Solid Sky is an Austrian progressive metal/rock band that was founded in 2015 by music students Gideon Clark (vocals) and Valentin Walch (guitar). After many lineup changes in the rhythm section, a solid formation was established with bassist Lukas Felician Krasel and drummer Jakob Johannsen. This solid lineup marks their first non-single release with the ‘Frames’ extended play, which features strong influence from progressive music giants like Karnivool, Tool and Opeth, as well as greats from futures passed such as King Crimson.
The record spares no time and jumps straight into the action in ‘Monochrome Life’; which begins with bombastic drumming and staccato playing on guitar and bass which gives a dramatic timbre similar to that of classic 70’s Rush and Genesis. The chaos is contrasted when the dynamics settle down into a more gentle atmosphere in the verse which leads to the entrance of lead vocals from Gideon Clark. Clark’s vocals on this track sounds like a modern mix of Maynard James Keenan, Rivers Comou and James LaBrie, which contribute positively to the music’s progressiveness and listenability. Lyrics and music gives rise to dreariness, perhaps a reflection of depression that one feels. Much like the feelings mental illness cause, lyrics speak of real struggles one feels in dark times, but when the bridge enters, we hear a turning point. Chugging bass lines and guitar riffs accompany vocals speaking about taking control of one’s own life rather than life taking over your control (“So one night you decide this is your life…”) and then the uplifting feelings after the fact (“…and so the colours rise within your eyes, the spark to change your monochrome life”) It is very ambitious for a band’s debut song on their first professional recording to tackle such a serious social issue such as mental illness, but Solid Sky follows a brilliant and optimistic approach which will no doubt pay off in attracting dedicated fans. The more I listen to this song, the more I enjoy it; which is no doubt a sign of a great start to this recording as well as Solid Sky’s career in progressive music.
‘Thoughts Collide’ opens with a dissonant atmosphere, bringing progressive music fans back to the likes of King Crimson and Mars Volta. The song follows a similar structure to the previous track, but harmonically ‘Thoughts Collide’ is more complex and interesting. Lyrically, it seems a somewhat similar theme is featured – one that relates to mental struggles, but in a more general sense. My interpretation leans toward the loss of a loved one, and how one must deal with the dissonance of not having someone who has always been there so far in one’s life. One difference is that the current track does not resolve lyrically like ‘Monochrome Life’ did, perhaps alluding to how we never really get over losing someone we love Once again, the music complements the lyrics quite well – the use of dissonant intervals on guitar and discordant harmony from the bass. Lyrics once again tackles very real and human issues we all face at some point, which contributes very well to the music’s universality. As a result the listener is rewarded with yet another intriguing and strong track.
Track three, ‘Can’t Sleep’, perhaps my favorites on the ‘Frames’ EP, opens with soft swelling and harmonics before getting hit with an earworm guitar riff from guitarist Valentin Walch. Right away, a lyrical theme of addiction is evident, but the way Clark subtly displays the very common and not-so-often-talked-about the addiction of social media is prolific, using personification to describe one’s struggles in the toxic relationships with our beloved technology like cell phones. Tension and anxiety rises musically to further boost the message of the lyrical theme. The instrumental sections greatly show the musical cohesion between the members of the band. Perhaps the strongest track heard so far, an even deeper glimpse is seen into the vast potential of Solid Sky – musically and lyrically. The commonality of taking a dark theme and turning it on its side in a positive light is featured again lyrically as the grip of addiction loses control over the individual, who steps outside of their addictive shelter and takes control over their life. There is so much of interest for a keen listener to look out for: the interplay between the rhythm and lead guitar tracks; the complex relationship between the bass and drums; the layered harmony vocals in the chorus; and the badass instrumental section just passed the halfway mark in the song (seriously! Listen to those drums and the elegant guitar solo!). As I listen to this song more and more, I notice more and more subtleties in guitar mix; you really see the chops and musicality from Walch. Guitar players will find this song to be a standout.
Bass lovers rejoice in ‘Hands Bound’ as Solid Sky’s low end finally enters the spotlight with Lukas Felician opening the track with a syncopated bass riff as well as a perpetually interesting and driving bassline throughout the song. Yet again we have another very strong track with great listenability and features the strong rhythmic cohesion within the band. I interpret the lyrics to be about the inevitable – death; but specifically how loved ones and friends can often follow a path that will not lead to any good, only that of self destruction. It is the protagonist in the story that attempts to help the one with their “hands bound”. This time, we do not see a happy ending like in the previous tracks, as the bounded individual takes the step over the edge. Musically, I feel like something is missing – perhaps a solo from either bass, guitar, or drums. There seems to be ample opportunity for an excellent instrumental showcase, one that I am certain the fellas are more than capable of. I am definitely excited to see how the the band grow musically and instrumentally as well as lyrically and conceptually.
The final track, ‘Silence’, co written by drummer Jakob Johannsen shows off what a powerhouse of a drummer he is, and that is awesome. This track makes great use of dynamics, which makes sense lyrically which talk about the horrors of war and trauma and confusion associated with it. Johannsen’s drumming shows a great jazz influence in the verses, which accumulates with a crescendo when the chorus hits. “I believe there can be silence inside those restless minds” Clark sings, perhaps indicating that beneath the evil of war, there was a peaceful silence and stillness; the motif of contrast appears once again. Walch plays some very captivating guitars riffs in this song, which I am excited to hear more of in the future. Like the opening track, Monochromic Life, we have another heavy timbre, climaxing in the chorus. There are also some killer guitar licks here that will pique the interest of any listener. As the last track of the EP, silence is a great way to end an album that ranges all the way from quiet to blasting loud, thus the song order was a smart choice.
All and all, Solid Sky presents a fantastic debut into the mesmerizing and gripping genre that is progressive metal/rock. The EP features lyrics that address relevant social issues such as addiction and self-sabotage, as well as accompanying music that further boosts the potent power of the works of Gideon Clark. Instrumentally, we see a band that has very strong rhythmic cohesion – a skill that is incredibly hard to master in such a genre; furthermore, each member contributes to composition and sheds a glimpse of light into their music virtuosity. The EP gets better and better as the tracks progress, with songs such as “Can’t Sleep” and “Silence” standing out as key tracks. There are occasional moments where I think the band can go further, something I greatly look forward to as their career progresses; some of these include expanding Clarks vocal range into new territories, more frequent guitar soloing from Walch, further rhythmic complexity from Johannsen and Felician; and maybe even adding a 5th element of keyboards. Despite these recommendations, Solid Sky makes a brilliant effort in officially enter the world of Progressive Music, one in which they will certainly thrive in. I cannot wait to see what Solid Sky has in store for their next release.
Check out Solid Sky on social media as well as on Bandcamp: https://solidsky.bandcamp.com/releases
Written by Nik MacDonald