dark Rivers, White Thunder

Hailing from the progressive/power metal hotbed of Jacksonville (not really), the veteran act Skyliner brings us their first album in five years: Dark Rivers, White Thunder. An eclectic blend of riffy US power metal ala early Fates Warning and some progressive twists and turns collide to deliver an interesting, if somewhat oddly paced album at times.

The intro track "Break the Silence" highlights one of the new elements the band brings to the table with this release; a tribal stomp of sorts that can be heard throughout parts of the album. Primal chants and drums are a recurring theme throughout the record, and it surprisingly works when contrasted with the blazing riffs and triumphant melodies of the following title track. One of the fastest songs on the album, it features speedy power riffing akin to Germany's Iron Savior and vocalist/guitarist Jake Becker uses this as the backdrop to feature his half dozen or so vocal personas. While Jake's most utilized style is a midrange howl, he frequently adds in some gruff snarls or growls, as well as some ear-piercing falsetto wails from time to time. I actually had to check to make sure there is in fact only one vocalist here, and yep it's just him. Pretty incredible.

After a short, speedy burst of blinding metallic riffage in "The Ghost Messenger", and the slower, bass driven "God with No Heaven", we are treated to what may be the best song on the album; "Catch a Dream". Propulsive and energetic guitar riffs lead into some seriously great melodies and catchy choruses. The bass and drums are nice, punchy, and provide plenty of bounce and backbone for Jake's progressive and machinegun-like riffs. All three members of the band are no slouches at their respective instruments. Plenty of note dense, speedy bass runs and double kick drum assaults in addition to soaring guitar solos.

After the title track there are two instrumentals, "The Singing Shaman" and "Winter Witch Moon". The former is a 2-minute-long barn burner, while the latter is a more mid-paced affair featuring clean guitars and thick, ethereal leads. Both are quite good, although at this point in the album it becomes somewhat apparent that the more interesting and exciting material is usually when the band just throws all of their various influences into a blender and lets it rip. And let it rip they do, for the next track "We Of The Shadows" is a speedy power metal tour de force, and another highlight of the album.

After the somewhat forgettable bass-driven plod of "Bleed", the final two tracks end Dark Rivers on a high note. "Nigh Gypsies" is a brisk and energetic rocker, and while the final track "I Walk Alone" is another slower number, but this time the band evokes an epic, sprawling and vast soundscape that almost reminds me of a sci-fi version of early Manowar. The tribal grunts make their return in this song, which just adds to the barbaric and oil-chested majesty of the whole thing. Good stuff.

An interesting and surprising listen, Skyliner do a good job of keeping you on your toes with Dark Rivers, White Thunder. For both the power and prog fans alike, there's plenty of soaring melodies and technical prowess that will inspire some delighted chuckles and eyebrow raises throughout it's 50-minute run time. Even though it sags a bit in places, the energy and authenticity of the performances on this record make it endearing and an easily recommended listen.


Track Listing:
1. Break the Surface
2. Dark Rivers, White Thunder
3. The Ghost Messenger
4. God with No Heaven
5. Catch a Dream
6. The Singing Shaman (Fire Stomp)
7. Winter Witch Moon (Spell of Ice)
8. We of the Shadows
9. Bleed
10. Night Gypsies
11. I Walk Alone

Added: February 10th 2021
Reviewer: Brandon Miles
Score:
Related Link: Band @ Bandcamp
Hits: 327
Language: english

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