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Sky Architect - A Dying Man's Hymn CD (album) cover

A DYING MAN'S HYMN

Sky Architect

Heavy Prog


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Andy Webb
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP
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5 stars Astral melody, the return of an incredible talent

Sky Architect was easily my favorite new band of 2010, along with the British band Haken. The obscure Dutch band released their debut, Excavations of the Mind, in 2010. It was easily one of my absolute favorite albums of the year. The band had such an incredibly fresh and inviting sound, fusing so many different styles into a truly invincible chasm of beautiful music. On the outset their music seemed like a choppy, harsh blotch of heavy progressive rock. However, when delved into not even that deep, the band revealed themselves as an incredibly talented group of not only humbly proficient instrumentalists, but also supremely gifted composers, crafting some of the most inventive and inviting stuff I had ever heard. Only a year later, the band returned with another studio offering, A Dying Man's Hymn. Again a concept album, the band truly returns in full glory, with an even more mature and complete set of songs and incredibly wonderful album to be offered. The band returns with a new fervor, fleshing out their album with much more energy and an incredibly new diverse sound. This album will certainly carry out for me as one of the best albums of 2011, and is a superb effort by this wonderfully talented group of Dutchmen.

Similar to the last album, the first listen was that of peasant mediocrity. I like the music, but was at first unimpressed. Also similar to the last album, even before my first listen was complete, I began to again realize how truly genius this group of musicians are. The album isn't really a grower; I was just too cold to accept the simple beauty of the music. The effortless harmonies, soaring melodies, and incredible rhythmic quality really give this music a superb charm. Rik Van Honk's use of numerous classic keyboard instruments gives the music wonderful color, contrasting heavier parts with soothing Mellotron or growling Hammond, and the guitar melodies harmonize the bass lines and keyboard runs with amazing grace and dexterity. The vocals have a slightly dissonant quality and really accent the superb music's atmosphere. The instrumental aspect of the music has an oddly appealingly jagged feel, as if they purposefully all play just minutely off as to make the music and interesting display of dissonant grace.

The band is able to traverse through all the feelings of the sonic spectrum, transporting the listener through heavy sections and effortlessly transitioning to light melodic sections, upbeat pieces, and so much more. This album is truly redolent of everything that is good about progressive rock, progressive composition, and music in general. It is full of every wonderful musical quality taught in a classroom, as well as full of tasteful experimentation, with the band, while staying in the bounds of music theory, advancing what a band can really do in a musical situation, utilizing various tones, keyboards, harmonies, and rhythms to make a wonderfully unique musical experience.

Overall, I can't really express how much I adore this band and this music. Throughout their two albums of material, they have shown me in plenty of detail how wonderfully amazing they really are. This album, in my opinion, is even better than their debut, which I think is a marvelous masterpiece. The band has matured in every way; the production, composition, lyrics, and so much more just seem so much more professional and unique to me, showing this album to be a truly spectacular display of progressive music. I think will easily top the charts of best albums of 2011, and is truly a masterpiece. 5 stars.

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Send comments to Andy Webb (BETA) | Report this review (#462994)
Posted Thursday, June 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
m2thek
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars A Dying Man's Hymn comes just about a year after the very successful debut from Sky Architect, one of my personal favorite albums from last year. As the June release date neared my expectations rose, but when it finally came I was left very disappointed. Although the sophomore album occasionally lives up to the potential of Excavations of the Mind, it is ultimately an extremely inconsistent album, and should be avoided unless you are a fan of the band who doesn't mind skipping around to find the good parts.

In general, on A Dying Man's Hymn, Sky Architect still sounds like Sky Architect. For those of you who did not experience Excavations of the Mind, this means a mix of acoustic/soft and electric/heavy moments, melodic keyboard lines, the occasional soloing, and some pretty strong songwriting. The keyboard sounds used here are usually organs, though the handful of times there is a piano solo are very well done, and make me wish there were more of them. The guitars offer more of the same from the first album, with the big swirling lines creating a pretty neat atmosphere. Although I don't normally catch much bass when listening for review, I did pick up on some very cool lines that help propel the songs forward. There's a pretty good mix of every instrument, and there's really no dominating member here, but rather a collective whole.

