Written by: TL on 16/10/2009 17:14:29

Okay so here's something you don't hear every day. It's my first run-in with Swedish metallers Skyfire, but judging from "Esoteric", their fourth LP, these guys mix so many different genres of metal into their expression, that they're unusually hard to capture under the label of any single sub-genre. Good on them I say, and interesting for, because this article will then become just as much of a test of my ability to come up with fitting references as it will be a review, much to the entertainment of more seasoned metallers than myself I'm sure, who might either ridicule my failure or marvel at my dumb luck in the comments, depending on how I do.

First track on offer is called "Deathlike Overture", and surprise surprise, it's a completely pointless and uninteresting piece of symphonic music, led by piano and backed by horns and strings. I automatically assume that this will feel so disconnected from the metal coming up, that I make little note of this track. Surprisingly then, that the first real track, "Esoteric" also opens with a catchy piano tune before jumping into epic riffage of the neo-classical heavy metal type. Think Trivium's new album for two seconds, but no longer, because the song jumps into a gallop and proceeds to change tempo up and down, changing between either a catchy, menacing main riff, and more of the blazing neo-classical stuff. That wouldn't be so surprising if the piano didn't maintain a demand for your attention just under the guitars, softening up the expression, while the vocals do the exact opposite as they are growled with traditional death metal ferocity. And then the horns and strings also come back in, bringing a choir with them for the hell of it, and before the song is over, I'm dazed and confused wondering what just hit me?

With as much symphony and OTT blazing riffage in there though, I initially think that someone threw a harsh vocalist the way of either Fairyland or Virgin Steele, but alas, as it turns out over the next couple of tracks, that's not all there is to account for, not even close. "Rise And Decay" starts off similarly to the prior track, but quickly the speed is multiplied to "almost Dragonforce", while the symphonic elements and the piano still provide depth to the expression. "Let The Old World Burn" doesn't let up on the tempo, rather it just sports some more mean riffage, making it sound more thrashy, and again bringing Trivium to my mind. To be frank though, with the vocals being the way they are, bands like Children Of Bodom and Insomnium are indeed closer matches. "Darkness Descending" sees the symphonic instruments provide a more sinister atmosphere, and as the tempo is polarized between full on blasting and a "hell is marching" kind of pace, the song conjures up an evil mood that calls Moonspell's latest record to my mind. "Seclusion" however, goes in an entirely opposite direction, sporting the most power/speed metal sound yet, again making me think of Fairyland, except with screams and growls.

That's half the album in description right there, and as you might have understood, there's a shitload of things to listen for, hidden all over the songs on this baby, and even if you can't be bothered to do that, the songs are still straight forward and energetic enough to be enjoyed casually as well. In fact, that could end up becoming a problem for Skyfire, as events occur so rapidly in their songs, that you probably won't notice half of them on your way through the album, thus failing to appreciate them if you're not paying attention. That and the fact that the vocals, despite sounding believable and proficient enough, still aren't quite versatile or well enough articulated, to measure up to the immensely layered instrumentals. Still though, intelligible vocals were never the focus of metal now was it? Didn't think so, so if you'd like to taste what a metal-cocktail tastes like when it includes almost every liquor from the bar and is fed to you fast, like through a pressurized beer-bong, then I think "Esoteric" will prove an interesting listen to you.

Download: Esoteric, Darkness Descending
For The Fans Of: Children Of Bodom, Eternal Tears Of Sorrow, Insomnium

Release Date 18.09.2009
Pivotal Rockordings

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