Review Summary: A Dying Man's Hymn is a modern trip into psychedelia. It is reminiscent of Pink Floyd and King Crimson, while being entirely beholden unto itself.
Sky Architect’s A Dying Man's Hymn is modern trip into psychedelic music. It is complete with extended jams, long songs, keyboards, and meandering instrumentals. Many of these qualities might give the impression that this album lacks focus. However, Sky Architect is able to pull these elements together (with a few others thrown into the mix), and create a truly captivating album.
As with most progressive music, this album excels when the music crescendos then erupts into emotional fits. Sometimes the songs build to great heights of anticipation, only to empty out into a sea of tranquility (Breach). Others actually flare into undeniable heaviness (Melody of the Air – Explicatio, Breach). In fact, much of A Dying Man's Hymn is complimentary. For every instance of heaviness, there is a light, airy atmosphere. The music swells from nearly droning passages into frantic keyboard melodies. Tightly complex, rhythmically dense passages give way to sprawling melody (The Campfire Ghost's Song). There are times where the music creates feelings of despair, yet they belie the times when you are overwhelmed with a sense of freedom. In fact, sometimes you actually feel as though you are flying over the music.
Sky Architect are able to evoke all of these feelings by executing flawlessly. One of the things you will notice immediately is the gritty production. The songs are through-produced, and never sound contrived. It is obvious that the music was written to be performance oriented rather than polished. Neither polished, nor gritty production are values unto themselves, however, the gritty production works well with the artists vision. They are able to derive an organic sound that blends very well with the psychedelic elements in use. The vocals are beautiful and haunting, and the singer's accent adds enough charm that you do not lament the lack of auto-tune.
The music is technical, but not to the point of being showy. There are tasteful, soulful guitar solos (a tribute to Hendrix's guitar playing can be heard on The Campfire Ghost's Song). Most of the songs are held down by tight bass playing. This allows the guitars and keyboards to wander while keeping a groove that never becomes tiresome (Woodcutters Vile). Ultimately though, the guitars are what hold A Dying Man's Hymn together. The weeping tones make it feel like an album rather than a collection of songs.
You can tell by the song titles that this album needs to be listened to in its entirety. There is a trio of songs called Melody of the Air. They are subtitled Expositio, Explicatio, and Recapitulatio. This means that a theme is introduced, unfolds, then is repeated in a different form before it is concluded. Most of the album is built around these themes, and it pays to actually sit and listen to the album in full. That is, of course, if you have the time.
This album is epic, and as such, is very long. It clocks in around 77 minutes, therefore making it a project to sit through. The music is outstanding, but it is hard for a lot of people to sit for the duration. If you do the payoff is worth it. However, there are some songs that do go on for too long. Hitodama's Return continues on for about 1.5 minutes after the logical ending point, and that isn't the only flaw. There are transitions within some of the songs that are curious to say the least. Treebird would have benefited from being cut in two, rather than pushed past the 9 minute mark.
A Dying Man's Hymn is not perfect, but it is so consistently good that it is worth the time spent on listening to it. The production, repeating themes, and instrumental virtuosity keep your attention. While the heaviness, airy-ness, and lyrics make it cathartic. Sky Architect have made something special with A Dying Man's Hymn, and hopefully their evolution will only see them get better.