I’m writing this review hot off the heels of a post last week where we premiered the album in full. That’s how much I love Glow and how much I want people to listen to it. Why? Because my relationship with melodeath was never the easiest one. Kind of like with power metal, there are elements in the genre which I absolutely adore, elements which on to the parts of my personality which yearn for the grandiose, for the emotionally magnificent. But there are parts of both genres that have kept me from devoting myself to them as much as I’d like. Their obsession with repetition and plain stubbornness astounds me. Every genre has tropes and many genres fall into a repetitive rut but there’s nothing quite like listening to dozens of melodeath albums and hearing the same riff over and over again. I mean, nothing like it but doing the same with a dozen with a power metal albums.
For Countless Skies this feeling of staleness is completely irrelevant. It’s not that if you’d break down Glow, you’d suddenly discover earth-shattering innovations to the melodeath genre. The guitars go big or go home; sweeping leads and riffs are the order of the day. The drums are modern in their tone and production; they sound full and present, anchoring the middle of the mix. The abrasive vocals possess that sort of timber that melodeath has been flirting with since the dawning of the genre in the Gothenburg scene, a high-pitch scream that’s not quite unlike black metal but that doesn’t channel the same coldness of that sister genre. And while the clean vocals are certainly unique in their excellence (it’s rare to find vocalists who can pull off the range they display here), their mode is not unknown to the realms of the genre.
But when you put all of these different parts together in the specific way that Countless Skies have done, you get something truly singular and special. Here’s an example: a track like “Summit”, being an energetic second track that’s supposed to solidify the album’s sound for the listener, would usually lead with either the abrasive vocals or the clean, operatic ones. But, instead, it opens with choirs. They channel the clean vocals for sure but they’re quite different; by blending so many vocal tracks, a vibe not unlike a Devin Townsend track is created. Then, where other tracks might introduce a quieter, folk-tinged segment to contrast the explosive intro and display the band’s quieter, more vulnerable side, blast-beats, a fast guitar riff, and plenty of strings accompany the visceral, abrasive vocals.
The epic tone and theme of the album is maintained but in so many different ways and approaches. We know the basic tools being yielded but they’re building something we haven’t quite seen before, an album that keeps laying summit after summit (get it) of melodeath excellence without sounding like all of the other releases in the genre. Want more examples? I mentioned this on the premiere post before, but “Glow”, the three-parter track that closes the album, has no business being as clever as it is. From the heights of the high-pitched lead which opens it, “Part 1: Resolution” veritably plummets into the depths of the grooviest fucking riff I’ve heard in a long time. And then those synths and acoustic guitars! A specter is hunting “Glow”, the specter of Opeth and by Jove, it makes for a great intro to this progressive and marvelous album closer.
I could go on. No, really, I could. But, instead, let me close off this review by mentioning one last thing. If you’ve followed my writing on the blog for the last few years, you know there’s little I love more than when the music on an album fits the cover art. This is undoubtedly the case with Glow; the russet clouds framing the blazing sun, the figure staring out across the ever-expanding horizon, the sheer size that’s emblazoned all over this album’s cover, is just the perfect backdrop to the music on it. It’s Glow in a nutshell, in an image worth all of the words in this review and more. It invites you to step off the edge and be swept away by the epic winds of melodeath. Do you accept?
Oh, and one last thing: Willowtip Records is un-fuckable with. Don’t even try it.
Glow was released on November 6th. Please buy it via the Bandcamp page above. I’m begging you.