Skyharbor
Sunshine Dust


3.5
great

Review

by SitarHero USER (47 Reviews)
September 12th, 2018 | 37 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Worth the wait?

The success, or failure, of Skyharbor’s third outing, Sunshine Dust, was always going to rest on Eric Emery’s heavily tattooed shoulders. It’s never easy for a band to replace a key member while cresting a creative wave, let alone two key members who are widely regarded as being among the best musicians in their genre, which Dan Tompkins and Anup Sastry certainly are. Sastry, being a drummer, may have been somewhat easier to replace simply because Tompkins was literally the voice of Skyharbor. While Skyharbor’s debut album, Blinding White Noise, was little more than a glorified solo album by guitarist Keshav Dhar, with guest spots by Tompkins and Sastry (and Marty Friedman), the sophomore album, Guiding Lights, was an actual collaborative band effort made particularly evident by how much better and more organic the fit between vocals and instrumentals was.

This audible chemistry between the members of Skyharbor, circa 2014, resulted in Guiding Lights being a standout album despite there being something of a dearth of truly memorable riffs on the album. The guitarists, Keshav Dhar and Devesh Dayal, ended up providing Tompkins with an atmospheric canvas to paint his melodies on, rather than competing for the spotlight. The only reason this worked—making a progressive metal album that didn’t focus heavily on riffs—was because Tompkins is, at his best, a craftsman par excellence of gorgeous melodies that soar over or knife through churning modern progressive metal instrumentals in all the right ways.

It seems apparent that the spectre of Tompkins continues to hover over Skyharbor. It’s taken the band four years to follow up Guiding Lights with Sunshine Dust. In fact, they apparently recorded the album once before deciding that it wasn’t good enough and completely re-recording it under the watchful eyes of Forrester Savell. If you’re wondering whether Sunshine Dust was worth the extended wait or whether it’s a disappointment, the answer is: Yes.

It’s definitely a good thing that the band took their time recording Sunshine Dust because they have managed to develop some chemistry in the interim with Tomkins’ replacement, Eric Emery. Emery doesn’t sound like he’s trying to sing songs that were written with Tompkins in mind. His voice has a huskier and breathier quality than Tompkins and sounds tonally closer to Chester Bennington (RIP) or Spencer Sotelo. The band takes that quality and actually adapts to it, writing songs that sounds closer to alternative rock and alternative metal, than the progressive metal of its predecessors.

This doesn’t mean that Skyharbor doesn’t sound like “Skyharbor”, not even when openly paying homage to Linkin Park on the unapologetically nu-metal “Dissent”. Songs like “Menace”, “Ethos”, “Out of Time” and “Blind Side”, for instance, are classic Skyharbor, full of propulsive drumming, staccato riffs, fluttering leads, and soaring vocal melodies, even though they rarely seem to turn the corner into progressive metal territory. Meanwhile, “Dim”, the re-recorded “Synthetic Hands”, and the title track are all much more clearly in the realm of alternative rock, quite far removed from the band’s roots in the “djent” movement, but still recognisable as Skyharbor songs.

None of this is to say that the band’s music is less interesting than it was on Guiding Lights or Blinding White Noise. In some ways, this is a much more diverse album than either of its predecessors, with Dhar and Dayal opting to use a wider variety of guitar and synth tones than on the previous albums resulting in them drawing on a broader palette of sounds for their guitar parts and ambient layers. Emery's vocal performance is also more varied than Tomkins', in part because of his use of harsh vocals.

However, it’s hard to say that Skyharbor v.2 is an improvement over its predecessor. While some of Emery’s melodies and hooks are very good, such as on “Menace” and “Ethos”, he struggles to consistently create melodies and hooks as captivating as Tomkins’ best moments. The breathiness in his vocal delivery also leaves some of his vocal parts sounding mumbled and indistinct even though it seem like they’re higher in the mix than on previous albums. When taken to an extreme level, like on the chorus of “Blind Side”, it leaves the vocals completely unintelligible and the song nearly unlistenable for me.

