For all of the hate that melodic death metal tends to get, it really is a diverse subgenre. You can go the Ensiferum route and throw in folk elements; alternatively, you can do what Children of Bodom used to do with neoclassical influences and create something interesting that way. Perhaps the most impactful way to create melodeath, however, is to take influence from Insominum, who create some of the most emotionally charged music in existence. This sound is largely what UK melodic death metal newcomers Countless Skies hope to emulate. Their self-titled first EP is an excellent demonstration in the band’s abilities, and shows a lot of potential for the future. To be fair to the band, the entire EP doesn’t just sound like Insomnium; however, that’s when they are at their best. The most forceful moments on the release are when the double bass pounds away at a steady 8th or 16th note beat as the rest of the band follows along. The first track, “Ethereal” is a great example of this. At one point, clean vocals come in over top of this charging rhythm and provide a gripping melody. This is directly followed by a spaced-out section where the harsh vocals return and everything except the drums slow down a bit. These sorts of sections are very prevalent across the entire release.
The band also isn’t afraid to slow things down for tamer, interlude-like moments. This is where the bass comes to the forefront of the music and makes an impact. Another common thing Countless Skies does on this EP is the way they use melodic riffs for more intense sections. This occurs on both “Penance” and “Everlast”, and helps differentiate these tracks from the other two. Unfortunately there is one more riff style that Countless Skies relies on. In both of the first two tracks, the band tries to use some more unique rhythms (particularly in the verses) to let the guitars stand out. While this effort is appreciated, it isn’t all that effective. The sections end up coming off as unfulfilling because they don’t allow keyboards to provide a nice backdrop to the rest of the music. Nevertheless, they don’t ruin the songs because the band is quick to return to their more emotional pounding.
A big point of contention for some will be the inclusion of clean vocals on this release. Singing is becoming seemingly more popular than ever in melodeath, and it has had varying results. The biggest problem many of these bands face is that they just don’t have a good clean vocalist. In Countless Skies’ case, this isn’t an issue, and this is why the clean vocals work. The aforementioned section in “Ethereal” is a great example of how the band can seamlessly switch between singing and growls with no negative impact on the music. The only slight complaint I can levy against the singing is that on “Reverence”, the first half of the song is a little too focused on clean vocals (though this is partly because the track starts out quite a bit tamer than the other three songs). The track builds and explodes into a more brutal affair as it progresses, so it is effective in that sense, but it would be nice if the song has a bit less emphasis on singing.
Despite some specific issues I had with this EP, the rest of the release is an incredible experience in a style that hasn’t grabbed my attention the way other subgenres of metal have. For that reason, not only is “Countless Skies” a worthwhile purchase, but it also shows a band that will definitely be worth following in the future.
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4.2/5 or 84%.
Written by Scott