Dark skies on my horizon
So suddenly I moved
Felt like I could breathe again
So suddenly I moved
Slowly going forward again
There weren’t very many 2020 albums that were as highly anticipated for me as Silent Skies’ debut. This album has been years in the making, and we finally are getting to see it release on December 11th. The album is called “Satellites”, and it may be the most emotional work of the year.
Back in February 2019, I was graciously given the chance to premiere a song called “Horizons” by a brand new project called Silent Skies. I knew the players involved, but initially their identities were kept a secret. Soon, however, it was revealed that this outfit was made up of Tom Englund of Evergrey fame and Vikram Shankar of Redemption and Lux Terminus. How did it feel to have one of my favorite vocalists form a new musical endeavor with one of the best keyboardists I’ve ever heard? And a friend of mine, to boot? It felt amazing, just like their music. Tom handles vocals and Vikram handles piano. And, really, that’s about all they need.
Silent Skies is difficult to label. Their music is progressive in the sense of long-format song structures and complex, virtuoso playing, if that’s the sort of thing you want. But their true heart lies in a cinematic, evocative, atmospheric style that bleeds from open wounds, pleads from healing contusions, and ponders from closed scars. With Tom’s weighty, emotional voice and Vikram’s fomenting, expressive style of playing, this project constructs towers of powerful feelings and tides of rushing nostalgia and memory. You will hear some orchestrations and the like, but the core of this project lies in voice and piano.
“Satellites” gives more than just music. This is real soul. Sacred heart. Confidence in being. The lyrics are reminiscent of Evergrey’s “The Storm Within” for multiple reasons. First, the lyrics are written about fractured relationships and the subsequent longing, hurt, and distance that is felt. Second, the song “Distance” from that album is covered here in the Silent Skies style, and it may capture the feelings there even more intensely than I expected. That is actually only one of two covers on this album. “Here Comes the Rain Again” from the Eurythmics is also covered, and done so with electronic overtones and gentle ambience. Both covers are excellent.
I have to say something about the performances. Tom’s voice has long been a favorite of mine, but set up against such haunting and ethereal musical ideas, his voice gains even more emotional power. His range is better than ever, and his purposeful, conversational style on this record makes for moments that will always linger in my memory. Vikram’s playing, as always, is stunning. His grand piano sounds mighty and ever-present, and it often feels like a silent comforter reaching out to console and warm Tom as he emotes in grief and longing. It is a touching experience, to say the very least.
“Satellites” has ten tracks and is just under an hour in length. I’ve mentioned the two covers already, both of which are great. The band also released two wonderful singles, “Horizons” and “Solitude”. The former opens the album with disquieted arms of yearning and yet also resolve. This was one of my favorite songs last year for its passionate vocals, raging piano, and amazing lyrics. “Solitude” was released this year, and I’m in love with the chorus especially. The song is a grower, for sure, as well as a slow burner. It grows subtly into a driving climax near the end, and Tom sounds larger than life.
Between the two singles, we get three absolutely fantastic tracks, “Endless”, “Dreams”, and “Us”. The first half of the album, then, is probably my favorite. “Endless” has a majestic chorus, and the second half is particularly stricken with grief and is cinematic in presentation. “Dreams” has one of my favorite piano portions on the record, with a beautifully addictive melody that repeats and grows with fervor. I love it. “Us” is a subtle song, one that has such grace and nostalgia that I can’t help but cry a little. It’s like a visit to memories long past, good memories that create such pain in the present. This song will definitely arrest your attention.
The second half of the album is wonderful, too. This is where you will find the two covers, but you will also hear “Oceans”, “Walls”, and “1999”. As you can tell, the album is structured well. “Oceans” is one of my favorites on the album. It has this sense of space and distance, and the subtle electronic touches communicate the deep well of emotions. It’s one of those songs that will make you stop whatever you are doing to consider what is being said. “Walls” is an exquisite song with beautiful strings and a troubled aura that clings to my heart. I feel like it is the perfect setup for “Distance”, which comes next. Finally, the album ends with an instrumental track called “1999”. I must say that it is one of the best moments on the record, too, as it hangs in the air with utter splendor and hazy light. It feels like it will envelop me sometimes. In fact, I hear shades of Anathema on this song, which make sense since they are Vikram’s favorite band. With shady, subtle soul, the album ends its presentation to our hearts. The emotions fade slowly, and we are left feeling a great empty gulf of loss, yet also a rising tide of confidence, hope, and human spirit. Is there certainty? No. Is there acceptance and healing? Definitely.
Silent Skies’ debut has been years in the making, but it is finally here, and it is worth every second that we waited. Tom and Vikram have such connection, and it can be felt in their quiet energy, delicate emotions, and maestro-level production. This album truly feels like a cinematic experience of immense proportions, yet constructed with soft moments and serene looks to the skyline. It reminds me of a million things I’ve left unsaid in my own past, a million regrets and opportunities untaken. It leaves me in introspective shadow, and I think it will affect you, too.
Dead are the embers, what’s left is this cold
All light here has faded now left to rest
I lie on the meadows while our souls ride on heaven’s vault
Behind the trees where our spirits danced
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