SILENT SKIES
"Satellites"

(AFM)

01. Horizons
02. Endless
03. Dreams
04. Us
05. Solitude
06. Oceans
07. Here Comes The Rain Again
08. Walls
09. Distance
10. 1999

RATING: 8/10

His voice is the heavy metal equivalent of a languorous hot bath and only the irrevocably dead inside could resist. Tom S. Englund has spent over 20 years breaking hearts with the perennially underappreciated EVERGREY, mixing emotional fervor with crushing riffs and rarely leaving a dry eye in the house. Meanwhile, Vikram Shankar is a keyboard virtuoso (and now member of REDEMPTION) with a self-evident knack for creating sumptuous, cinematic soundscapes. Together they are SILENT SKIES, and I sincerely hope you've got a box of tissues handy. Yeah, you've got something in your eye, tough guy. Whatever.

"Satellites" is not a metal record, but it is a fabulous showcase for both Englund's unique vocal talents and the burgeoning brilliance of his newfound partner in melody. At times edging into the ambient, new-era classical of Nils Frahm and Max Richter, but always sounding lush and glistening with romantic opulence, this is a record designed to soothe and to give succor in times of trial. You can hear it in Englund's performances, wherein he takes an even more personal and vulnerable course than he does in EVERGREY, delving into matters of the heart and the meaning of things with his customarily soulful restraint. Opener "Horizons" and the previously unveiled "Distance" are particularly stunning examples of the chemistry between the two men: the former is impossibly fragile, Shankar's cascade of shimmering resonance buoying Englund's grief-stricken entreaties up into the rafters; the latter is a devastating, slow-motion ballad, underpinned by ghostly sub-bass and crashing waves of reverb.

An additional treat, assuming that you have excellent taste in '80s bangers, is a version of EURYTHMICS' "Here Comes The Rain Again" (their best song, obviously) that may break you, if you're feeling a bit delicate. Corny covers can often chop an album off at the knees in terms of credibility, but this one makes perfect sense and may make listeners dream wistfully of stumbling upon Englund in mid-karaoke-swing in some cozy Swedish dive. Or maybe that's just me. Likewise, simple but majestic instrumental closer "1999" could hardly be a more beautiful or satisfying advertisement for Shankar's singular talents.

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