Remember those scenes in Iron Maiden‘s “Flight 666” of fervent metal worship on the first night of the Somewhere Back In Time tour in Mumbai? That film brought home to millions the depth of passion for metal in India and the breadth of the fan base across the region. Meshuggah‘s recent “Making of Koloss” documentary included the Swedes’ first trip to India, the rapturous reception showing that djent too is alive and kicking.
Skyharbor from New Delhi are a progressive metal band with djent influences and have released their debut album, “Blinding White Noise: Illusion & Chaos”. The three-piece is augmented by guest appearances from ex-TesseracT vocalist Daniel Tompkins and ex-Megadeth shredmeister Marty Friedman.
“Dots” kicks off the album with a Maidenesque riff which immediately transforms into a more complex rhythm, setting out the stall for what is to come. While the djent influence is undeniable it takes a back seat to accessible songs with soaring vocal melodies. Frantic and sophisticated prog metal riffing provides the glue between the off-kilter rhythms and the driving musicality of the songs themselves. As relief to the serpentine palm-muting, ambient clean-guitar sections take the helm and segue into massive wall-of-distortion vistas for Tompkins‘ nu-metal style vocals. And this is where the wheel falls off the cart, for me that is.
Musically I find much to enjoy in this album, vocally and in terms of the songwriting it has a lightness which is just too commercial sounding for me to fully get behind it. I’m a perverse git and it’s precisely this accessibility that will see Skyharbor building a global fan community while I sit at home fetishising over my Meshuggah albums. For the record I have the same reaction to that other djent-lite band Periphery. The Linkin Park-esque vocals detract from otherwise quite interesting music.
Subjectively “Blinding White Noise” just doesn’t quite do it for me. Objectively I can see the potential for Skyharbor to spearhead the Indian metal scene and really do some damage in terms of sales and global recognition. I can hear a quality in “Blinding White Noise” that will have some metal fans apoplectic with delight so don’t take my word as gospel. There is quite a lot of buzz about this band at the moment. Basick Records are doing a fine job of bringing fresh talent to the metal landscape with acts like Skyharbor, 7 Horns 7 Eyes and Chimp Spanner. 6/10 for me but 8/10 and upwards for those who don’t share my reservations. I urge you to give it a listen and see on which side of the fence you land.