I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Skyward - "Seeking the Heavens"
Self released EP, 2018
From: United Kingdom
Genre: Melodic Power Metal
4 tracks, run time: 21:14
Skyward is a newly formed five-piece melodic power metal band from London, England, who have just independently released their debut four-song EP, Seeking the Heavens. The band's keyboardist, Fabio Garau, is also a member of UK-based fantasy metallers Grimgotts, whose recent release, Lions of the Sea, was reviewed by me on this very site a few months ago. I guess Fabio must've liked that article, since he was nice enough to send me a copy of his new project to review as well. It's always a privilege to get sneak peeks of new stuff, and such generosity always gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling in my metal-nerd heart of steel. So hey, thanks, Fabio! I tip my hat to you!
I'll be the first to admit that I lost track of goings-on in the symphonic/progressive/ power metal arena years ago. I was a big fan of the genre in the late '90s when Italian and German bands like Rhapsody, Blind Guardian, Labyrinth, Angel Dust and Domine pretty much owned the style, but by the time DragonForce rose to prominence, around the turn of the century, I'd already moved on to other things.
Nowadays, I generally prefer my metal less polished and more "meat and potatoes," but I can still appreciate a good classy power metal record if it's done well. Based on these four tracks, I'd say that Skyward definitely have the goods to compete in this crowded field. Fifteen to twenty years ago, this would be the kind of album that would've guaranteed you a record deal with a label like Noise Records or Limb Music (does Limb even exist anymore?), but nowadays bands like Skyward are keeping it real, doin' it for themselves, and soldiering on independently. For that they have my respect!
"Seeking the Heavens"
"Seeking the Heavens" Track-By-Track Review
Skyward keep things rolling at a nice speedy clip throughout the four tracks on Seeking the Heavens. There's no messing about with long, moody cinematic "intros" or spoken word bits, or endless soloing/noodling. Listening to this EP you get the feeling that the boys simply plugged in and said "Right then, now let's get down to business!" The EP's runtime, just a hair over twenty minutes, is just long enough to hold your interest, and short enough that you'll be wanting to hit the "replay" button when it's over to give it another spin.
Seeking the Heavens' title track gets the EP off to a proper melodic-power-metal start, kicking off with a swirling mix of high-speed keyboard flourishes and guitar riffage, topped off by a high pitched "WAAAAAA-AAAAAA!" from vocalist, Hector Clark. Hector has a decent voice that suits this material, reminding me a bit of former Helloween screamer Michael Kiske (it seems that Michael is the blueprint that most power-metal singers still follow to this day). "Open Your Eyes" is next and it's a speedy, classy number that gives guitarist, Ben Skingley, ample time to show off his abilities.
At just over six minutes, "Alive" is the longest track on the disc, but it never wears out its welcome. In fact, it may be the heaviest Skyward song thus far, with an absolutely soaring chorus and some nice, crunchy sections during the verses. Bassist Ruben Dario and drummer Ivo Yordanov's machine-precise rhythms during this track (and throughout the EP) keep Skyward's motor moving and provide the rest of the band with a rock solid foundation to build upon.
"The New Kingdom," which closes out the EP, is my favorite track of the bunch, showcasing Skyward at their most "epic." This one would do Iron Maiden or Rhapsody proud. I was air-guitaring along to the chugging riffs on this one while listening to Hector belting for all he's worth. You can practically see him striking the classic Bruce Dickinson "foot on the monitor" stage pose as he wails away!
"The New Kingdom"
Summing It Up
Skyward's Facebook page says that their influences include "Power Quest, Rhapsody, Blind Guardian, Virgin Steele, Saxon, Galneryus, X Japan, Judas Priest, Rainbow, Axel Rudi Pell, Twilight Force, Dragonforce, Gloryhammer, Dio, Riot, Stratovarius, Helloween, Cacophony, Manowar," which should tell you pretty much everything you need to know. If you're a fan of any of the above-mentioned bands, then you will most likely dig Skyward as well. They're certainly not re-writing the symphonic power metal book by any means, but Seeking the Heavens is professional sounding, quality stuff from a young band who are just getting started.
The band's FB also says that they are currently rehearsing for their first-ever live show, which is coming up in London in May of 2018. Good luck, fellas!
Interested parties can download the Seeking the Heavens EP (or order an actual CD, if you're a collector type like me) from Skyward's Bandcamp page, or check them out on Facebook or YouTube for further info. Thanks again to the band for sending this one along to me, you're off to an impressive start and I will be keeping an eye on your progress in the future! Keep it metal!
© 2018 Keith Abt