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Sky Architect - A Billion Years Of Solitude CD (album) cover


Sky Architect


Heavy Prog

3.94 | 172 ratings

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Symphonic Team
5 stars 'A Billion Years of Solitude' is an album I was drawn to having been so impressed with the masterpiece debut 'Excavations of the Mind", an album that I hailed as one of the greatest of 2010, a labyrinthine musical journey that merges so many styles into its 50 minutes of prog excess. I was in awe of the virtuoso musicianship and no holds barred inventiveness throughout by Sky Architect. So I was really looking forward to more of the same on this recent release, a followup to 'A Dying Man's Hymn' in 2011, that I somehow missed. The lineup of virtuosos consist of Tom Luchies on vocals, guitars, Wabe Wieringa on guitars, Guus van Mierlo on bass, Christiaan Bruin on drums, Rik van Honk on keyboards, Mellotron, Grand piano, Hammond organ, Rhodes piano, Clavinet, Moog synth, Wurlitzer, flugelhorn, trumpet, and Maartje Dekker on the wineglasses.

Again, the sound is similar to Riverside, Haken or Pain of Salvation with smatterings of King Crimson, and Dream Theater. The jazz fusion influences are melded beautifully with metal riffs and gorgeous symphonic passages. The shimmering Hammond staccato crashes are reminiscent of modern prog on the heavier side such as Riverside. You really feel it on 'Wormholes (The Inevitable Collapse Of The Large Hadron Collider). The time sig changes on this track alone are awesome. It moves from a heavy guitar riff to some quirky jazzy guitar and squiggly little effects, impossible to describe really. Then it launches full tilt at ramming speed with a wall of guitars and keys over a relentless hammering drum and bass. The album actually starts with a brilliant epic clocking 18 minutes, 'The Curious One', and this is exceptional by any standards with spacey blistering guitar, manic keyboards, and King Crimsonish basslines all wrapped in one neat little package. 'Tides' is another great track opening with heavy distorted guitar riff and Pink Floyd verses, crystal clean vocals and I love how the riffs collide with the odd musical layers, sounding delightfully off sync. Some nice whimsical flute sections blend into a concoction of noisy overlayed keys and that guitar riff.

This is followed by piano intro and creepy effects on 'Elegy of a Solitary Giant', encompassing a wonderful guitar melody embellished by jaunty keyboards. It switches to fragmented tempo and builds into the first verse of gentle vocals and spacey atmospherics. I love how the metal guitar crashes through so brutally, and the whole psychedelic vibe is glorious. An ethereal section of horns and echoing voices leads into a piano solo, beautiful on its own with a lonely solitude. Then the heavy guitars break through with an incredible power and catchy riff over a fractured signature. There is a screaming freak out of feedback on guitar and brilliant layered lead riffs moving to the next piano solo. A spacey ambience dominates that has a dreamy lulling effect on the senses, reminiscent of the intro to 'Shine On'. The exquisite harmonies are well executed, and cap off a brilliant track that ranks as one of the masterpieces from the band.

This is followed by a shorter track, less than 3 minutes, 'Jim's Ride to Hell'. It opens with slow doomy building lead guitar and then unleashes into fuzzed guitar riffing over a spacey keyboard. Some jaunty blasts of guitar, strong percussion, and an infectious organ phrase dominate and then the instrumental comes to a conclusion. The musicianship is stunning on 'Revolutions', 8 minutes of prog inventiveness, opening with a catchy keyboard hook and some outstanding lead guitar soloing. The bass and drum rhythm complement each other with tight precision as a disordered tempo locks in. It settles into chiming guitar and the welcome return of the vocals. The lyrics are intriguing 'spare us, for us to understand that if we were to last, we'd have to rise and make a stand, we will overcome, we shall be as one spirit, revolution must save us from them so we can never last.' The lead break has a majestic quality and competes with some off beat drum and bass rhythms with shimmering Hammond, and an extended final burst of prog; simply outstanding music by any standard.

The album ends with another epic 'Traveller's Last Candle', running out to 12 and a half minutes. The track meanders along dreamily with ambient passages blurred into heavier guitar treatments and reflective vocals, until we get to the 5:50 mark when an instrumental passage takes over. The guitars are a powerful presence but there is always the keyboard layers and the darker tense moments are balanced with light melancholia. A nice touch is the sound of wineglasses played by Maartje Dekker. Towards the end of the track it moves into odd time sig and a soundscape of guitars with the epic finale feel heard on many a concept album over the years. The feel reminded me of the end of The Beatles' 'I Want You (She's So Heavy)', with loud screaming guitars, distortion and effects. It comes crashing to its conclusion capping off an incredible album.

Sky Architect are a band that somehow encompass everything that I love about prog and in a similar way to the debut, as soon as it is over I immediately want to hear the whole album from the start to end again. The powerful riffs and inventive time sig changes, along with lashings of lead guitar soloing and blasts of quivering Hammond really make this an exceptional listening experience. It is a rare thing to love an album at first listen but I was absolutely floored with this masterful album; from the moment it began it had me hooked. Sky Architect are an outstanding prog band that deserve to receive more exposure in the prog community as they are far superior than a lot of the more popular prog artists out there.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |


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