December 16, 2020

Silent Skies is the new and exciting collaboration between Tom S. Englund, vocalist with the Swedish progressive metal masters Evergrey, and the classical pianist Vikram Shankar with Satellites being their very eagerly anticipated debut release.

Anyone with knowledge of these two great talents would have been aware that the output of the combination of their skills would be something special, beautiful and to be savoured. I think we all knew that it was not going to be a new progressive metal album or even an epic orchestral piece but expectations on what it would be were set very high, all we had to do was wait and see what sort of magic that they had produced and now the wait is over.

So, we have Tom S. Englund, the stunning rock vocalist with Evergrey and also now with the equally superb US prog metal outfit Redemption and Vikram Shankar an American pianist, multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger and producer with a love of rock, progressive, metal, classical, jazz, film scoring, pop, and folk genres. It truly does sound like a match made in heaven for an eclectic prog meets classical hybrid but they really have thrown away the scrip to produce a stark, hypnotic, cinematic and melancholic masterpiece. The work is very emotional and atmospheric and it is an album seemingly made for contemplation and is an ideal retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the everyday world we live in. England eschews the power route and instead puts everything he has into the piece with a heartfelt and searing delivery that is supreme, gorgeous and so evocative that it threatens to tear your heart from your body and leaves you emotionally drained. Shankar also plays wonderfully with such a controlled precision and he too relies on emotion rather than mercurial flair which makes the music far more effective as it is lush yet very intimate and it feels as though they are playing just for you alone. The work is mostly voice and piano although the use of sumptuous strings adds to the glamour but all are used to heighten the atmosphere, and either used to increase or decrease tension wherever necessary but all add to the soaring glory or plunges to the depths of despair that the album touches on.

The style is very much in Mark Hollis/Talk Talk territory with a hint of the wonderful and reflective moments from No-Man and Tim Bowness but this is another of those albums that you will mean different things to different people and all will hear something unique and individual. As the simple piano refrain of the opening Horizons kicks in you can tell immediately that you are in for an emotional journey and in true cinematic form the music is both beautiful and foreboding and from then you truly do ride the roller coaster of human emotion. Call it the battle between light and the dark or heaven and hell if you will but the musical tapestry that Englund and Shankar have produced is the song of humanity and a glimpse into the very human soul with all of its delights and horrors. As we all know, music has the ability to paint wonderful pictures and these two stunning musicians have produced a work of epic proportions that will whisper down the ages, quite simply, music in its most basic form does not get any more beautiful and absorbing as this.

The ten tracks are all delightful, exquisite pieces that blend seamlessly together into one glorious whole but the real surprise is the inclusion of a couple of covers. One is Distance which is an Evergrey song from the album The Storm Within which gets an amazing makeover and it is really difficult to imagine that they are the same song. Indeed, it was through this song that this project began life as Englund saw the new score (on YouTube) that Shankar had produced for the song and he decided there and then that they had to work together. The second is truly intriguing and is a cover of the Eurythmic’s Here Comes The Rain Again, a song I have always enjoyed as an example of almost perfect adult popular music. However, in the hands of Englund and Shankar it has, again, become something totally different and the new stripped down arrangement brings out so many previously unheard nuances in the song. You will get out of this quite wonderful and magnificent album what you put into it, if you only want screaming guitars and heavy metal riffs then you will seriously miss the point of this work.

The rest of us will revel in an album that is wondrous and tears at the heartstrings from start to finish. It is a wonderful listen through quality speakers and on a good pair of headphones it will take you to ecstasy and may even reduce you to tears, it is that beautiful.

Satellites track list

  1. Horizons (8:04)
  2. Endless (4:51)
  3. Dreams (4:55)
  4. Us (6:46)
  5. Solitude (6:12)
  6. Oceans (4:18)
  7. Here Comes The Rain Again (5:43)
  8. Walls (4:50)
  9. Distance (6:28)
  10.  1999 (3:36)