The biggest change to the sound that I can notice is that the Gentle Giant-y instrumental moments from the first album (tight, complex, use of counterpoint, etc) are used much more frequently, and have been made even more complex and tight. In my notes I referred to them as "GG moments," but this isn't to imply that they are derivative; it's just the easiest way to refer to them. The band actually makes the sound their own by ramping up the heaviness. In fact, they help create some of the best moments on the album, and are used sparingly enough that they stay special every time they crop up. There is one guitar line at the end of a song that sounds like an outtake off of In a Glass House, but I'd like to think that it's a tribute to one of their influences.

At this point you might be asking yourself why the score so low, but alas, we come to the first negative aspect of ADMH: the vocals. While the singing on the first album was usually mediocre, but occasionally great, the singing here is usually mediocre, occasionally great, and more occasionally terrible. The singer's voice is more fitting for soft vocals, which are not so coincidentally the vocal highlights. However, whenever he tries to ramp up the intensity, his voice becomes pretty shrill, and for some reason picks some very ugly intervals to use. What makes this even more disappointing is that on more than one occasion you hear the bad and great vocals in the same song, and even in successive verses. It's kind of incredible to see how inconsistent the singing is, that I can go from groaning to smiling within the same minute.

The inconsistencies don't stop at the vocals, unfortunately. When I saw the track list back in May I was apprehensive of the 77 minute length, and that feeling only turned to disappointment when I actually got the album. It really seems like the band used every idea that they had, regardless of quality or if they fit together. On the final product, we get a lot of songs that tend to feel a few minutes too long, and have pretty disjointed sections. Although the transitions between songs have been smoothed out, the transitions within songs are now quite rough, and can be a little jarring how different the ideas are. The most mediocre parts of the music (which come up enough to warrant mentioning) are very static one or two chord sequences that don't do much besides increase the running time. Also, the boys have a bad habit of adding on little unnecessary codas, which don't add much, and occasionally ruin some nice cadences.

Given that there are so many ideas here, I do enjoy at least a little bit of every song, but there are only one or two songs that I enjoy all the way through. To be fair, the back third of the album is generally pretty good, but that only accounts for a quarter of the music, and since the previous hour is so shaky, it's hard to enjoy the album all the way through. I really can't see myself listening to it as a whole now that the review process is over, but it's even hard to pick out individual songs to avoid the aspects about it I dislike.

Sky Architect took a couple steps forward with their second album, but they took one too many in the other direction. While there's improvement in the instrumental sections, the parts that were just OK on Excavations of the Mind have turned to negatives on A Dying Man's Hymn. For big fans of the band who can skim through to find the best parts, this album will do fine. If you're new to Sky Architect though, head over to their first album, and hope that their third release can iron out these new issues.

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Send comments to m2thek (BETA) | Report this review (#464811)
Posted Sunday, June 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars Hailing from the Netherlands, Sky Architect have literally burst onto the prog music scene and grabbed quite a lot of attention with their debut release Excavations Of The Mind. This was quite an achievement considering the numbers upon numbers of great prog band's that don't get any love from the audiences!

One of the most important reasons of why that particular album became a hit was the vast amounts of different sounds and styles that Sky Architect experimented with at the time. Fusing classic Yes/Genesis sound with modern metal bands like Dream Theater and Pain Of Salvation, plus let's not forget the jazz rock/fusion references on The Deep Chasm multi-part suite. The reason why I mention the debut album is because A Dying Man's Hymn is not at all as impressive in comparison.

