Review Summary: Skyfire finally return after half a decade with a few new additions.
Skyfire is a Swedish band that combines melodic death, power, and neo classical metal styles for a distinct hybrid sound. Past releases from the band were received quite warmly by critics; however, the band never really received that much attention or recognition despite their delivery of consistently excellent albums with each release. In general, each album from Timeless Departure
more or less carried the same sound throughout; that being, a blend of melodic death and power metal styles with a prominent keyboard element that took as much or more emphasis in the recording mix as the guitars. While the band’s unique blend of styles created a fairly original sound, some began to wonder if Skyfire was capable of anything more than their mix of keyboard-heavy music with an under-played guitar element.
Thankfully the band decide to switch it up a little with this year’s Esoteric
by adding a few new elements into the mix, while seemingly keeping their core sound intact. A new vocalist by the name of Joakim Karlsson is introduced on this album as well, replacing the band’s past harsh vocalist, Henrik Wenngren. Some may find Wenngren’s departure from the band pleasing as his lyrics were at many times incoherent, given his ear-grating shriek and delivery. Suffice to say, Joakim is a fitting addition to the band, incorporating a gruffer style that recalls Dark Tranquillity’s own, Michael Stanne, into the mix.
After an orchestral introduction, Esoteric
begins with its title track, and it is a perfect representation of the sound listeners can expect from Skyfire this time around. Those already acquainted with the band will notice a slight back-scaling of the band’s symphonic elements. The piano is still a prominent feature, however, but the orchestral keyboard ambiance and atmosphere is pushed in the background to leave room for the other instruments. A number of guitar solos make an appearance this time around as well, such as on “Rise And Decay”, “Let The Old World Burn”, “Under A Pitch Black Sky”, “Linger In Doubt”, and “Legacy Of the Defeated”. Oddly enough, this inclusion were few and far in between on the band’s previous album, an issue that can probably be attributed to the layered keyboard prominence in the past. Another new addition that works quite well in practice is the addition of female background choir vocals, such as seen on “Darkness Descending”. When implemented lazily, vocals like these can become a cheesy and grudging affair, but fortunately on Esoteric
, they accent Joakim’s gruff style quite well, never drowning him out in the process either.
One element that is missed from the band’s past albums is their sense of speed within the music--as seen in 2003's Mind Revolution
. Given that Skyfire is considered a power metal band, you would expect the tempo of the music to be slightly higher. Here, that’s not exactly the case, as things don’t get too exciting in the vein of acceleration or speed despite frantic riffs throughout the music. Excluding the driving pace of “Under A Pitch Black Sky”, much of the album follows the speed of the piano player, which actually works for the benefit of the band in a few ways. The band seems to have more stable control over their songs, and it is now much easier for listeners to distinguish the numerous, technical riffs from Andreas and Johan. Skyfire has also learned to put some restraint on the music’s frequent tempo changes and time signatures. In albums past, Skyfire would often take off in a completely new direction without much forewarning for the listener. While this always kept the listener surprised and on their toes, this also inevitably disrupted the flow of the music and could possibly leave those attentive lost and confused.
As mentioned above, the inclusion of Joakim is of vital importance to Skyfire’s sound. This time around, the band’s melodies are actually quite memorable and distinguishable from one another; instead of merely just blending together in an album long song. Make no mistake--this is no commercialized In Flames, or even Dark Tranquility for that matter. The vocal hooks to be found on Esoteric
are hidden in the music, which pleasantly encourages the listener to hear the album over and over.
adds a few new elements to Skyfire’s characteristic sound. The new vocalist fits, the keyboards have thankfully been pushed back a little, and everything is in almost perfect sync. Taking into consideration that the band has had five years to make this album, I must admit I am a little disappointed. While the additions are certainly welcome, all of these inclusions could have been done well under a year’s time, and if you exclude the instrumental introduction, the band has only delivered nine tracks for Esoteric
. In summary, Skyfire are finally back, and they have brought with them a great album. While it can’t explain their absence for so long, per se, it does go a long way to show that the band has much more to offer than what they previously delivered in the past.