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


Sky Architect


Heavy Prog

3.62 | 173 ratings

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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.

m2thek | 2/5 |


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