The band has polished their sound and improved their lengthy compositions by making them even more exciting for their prog audiences. But ultimately this album didn't make much of an impression upon my first few revisits. The overall sound is not that heavy, instead moving even closer to the classic prog arrangements while completely abandoning Jazz Rock fusion and especially Metal. This time you'll hear clear references to Gentle Giant and even Pink Floyd but most of these moments feel out of context with the compositions and begin to remind me more of prog-by-numbers imitators of the retro-prog scene like Phideaux and the Flower Kings than the ground breaking new band that I heard on Excavations Of The Mind. The fact that this record is almost 30 minutes longer than it's predecessor may imply to some that Sky Architect had quite a lot to say while recording it, but ultimately I would have enjoyed the material more if it wasn't expanded to epic proportions upon every arising opportunity. If you're expecting fun and short moments like Gyrocopter or Russian Wisdom then you'll probably feel a bit underwhelmed by this album since almost 90% of the material keeps itself in a slow-moving pace with only a few rare bursts into the unexpected. It's this factor of spontaneity that I feel is lacking here and ultimately drops the overall quality down a whole notch for me. Well, it's actually that and the complete lack of standout compositions. Every tune has at least one minute or two minutes of gorgeous music embedded into it but it just doesn't add up to much when I look at the big picture.

Is A Dying Man's Hymn a bad album? No, far from it! The music is great, especially if you're a fan of the retro prog music. Is it an excellent album? No, because it basically brings nothing new or interesting to the table while still managing to entertain us during it's hefty play time. The good, but non-essential rating seems pretty clear-cut to me.

**** star songs: Treebird (9:14) Melody Of The Air - Expositio (6:16) The Campfire Ghost's Song (10:00) Melody Of The Air - Explicatio (11:14) Hitodama's Return (6:37) Melody Of The Air - Recapitulatio (4:38) A Dying Man's Hymn (5:11)

*** star songs: Woodcutters Vile (12:58) The Breach (11:05)

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Send comments to Rune2000 (BETA) | Report this review (#468297)
Posted Thursday, June 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well..., now I can declare Sky Architect is a really good band of heavy prog.

I didn,t like too much their first album(i was sorry that this European band with so good musicians seems to be a poor imitation of USA psychedelic heavy prog bands :Pain Of Salvation and Deadsoul Tribe )

But this album shows an unique sound,unique heavy prog,very good quality heavy prog.

Very good songs,arrangements......some RIO sometimes (KC style).

Yes is a satisfaction to listen to this album ..with very original compositions in the line of the great heavy prog rock of Europe such as Anglagard(sorry they are death now) Anekdoten and Porcupine Tree.

So in my opinion first album was an experiment.This one is the start of a great future(I expect)

4 stars(near 4,5)

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Send comments to robbob (BETA) | Report this review (#468745)
Posted Friday, June 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'A Dying Man's Hymn' - Sky Architect (8/10)

As a fairly rare occurrence in today's music industry, Dutch prog rockers Sky Architect followed-up their debut with something new the very next year. 'Excavations Of The Mind' was not an album I had the pleasure of hearing when it first came out, but those who did get around to hearing it were excited and impressed by the sound that this band came onto the scene with. The band's second album 'A Dying Man's Hymn' attempts to recreate the success of the first, and the result has been another grand work for proggy hard rock.

Sky Architect's sound is much alike many bands under the 'heavy prog' label; music that maintains the complexity that one might hear from many classic prog bands, but with the grit and edge of hard rock. There is a fair dynamic and variety in sounds on this album, although despite the album's rather challenging length, the record flows well and feels cohesive. The band I would compare Sky Architect with most are Swedish rockers Beardfish, although the music of this band is considerably more sombre. As I just briefly mentioned, the album's length is mentionable on its own, resting around the seventy seven minute mark. As is the case for much progressive rock, the album takes a few listens to grow on the listener, although in this case, I went from thinking it was a fairly run-of-the-mill record to thinking it a real winner. Here is a band that marries exciting performances with dynamic compositions and everything under the sun. It is a lot to take in at first, but despite the at times by-the-numbers prog approach the band takes, I often found myself surprised by what this band can do.