These criticisms aside, Emery does an admirable job of stepping into Tompkins’ shoes. To both the band and Emery’s credit, they don’t strive to just satisfy their existing fans, but continue the band’s evolution in a manner that plays to each band member's strengths. While Sunshine Dust isn't quite on the same level as Skyharbor’s previous albums, it’s definitely a satisfying listen with enough detail and appeal to merit and reward repeated listens.



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user ratings (49)
Chart.
3.4
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
SitarHero
September 12th 2018


7149 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Phew! Thought this deserved a review, even though it ended up being way longer than I'd intended.

LelandAB
September 12th 2018


166 Comments


Nice review. I really enjoyed Dim the first time I heard it, I'm sure the rest of this is good.

Voltimand
September 12th 2018


902 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Nice review [2]



I had a lot of opinions about this album when I first heard it, but after about 7-8 listens over six days, this is simply an enjoyable mellow listen.



That said, there are parts that lose my attention, and I still haven't fully warmed up to Dissent. Hoping album 4 is more proggy again.

Digging: Timecop1983 - Night Drive

artiswar
September 12th 2018


5552 Comments


Can't wait to get my hands on this.

Digging: Threatin - Breaking the World

SitarHero
September 12th 2018


7149 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah I agree. There are some good tunes on here, but the album as a whole just isn't as captivating as the previous albums.

Dewinged
September 12th 2018


12010 Comments


Damn Sitar, you're on fire, good reading man.

I agree, replacing Dan T. is no easy task, I actually disregarded the album because he was not singing on it but I guess I'll give it a shot.

Digging: Rata Negra - Justicia Cosmica

SitarHero
September 13th 2018


7149 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks Dewi! Yeah this album took a little time to grow on me. I'm definitely not in love with it like I was with the Tompkins ones, but it's still a good album. It's just hard to be objective about a band that you love when they go through drastic changes.

cloakanddagger
September 13th 2018


308 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good review. Haven't really digested this album properly but a lot of what you say is how I feel about this record right now. It's a decent follow-up to guiding lights but it probably won't win my heart over like that album did.

neekafat
September 13th 2018


12898 Comments


beautiful album cover

sizeofanocean
September 13th 2018


742 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The guys certainly delivered every time in terms of album covers

I don't mind Emery as a vocalist but i kinda miss the longer and somewhat more complex soundscapes of Guiding Lights

RaylanCrowder
September 13th 2018


69 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

IMO worth the wait. The only things im unhappy with are the very existence of "Dissent", and that i much preferred the original version of "Chemical Hands"

sizeofanocean
September 13th 2018


742 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The mix on Emerys vocals during the bridge were way off in the original version though

Itwasthatwas
September 13th 2018


1497 Comments


Oddly this is the only album of their's that I actually kind of like

TundraL5Z
September 13th 2018


1944 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Aw man, thought this was gonna be better, bummer... found myself zoning out a LOT while listening to this, opening track and closing track are fantastic but the rest of the album doesn't hold up :/

Digging: The Ocean - Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic

jacobybelgium
September 13th 2018


78 Comments


You pretty much said everything I wanted to say, I am only a bit disappointed because I loved his voice and wanted something more proggy than what was done.

PistolPete
September 13th 2018


4827 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I hear the Periphery and Linkin Park in his voice. But I also think the music itself heavily channels Dead Letter Circus, not really Karnivool.

Seems the songs I like better are actually in the last half too.

Digging: Irreversible - Surface

sizeofanocean
September 13th 2018


742 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah the second half is kinda proggier. This also may have their best "true" closer (not counting the one on disc one from their first album)

bentheREDfan
September 13th 2018


467 Comments


AGH YOU BEAT ME TO IT

cloakanddagger
September 13th 2018


308 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Am I the only person who doesn't hate Dissent?



It's not a standout track by any means but it's not awful.

inthox
September 13th 2018


139 Comments


as someone who used to be extremely hyped about this band, is it safe?



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