I always wrestle with words for a new Transport Aerian record. The band has its own sound and its own way of doing things, and they don’t care if you like it or not. Or, maybe they do, but they aren’t going to change based on your feedback. Anyways, the album releases today, October 29th, and is called Skywound. I like it.
Transport Aerian hails from Belgium. The mastermind and founder is Hamlet. I’m fairly certain that isn’t his real name and that he’s just playing all of us. He handles vocals, bass, guitars, and programming. With him is a new lineup, namely Stefan Boeykens on guitars and programming, Umut Eldem on keys, Paul De Smet on drums, violin, and programming, and Rachel Bauer on additional vocals and narration.
The band has an unconventional sound. The bio that came with the promo describes them as progressive rock with classic prog elements and a post-modernist bent. The latter is definitely true, but the band plays something I can’t describe that well. It is “progressive” in the true meaning of the word, being ambitious, maybe a little odd, and maybe even a little scary. There are crazy rhythms and atmospheres all over the place, and it can take a few listens to process what they play.
This album is probably the heaviest of the Transport Aerian records thus far. I first started listening to the band in 2013 with the dreamy Bleeding, solidified my adoration of their sound with 2015’s Darkblue, and was completely blown away by their masterpiece, 2017’s Therianthrope. This album, as strange as it might sound, is possibly the most accessible of them all. It has heavy, driving guitars on several tracks, some catchy choruses, and some bright and addictive electronic moments that I love.
In fact, there is something notably “grunge” about this record. Hamlet might crucify me for saying that, but it’s true. There is a grit and grime here that sounds amazing with his intelligent lyrics, wild vocals, and reinvigorated sound. Look, I’m the first one who would say that Hamlet’s voice is an acquired taste and that some of the off-tone moments in the album make it difficult to love immediately. I get it. But I think this band is worth the time and patience, and the grungy approach makes that a bit easier, I think.
I also think that kind of melancholy and cynicism are purposeful. The album follows tortured lovers as they wade, or maybe drown, in the sea of calamity, political bullshit, and ruin that is the human condition. It is a far-reaching album, one that hits close to home, and one that has some biting things to say.
The album has 13 tracks, all of them playing into each other almost seamlessly. The flow is part of the overall goal here. There are some truly great songs on here, too. “Shall Not Be” is the opener with a vivid, almost Gothic sound to it. Its driving guitars sound great with Hamlet’s voice. There is a four-part suite of interlude-type tracks, called “Fracture”, that are strewn throughout the album. I really like these songs, ranging from ballads with Rachel on vocals to acoustic guitar musings to my personal favorite, “Fracture II”, which has an addictive electronic rhythm. I absolutely love that track. It is crisp, robust, and so much fun to hear.
There are other highlights. “Lunatic” is a track with transitions, especially of the loud-soft kind. It actually sounds a bit “classic rock” in how heavy it is. Actually, maybe it sounds more like classic metal, such as Black Sabbath. I love the grit it has. Another favorite is “Latgalian Gothic”, an abstract and even muddled song that explores both electronic and piano. The piano is beautiful, especially the stilting rhythm near the end. I like the single “Falling 20”, a bit of a Tom Waits-esque experience at first with gravelly vocals and a sauntering beat. It takes off near the end, though, with all the blurry, darkened fervor that Transport Aerian typically offers. I also love the title track, “Skywound”. This is the closer, and it is a pretty crazy piece. While it might sound reserved at first, Hamlet sort of unleashes his vocals in the second half, and it is both terrifying and also awesome. The song overall is subtle and gracious between the moments of mighty singing, though, especially the ending, which it nails perfectly.
This might not be the same level of masterpiece as Therianthrope. I’m not sure Hamlet can ever top that vibrant, peculiar, and haunting work of art. But Skywound is probably my second favorite of his. Transport Aerian sounds fresh and revitalized for a new chapter, and this album has excellent material, especially for a live performance. I’m looking forward to digging into it more as time passes.
Find Transport Aerian online: