Review Summary: The ghost of futures past
I miss Chimp Spanner. Guitarist/Producer Paul Antonio Ortiz’ late-oughties studio project combined Meshuggah-inspired riffing, Allan Holdsworth-inspired soloing and Tangerine Dream-inspired synth soundscaping to create a retrofuturistic sound that found equal acclaim in both the then-nascent djent and retrowave movements. A decade on and the future doesn’t sound like it used to. In addition to Chimp Spanner’s disappearance, many of the first wave of djent bands have all but abandoned the sound completely because of how saturated the market became with djent bedroom projects almost as soon as the word “djent” became known. What was once one of the most exciting things to happen to heavy metal became commonplace and mundane, as is the way of such things.
However, Shattered Skies still hasn’t gotten the memo, and I’m glad they haven’t. Four years after their debut, The World We Used To Know
, guitarist Ian Rocket and drummer Ross McMahon have soldiered through lineup upheavals to keep Shattered Skies alive, recruited vocalist Gerry Brown, a dead-ringer for their previous vocalist Sean Murphy (seriously, if you didn’t know the band had switched vocalists you probably wouldn’t have noticed the change), and put out their sophomore full-length effort.
isn’t groundbreaking, but it hearkens back to the best parts of what made Chimp Spanner’s music so fun. Its tasteful use of ’80 synths under the groovy guitars and drums gives the whole album an air of nostalgic futuristic-ness, and while that particular aesthetic may have all but worn its welcome out, thanks to its mainstreaming by Muse of all bands, Shattered Skies still does it better than most.
In fact, that’s a pretty apt summarisation of Shattered Skies in general: they’re doing stuff that has been done by many others, but they manage to do it better than most. They offset the lack of "true originality" with songwriting acumen and good taste. The vocals are catchy without being overwrought. The instrumentals are technical and groovy without being overbearing. The atmosphere is nostalgic without being cloying. The band focuses on writing songs with real direction and momentum instead of mashing technical riffs together or riding their low strings incessantly. Just like on their debut, Shattered Skies have crafted a pop-metal album with enough melody and bluster to make even your grandma bob her head.