Some albums just hit you where it counts. For what may be an inexplicable reason, you find yourself drawn to it, affected by it, in love with it. I feel this way about the new Silent Skies record. Nectar is set to release on February 4th through Napalm Records.
Silent Skies has come a long way. I was honored to premiere their debut single some time ago, and here they are signed to a great label and releasing their vision with clarity and fine-tuned glory. It is easy, I suppose, when you have the soulful vocals of Evergrey’s Tom S. Englund and the brilliant keys of Vikram Shankar of Lux Terminus (and a half dozen other bands). This pairing is a match made in nirvana, and the results are only getting better. Guesting on this album is Raphael Weinroth-Browne, amazing cellist that you may know from his solo work and his collaborations with Leprous.
The band describes themselves as “Scandinavian melancholy, voiced and run through virtuosic fingers”, and that is probably a perfect description. Tom’s legendary, emotional vocals are a mountain of potential for any project, and then adding in cinematic production and brilliant piano takes the sound to even more miraculous places. Adding in subtle electronic touches and gorgeous cello puts the icing squarely on an already delicious cake.
But there is more going on here. The debut album was great, and I still enjoy it to this day. It felt like it was trying to balance progressive soundscapes with straightforward melodies, and I appreciated that. Nectar is different. It is far more ambient, and Tom’s voice is possibly a bigger part of the mix. Vikram has exchanged the fomenting rhythms of the first album for something more hushed, more nuanced, and maybe even more developed. Look, I love to hear and watch Vikram play his mighty torrents of keys, but this album displays him in a richer, more spiritual sort of way. It gives me a wave of electricity down my spine just thinking about it.
That is the effect of this entire album on me. As good as the debut was, Nectar is head and shoulders above it. It feels like a groundswell of peace, a journey towards light, a consideration of the abundance of life that we sometimes miss. It explores the sacred beauty of sadness, but also the majesty of new love and of finding one’s self. It celebrates our innate emotions and gives us permission to feel them without guilt, without fear. Nectar is a deepening well of cosmic enlightenment, a drifting vessel on the universe of expression within each of us.
And it makes me cry. I was sick when I first received this promo, and I lay there in bed with warm covers and secured earbuds. I allowed the music to flow over my mind, noting every small accent and every quiver in Tom’s voice. It was like a mystical experience, and I haven’t been able to let it go since then.
One of my favorite things about this album is the way Tom performs it. There is so much shade and luxury in his chosen style, and he applies that here to vocal lines that are, in my eyes, unique. Some of the choruses, for example, may take a couple listens to find the rhythm inside of them, but once you feel them, you feel them in your soul. Tom sets a careful pace with Vikram in full support, and they together emote with small twists, huge hooks, and utter atmosphere.
Nectar has 10 tracks, and all of them are phenomenal. I love the golden and shaded feelings of the opener “Fallen from Heart”, the gorgeous subtlety of “Taper”, and the quiet cinematic tones of “Neverending”. That last one is one of my favorites overall, especially the looping ambience in the second half. I love the flowing heat of “Let It Hurt”, the addictive rhythms in “Cold”, and the fantastic chorus of “Better Days”. The chorus to “Closer” is another winner.
I think my favorites overall are “The One”, “Leaving”, and the closing title track, though. “The One” makes me tear up every time, as I am reminded of my wife, Tiffany, and my feelings for her. I am so happy to hear Tom singing something like this again. “Leaving” is the amazing single with the stylish video, and the sheer explosion of emotions within it hypnotize me each time I hear it. The title track is instrumental, but instead of being a showy piece, Vikram ends this record with dark fairy tale-like richness and poignant character. It feels at once familiar and also mysterious, haunted and also confident. I love this purposeful and beatific song.
What else can I say? Silent Skies is a dream project, and Nectar represents not only a big leap forward in their vision, but also a devastatingly good and divinely textured experience. Every melody feels inspired. Each song feels like the piece to some passionate puzzle. Every chorus wells up with untold emotion. This album will be difficult to beat in 2022.
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