SKYLINER, a fitting name for an American Power Metal band, considering this kind of buildings in the States… The band was formed in 2000. Five years later a first release was put out, the demo “Light Comes Out Of Black”. This was followed in 2009 by the demo “Skyliner”. Another two years later the band released the EP “The Alchemist”. And since late in February 2014 a debut album is available under the title “Outsiders”. This release contains nine tracks, totalling a playtime of a good 75 minutes!
The line-up changed throughout the years and when there was a stable line-up possible, which recorded this debut album, not everyone could commit as much as the others. This means that in the current line-up Ashley Flynn (keyboards) and David Lee Redding (bass) left the band last year, after the recordings of “Outsiders”. David Lee Redding was replaced in 2013 by Nathaniel Cutis. The band, however, is looking for a new keyboardist.
“Outsiders” begins with “Signals”, a spacey intro that reminded me a bit of AYREON, STAR ONE or similar Space Prog bands. Keyboards dominate this track, but vocals come in halfway. The music then rises to a climax that erupts in “Symphony In Black”. Here you get pounding, powerful Power Metal. The catchy guitar work stands out, while electronic sounds (a sort of ripping) are used to spice things up a little. The verses are reminiscent of bands like (fast) SABATON, SINBREED, IRON SAVIOR, etc. while the bridge, containing just the electronics, drums, and vocals could have been done by VAN CANTO. Full power and speed is unleashed in the chorus. Excellent stuff! A proggy, atmospheric break is set to pave the way for the solo moment later on. From here, the break, the music does the talking with a key role for the guitar, while keyboards provide backing assistance. The solo moment is done properly, the band took its time to deliver the goods and not just add a solo for the sake of it. Afterwards it’s back to business. The proggy break of before is also used as ending of this first song. So far, so very, very good!
(Thundering) Drums are the focal point when “Undying Wings” is played. Electronic backing creates a dark atmosphere. While these two instruments carry on, the songs gets built and then takes off in a firm midtempo, reminiscent (to me) of THEOCRACY. The verses have a dancey rhythm. Clean singing with a growling edge remind a little of SABATON. Full musical and melodic power is reserved for the chorus, sounding hymnic somehow. Metal power is unleashed in the middle, with a vital role for sharp guitar work. Again electronic keyboards are added where probably a second guitar would have been a better option. Vocals follow suit here and step up a bit more. When the solo is due, and as there’s only one guitarist in the band, it feels a bit silent/empty. While there’s no second guitarist, maybe keyboards could have filled the gap. After this, back to business. The aforementioned details aside, this is another qualitative song.
Not one bad song so far, but one song that really stood out, in my humble opinion, was “Forever Young”. This song begins with a calm, atmospheric intro played by the guitar. It’s a lead piece, like in a ballad. Electronics linger in the back, creating once more a spacey decor. When the Metal kicks in, the good vibrations are on the loose! Fast shredding is on offer in this uptempo Power Metal track. The clean singing goes well with it, although a rougher voice would not have been bad either. 😉 It’s also nice to hear how in the melodic, midtempo bridge the keyboards changed into chiming accents, so to speak, xylophone or bells, I can’t put my finger on it. The fast, hymnic chorus is absolutely marvellous, not in the least because of the vocals. Hats off for the efforts! This is indeed an energetic and passionate song. Halfway then comes a tribal drum break, very percussive! I love it! And finally something original in the world of Power Metal. A sing-along, pounding bridge with very positive lyrics follows and leads into the solo moment, where the tempo is increased again, for obvious reasons. Afterwards, like before, the chorus is due again, and so on.
Speaking of ballads, that’s how “Aria Of The Waters” begins: a clean guitar, soft music, and adjusted vocals. The building then continues by adding the drums. An atmospheric, esoteric piece offers a soothing moment of relaxation, aided by percussive accents. But it doesn’t remain soft for long, as the Metal comes bursting in, flowing on steadily. Of course, a solo is must at this point. At the end, all falls silent again, in favour of the clean guitar and ditto vocals. Jake and co. show that even ballads can be classy.
Buckle up then for “The Human Residue”. Tension is created by means of fierce guitar(s) and drums… unleashing their power into pounding, devastating Metal. And a special lead role for the bass! The firm, tight verses are sung again by the rough-edged clean vocals. Full power, as before, is delivered in the chorus. In terms of solos, there’s room for two, but they’re not as long as in the preceding tracks. In itself that may be a strange choice, but it’s good to change the recipe, to avoid predictability. A song needs a head and a tail, with the latter being like the former in this case. SKYLINER continues to put out good quality.
However, “Dawn Of The Dead” was not that attractive. It starts with a fierce vocal intro, leading into MANOWAR-like Metal, not fast, not slow either, and with a nice contrast between the clean vocals and the musical power. The singing becomes fiercer in the hymnic chorus. After the obligatory solo halfway, it’s all about the music then. It’s not a bad song, mind you, but it’s not as catchy, interesting, … as the preceding ones. Luckily there’s “The Alchemist” to put things right. Commencing with drums and clean guitar work, you get a somewhat exotic intro here, which reminded me (in terms of sound) like the Disney version of SLAYER. 😀 See here. There’s also a nice bass solo at this point. No, not in the SLAYER song. After the intro: Metal time! And fast! Again there’s a contrast between the clean singing and the power of Metal. Keyboards provide a more floating – by lack of a better word, since English is not my mother tongue – input now, sort of like in Dance music. Besides the guitar solo, there’s also another spotlight moment for the bass. There are even blastbeats in this song. And yes, a bass solo as well, reminiscent of e.g. STORMENTAL. After this musical interlude, the usual happens.
Last but not least, and a song that does needs several listens, as it’s 21 minutes long: “Worlds Of Conflict”. It begins with an atmospheric, spacey, industrial-ish intro where the bass gets a spotlight moment. Tension is created and when the guitar comes in, it’s US Power Metal time, reminiscent of old SAVATAGE, CIRCLE II CIRCLE, and so on. Slow music and hymnic clean singing go hand in hand. The faster Metal isn’t that far off, at which point the vocals also follow suit by sounding more powerful, inline with the music. Firm, straight-forward Heavy/Power Metal is followed by a moment of darkness, where clean vocals are replaced by growls and all slows down again. A clean, atmospheric part is played. Tension is high… and out comes the Power Metal again, but only shortly, because through a ballad-like tunnel the band travels into the depths of Doom Metal, or so it sounds. The guitar is the key instrument here, although the drums, by means of the cymbals, add their little touches as well. But it’s the guitar that decides when to call it a day. Again, this song needs to be heard more than once, than twice, to properly hear and grasp the shifting in style.
Long story short: SKYLINER reached for the sky. They aimed high and ended high with “Outsiders”. What a debut album! Catchy riffing and melodies, very good vocal input and a very good (polished) production. Power Metal with capital P and M. If you’re into the aforementioned bands, then hesitate not and get yourself a copy of “Outsiders”. Highly recommended!
- Symphony In Black
- Undying Wings
- Forever Young
- Aria Of The Waters
- The Human Residue
- Dawn Of The Dead
- The Alchemist
- Worlds Of Conflict
Jake Becker – vocals, guitar
Ashley Flynn – keyboards
David Lee Redding – bass
Ben Brenner – drums