Silent Skies – Satellites

Silent Skies – Satellites
AFM Records
Release Date: 11/12/2020
Running Time: 55:42
Review by Beth Jones
9/10

2020…What a weird old year. And as it draws to a close you can’t help but look back with melancholy reflection upon the events of the last 12 months. Well, I can’t anyway. And “Satellites”, the new album from Silent Skies, provides a very fitting soundtrack to accompany my thoughts.

Silent Skies is a collaboration between Tom Englund, the dynamic front man of Swedish progressive band, Evergrey, and Vikram Shankar, a classically trained pianist, who grew up drawing heavy influence from Evergrey. Their journey together started when Tom saw Vikram’s piano interpretation of Evergrey’s ‘Distance’, on YouTube, and was intrigued by the musicality he displayed. They met up, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The album is centred around Tom Englund’s powerful, but tender vocals, alongside Vikram’s stunningly cinematic piano compositions, although it does have other instrumentation in some tracks. For me, there is nothing more tranquil than stripped back vocals and piano. Maybe I’m biased, being a vocalist and pianist, but the tones of piano and voice hold a deep innocence that just can’t be replicated any other way. It’s the type of sound that makes you hold your breath for fear of disturbing the players.

The album opens with ‘Horizons’. Starting with a piano introduction, the lamenting tune is joined by Tom Englund’s vocals, singing a simple melody, designed to compliment the piano line, rather than overpower it. I think this may be double layered, to give it a more 3-dimensional sound. The pair continue as the track builds, and gentle strings, and an African sounding drumbeat, are introduced in the background.

Track 2, ‘Endless’ begins much more vocal driven, with the piano sitting as an accompaniment. This changes however, to a cinematic instrumental section in the middle, complete with harmonized ‘aaaaah’s, and then develops an 80’s soft rock ballad feel, before returning to the lamenting piano we hear at the beginning of the album.

These two tracks pretty much set the tone for the album. It’s beautifully understated throughout, but also stark, as the instrumentation leaves nowhere for the players to hide. This makes it a very honest and open work, which pleases me a lot. There’s no need for fancy new-fangled ideas. Just some serious musicality from both Englund and Shankar.

Along with nine original compositions, we also get treated to a hugely different arrangement of the Eurythmics’ 80s classic, ‘Here Comes The Rain Again’. The original is truly an iconic song, but this arrangement takes it to a whole new world.

Following that is, my favourite track on the album, ‘Walls’. It Shows off both Tom’s vocal skills, and Vikram’s delicate piano, beautifully, and it grows and swells throughout, with the addition of a lamenting Cello, and violin, and some seriously thunderous bowed double bass notes, that really reach into your soul. It comes full circle to finish, with all other sounds ebbing away, to leave just solitary piano notes and Tom’s vocals.

If you’re a fan of classical cinematic music, Tom Englund’s voice, or indeed just need an accompaniment to melancholic reflections, then I can thoroughly recommend this album.

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

LINE-UP:
Tom Englund – Vocals
Vikram Shankar – Piano

LINKS:


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