The Tipton brothers have been busy musicians for a couple decades now, but for some reason I failed to notice Jasun Tipton’s new band a couple years ago, called A Dying Planet. Or, well, I noticed it, but never pursued it, even though he is one of my favorite guitarists. Fast forward to 2021, and another familiar artist has joined the band, prompting me to listen as soon as I could. The new album is called When the Skies Are Grey, and it released on September 17th.
The familiar artist in question would be Paul Adrian Villarreal, vocalist for the defunct band Sun Caged (one of my favorites). I’ve long been a fan of Paul’s annunciation and range, and it was a breath of fresh air to see him on something new. Jasun (Zero Hour/Cynthesis), of course, takes care of guitars here, while Brian Hart handles bass and Marco Bicca handles drums.
This album is essentially the frantic, unique sound of Jasun’s epic guitars mixed with the soaring vocals of Sun Caged. I mean, that is probably obvious at this point. This is progressive metal, captivating and of high quality, hailing back to the 00s and early 10s to my ear. That sort of sound has become rare of late, and it always feels great to immerse myself in something that, without reservation, dives into a sprawling story told through classic progressive metal.
From the very first track, the band manages to grip us with riveting guitar licks and arresting grooves. Jasun’s guitars are surely going to be some of the best this year, as he lays down licks and riffs with such fluidity, intuition, and effect. I should point out, though, that Brian and Marco’s rhythm section is truly amazing, rumbling and splashing with brilliant touches that really make some songs what they are.
And, like any self-respecting prog metal album, When the Skies Are Grey relishes song length, having 7 tracks and a runtime of 51 minutes. This really plays into the band’s strengths, though, allowing room to progress, grow, and develop. The opener, the title track, is a fantastic example of this. This song wastes no time in plunging us into delicious, kinetic rhythms, and the song builds subtly and in volume as the seconds tick by us. Soon, the guitars seem slightly meatier and more forceful, and Paul reaches for the stars vocally. It is pretty much a perfect song: one that gets you immediately excited for the rest of the album.
There are songs like that throughout the record, though. One would be the 15-minute epic “Embrace”, full of hair-raising riffs, a wonderful chorus, pensive moments, and a gigantic finale. This song reminds me of why I love progressive metal so much: it explores every depth and every detail that can possibly be explored within the central melodies and rhythms presented. It is exhaustive and, well, awesome.
I really like the rest of the tracks, as well. “Honoring Your Name” and “Hope for Tomorrow” are both meaty, grooving tracks with humongous riffs. I would point out, though, that they also display the album’s primary weakness: repetition. On a few tracks, the choruses can feel very repetitive, and then they are repeated several times on top of that. I don’t think it ruins the songs whatsoever, but it is a little tick in the back of my brain each time I listen.
The last two tracks are great, too. “Far from Home” is a track with guts and grit, and I love the contrast between the quieter segments and the heavy portions. The closer, “A Father’s Love”, sounds so much like a Cynthesis song, which is a good thing in my book. It sort of has a spacey, almost quirky sound to some of it, and definitely feels like the unique track on the record. The finale is satisfying and luxurious with Paul giving a magnificent performance.
A Dying Planet is the band I didn’t know I needed this year. I’ve been a fan of Paul and Jasun for a long time, and seeing them together absolutely delights my heart. This album has all of the range and emotion I wanted from Paul, but also all the extravagance and detail I expect from Jasun. And the two go hand in hand perfectly. This album will only continue to grow on me.
Find A Dying Planet online: