Skyfire - _Esoteric_
(Pivotal Rockordings, 2009)
by: Mark Dolson (7.5 out of 10)
After having given Skyfire's first album _Timeless Departure_ a chance way back when it was released in 2001, I had a difficult time getting past the many Children of Bodom and Kalmah references (or what seemed to be so to me at the time), and, as such could not countenance the idea of Skyfire's originality. Two years later with the release of their second album _Mind Revolution_ I had the same opinion. Don't get me wrong, this is very well played and highly progressive, melodic Swedish death metal with healthy doses of orchestra pomp; it's just that, at the time, I had heard it all before: the bombastic and overly eager synths (which, under more desirable circumstances, should serve as a foil to the music, and not a complete wash-out); lots of tremolo-picking, and the power-metally, sometimes thrashy riffs; the endless stream of double-bass and thrash-beats; and the raspy, somewhat hackneyed, higher-register vocal ejaculations.

With the release of _Spectral_ in 2004, I decided to ease up on my critical stance a little, hoping that Skyfire's sound would have matured a little. That there was really no change in style on _Spectral_ didn't surprise me; however, what did surprise me was the fact that their compositions were inflected with just a little more sophistication -- the songs seemed better crafted (they came across more as true songs, and not just a series of instrumentals with vocals grafted over top) and more melodic, but not overly so. And so, the reader must be asking: "what, pray tell, do you think of the band's newest offering, _Esoteric_? Well, in all honesty, the progression from _Spectral_ has been piecemeal. Unfortunately, I can't comment on lyrical content or any variation thereof in comparison to their earlier work inasmuch as the promo I was sent came without a lyric sheet (though I'm sure they're no less intelligent and philosophically oriented than on previous albums).

Some noticeable differences on _Esoteric_ are as follows: the band have increased their speed a little bit, with the addition of a few more blast-beats than its predecessor (however, they know how to slow down, too). There are some choir arrangements here and there, but they're not too prominent. They've also incorporated -- much to my annoyance, unfortunately -- more piano accompaniments along with the guitars. This is featured in quite a few songs (and it's really upfront, too), and, to me, doesn't really help their case. As a brief aside, back in the late '90s I had a really bad experience with Angizia's _Das Tagebuch der Hanna Anikin_, and I must say that since then I haven't really been convinced that the piano fits metal (of whatever form, save Arcturus's brand of sympho-metal) very well -- maybe on its own, or as an intro or interlude, but not as a constant or semi-constant accompaniment with guitars. As with the previous album _Spectral_, the production on _Esoteric_ is absolutely flawless, allowing each instrument to breathe freely without any washout, competition or compromise in sound quality.

Other than the aforesaid additions of more blast-beats and piano, there are really no patent changes in Skyfire's overall style, save the addition (and a great one at that!) of the highly dextrous six-string shredder, Johan Reinholdz of Adromeda and Non-exist fame. Reinholdz's solos, as beautiful and intricate as they are, add depth, and make Skyfire's music that much more capable, sophisticated, and less predictable -- a very welcomed change indeed. Another change is the replacement of former vocalist Henrick Wenngren with Joakim Karlssson (also of Mark:Black, formerly Elohim). Though there isn't that much difference in terms of approach between the old and new singers, I must say that Karlsson's dry, croupous rasp is strongly reminiscent of Shagrath's of the infamous Dimmu Borgir.

Come to think of it, over the course of its 55+ minute duration, there were parts of _Esoteric_ that sounded somewhat redolent of Dimmu's _Enthrone Darkness Triumphant_ , though less heavy, a bit punchier, and a lot more melodic. Is this a bad thing? Well, you decide. I actually liked _Enthrone Darkness Triumphant_, so it's not too much of a problem. In closing, if you like your metal highly melodic and catchy, progressive, and fast, with excellent guitar solos and bombastic synths -- especially piano -- then you should definitely give _Esoteric_ a try.

Contact: http://www.myspace.com/skyfiremusic

(article published 10/24/2009)


ALBUMS
9/1/2002 A Lineker 8 Skyfire - Timeless Departure
GIGS
5/5/2003 J Montague Ancient Rites / Thyrfing / Blood Red Throne / Skyfire Generation Armageddon Tour
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