REVIEW: SKYHARBOR – “Sunshine Dust”
The Indian-American progressive metal band Skyharbor has been an ever evolving project since its inception in 2012. From Keshav Dhar’s one man project with multiple collaborators in ‘Blinding White Noise’, to the ambient progressive directions of ‘Guiding Lights’, the band always delivered captivating progressive metal albums. Now they return with their third and latest release ‘Sunshine Dust’.
‘Sunshine Dust’ marks a major change in Skyharbor. Having parted ways with Daniel Tompkins (vocals) and Anup Sastry (drums) in 2015, their replacement in Eric Emery and Aditya Ashok had big shoes to fill. Moreover, with a DIY ethos of the first two albums, the band handed over recording and production responsibilities for ‘Sunshine Dust’ to Australian producer Forrester Savell (who also mastered their previous album ‘Guiding Lights’). The combination of the two events, gives ‘Sunshine Dust’ a new sonic direction. While still well built into the framework of the sound Skyharbor have given themselves, it just manages to pack an extra punch.
The album intro “Signal” paves way for the album opener and lead single “Dim”. The single shows the progression the band has made over the years, as the band coasts through the heavier as well as the ethereal moments without breaking a note. The previously released singles “Out of Time” and “Blind Side” are reworked and sound right out of the ‘Illusion’ side of the bands debut album and ‘Guiding Lights’ respectively. Drummer Aditya Ashok’s electronic influences (from his other project OX7GEN) really shines on these tracks as they add a creative layer to the music. Moreover, they really showcase Eric Emery’s melodious and dynamic vocals style, as he manages the calm whispers and the high pitched screams with equal agility.
Where ‘Sunshine Dust’ fails is that Skyharbor start off by playing a bit too safe by sticking to their tested waters. It’s not until “Synthetic Hands” that we see a fresh approach to songwriting as it breaks apart from the style seen in the last two records. The band clearly have the experience and maturity to explore new territories and “Disengage/Evacuate” (one of the highlights on the album) clearly showcases that. Bringing in the aforementioned electronic ambient influences, and mixing them with just a touch of post-metal sounds and a more heavier progressive soundscape, the track offers one of the most memorable moments on the album.
The second half of the album shows a side of Skyharbor one had not seen with the current line-up. “Dissent” brings in touches of nu-metal, resulting in a product that sounds like a mix of Periphery and Korn. While this may not suit everyone’s pallet, it does help bring in an element of unexpectedness and diversity on the record.
Despite being reminiscent of ‘Blinding White Noise’, “Menace” manages to showcase the experience gained by the band over the last six years, as they manage to make a captivating blend of lighter and heavier moments. Closing with the title track “Sunshine Dust”, the band delivers one of their most powerful tracks till date, as it envelopes the entire sound spectrum that defines who Skyharbor are today. It almost feels as a reminder of the 60 minute journey undertaken and one almost instantly wishes to revisit the complete album once again.
As the saying goes, don’t fix what’s not broken, Skyharbor do just that on ‘Sunshine Dust’ as they stick to their tested sound. Boasting of all the elements fans love about the band, including their varied sound-signatures and dynamic songwriting, the album also brings in fresh electronic influences to the table. Though not a stark contrast from their previous works, ‘Sunshine Dust’ feels like the next step in the natural evolution of Skyharbor. The album is bound to satisfy the fans who have been waiting for a record for nearly four years and should also help the band gain more listeners.