One of the greatest things about this band is their tightness as a band, being able to come in and cut out in unison, and sound passionate while doing it. The opening of this album is a great example, with a sample of a screaming man and woman leading the band in to playing at a fairly unexpected moment, but despite the awkwardness of the timing, it is pulled off quite nicely. The vocals of Tom Luchies here are what I would consider to be warm, but not particularly impressive; he tends to stay within his comfort zone most of the time and rarely venture much of the mid-range. The instrumentation is rich and intelligent, with a particular note on how great some of the bass licks on the record are. Sky Architect's second album has been something of a surprise to me, really. I do not often find myself excited about bands that stick within the existing borders of progressive rock, but the excellence with which this band manages to tackle the sound makes 'A Dying Man's Hymn' a remarkable album.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#541125)
Posted Tuesday, October 04, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars I absolutely loved the first Sky Architect album 'Excavations of the Mind' and was very happy to see the band release their second album so quickly. I am also a HUGE fan of Christian Bruin, the Sky Architect drummer, who is also a fantastic songwriter in his own right. Seriously, check out his album 'Making Sense'. I actually prefer it to the Sky Architect material. But anyway, back to the review!

This album is a huge disappointment compared to the first album. It rambles aimlessly in too many places. The melodies do not seem to work quite as well as they should. The whole album sounds disjointed and over-long. I must admit to being HUGELY disappointed. Please, please, please guys, sort this out. Find the melodies. Get Chris to do most of the songwriting and you should be OK! I will be waiting for the next album. Spend a bit of time on it and get it right.

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Send comments to Richens (BETA) | Report this review (#608383)
Posted Thursday, January 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars 8/10

When talking about Heavy Prog, there are two major branches: bands approaching the progressive metal, sometimes merging with the other genres called "modern", and bands looking to the past, whose sound evokes progressive rock and hard rock seventies . Sky Architect easily falls into the second group. These Dutch already has two albums in their curricula, and is the second of them, A Dying Man's Hymn, I now I review. I hope to soon hear his debut Excavations of Mind.

The influences here are clear: beyond the big names in prog classic (I hear enough of Yes and King Crimson here) soaked with a touch of jazz, you can clearly hear the references of Scandinavian bands that "revived" the prog as Änglagård and The Flower Kings. There is a strong emphasis on instrumental, which I have to thank, because the vocals are one of the low points of the album.

I say "one of" because the production lacks a bit of quality. Sometimes it all sounds too technical and cold, lacking a sense that we approach music. I like the profusion of themes discussed here, progressiveness, yet all I sometimes sounds distant. Not to mention the anti- climactic end: the songs are longer concentrated in the middle of the album, and the two shorter the pen. This would not be such a problem if the penultimate song had a little more of this "thrill" described by me.

Still, this is a great value. I have a soft spot for bands who drink seventies influences so much as Sky Architect has not gifted me with a masterpiece somehow won me over. So give a reasonable 4 star rating.

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Send comments to voliveira (BETA) | Report this review (#986514)
Posted Wednesday, June 26, 2013 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 3.5 stars again fully desearved

The natural follow up to the worthy previous album is A Dying Man's Hymn released in 2011. With this album Sky Architect established as one of the most intresting, open minded prog bands from today. Compose and played on same coordonates as their first rlease, A Dying Man's Hymn is a winner for sure. I like this one little more then debute. The melodic neo/symphonic arrangements combined with little more edgy parts, are quite enjoyble and very complicated gaian. gentle Giant comes in mind on lots of passages, quirky as hell, The Campfire Ghost's Song or Melody of the Air - Explicatiofor example are killer, long elaborated music with great potential and impressive duels between musicians. The music of Sky Architect is no easy listning, and as I said is needed repeted listnings to fully appreciat their talent and implication in both albums. Quite great band that for sure needs a wider recognition. Again fine art work. 3.5 stars.

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Send comments to b_olariu (BETA) | Report this review (#993681)
Posted Tuesday, July 09, 2013 | Review Permalink

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