"Excavations of the mind" is the excellent debut album of Sky Architect - a collection of 8 fresh, quirky, fairly original prog rock pieces that will capture and hold your interest for the whole 51 minutes of the album. The young Dutch quintet is very talented (guitarist Wabe Wieringa and keyboardist/pianist Rik Van Honk deserve a special mention), and – which matters most - very capable of putting their talent at the service of creating beautiful melodies and supporting them with complex but tasteful arrangements.
The highlights are on the opening four-part epic " Deep Chasm " – where Sky Architect are at their best both in terms of technical skills and ideas. Charter and Changeling (Part I and Part III respectively) work well as intros to the lengthier Chime (Part II) and Chasm (Part IV). I find Part II - Chime particularly beautiful and rich of intriguing melodies and well-orchestrated dynamics. The remaining four songs are, in my opinion, a step below. The title track is built around an interesting contrast between acoustic parts and electric blasts. " Russian Wisdom " has a quirky, folkish charm. " Gyrocopter " is a semi-instrumental outro – a sort of final display of the skills of the band. The only let-down is maybe the long " The Grey Legend ": slightly repetitive and chaotic, it drags for 12+ minutes of crunchy guitars, lengthy solos and not very inspired melodies.
If I have to point out one negative aspect of this nevertheless outstanding debut, it is the lyrics: the concept behind the album is fascinating (a man on the verge of losing his sanity of mind – and gradually losing the grip), and I would have expected more than a bunch of confused, obscure lines of text in support to the story. Another negative point of the album is the production: I suspect that the rough mixes are in part intentional to give the album its vintage sound. Still, sometimes this goes a bit too far – like when complex keyboard textures (sometimes even solos) end up completely buried in a loud mix of drums and bass.
Overall, this is a brilliant debut album, highly recommended to prog lovers – this is a must-have if you enjoy classic prog rock or modern European neo-prog (groups such as Beardfish, Pain of Salvation, and, to a lesser extent, Flower Kings and even Porcupine Tree often come to mind while listening to "Excavations of the mind") .
Sky Architect presents their eclectic and heavy brand of progressive rock in their first album, Excavations of the Mind, through Galileo Records. This young five-piece Dutch band has released in 2010 an album recorded in 2008, which showcases the band skills and love for progressive rock. For me, they manage to take what is good about prog-rock and present it in a modern fashion, style and sound (not that I don’t like the so-called “retro-prog” groups).
In Excavation Of The Mind, Sky Architect have created a seamless musical mélange of the heavy and delicate, the fierce and melodic, the power and subtle. The albums songs are made up of excellent and well-executed musical ideas, a satisfying equilibrium between heavier sections and calmer grounds. The songs are driven by the aggressiveness of the electric guitar on one side and the delicacy of the keyboards and acoustic guitar on the other. The music can be almost metal-heavy at one point and then calm down and turn into a refined acoustic passage and then continue into a keyboards-drenched prog extravaganza.
The band writes multi-section songs, with those opposing each other in tempo and spirit, but complement each other very well. The songwriting is balanced between creating beautiful harmonic choruses and energetic and high-paced instrumental passages (such as in Deep Chasm pt. 2). Indeed, I feel there is a well-balanced instrumental to song ratio. In fact I feel that their instrumental side is their stronger side. The musical passages in The Grey Legend are a delight to listen to and wonderfully executed. They never veer off for too long from the main theme and always have a way of connecting all the song’s various parts nicely together.
With the albums two opening pieces (Deep Chasm and The Grey Legend) being quite epic in scope, the band shows its capabilities in writing shorter but as compelling songs in the catchy Russian Wisdom. Even here, in a mere 5 minutes they manage to create various different sounding sections and fuse them with impressive ease. The closing track, Gyrocopter is too a short piece, an intense and powerful tune that I’d love to have heard developed more.
I do feel that the music at certain points would have benefitted from a more powerful and deeper voice alongside the soft voice of Tom Luchies, which otherwise does a good job.
Production-wise, the album sounds somewhat “murky”, which may have been intentional and actually fits the music and gives it a rougher edge; but at times there’s too much of it and a clearer background would have treated better the melody at hand.
Personally, I’d love to hear them continue with this ratio of instrumental-to-song ration and with this level of heaviness. The heaviest song here is probably the title track, in particular towards the end, but even there it doesn’t linger on too long and they manage to balance it out with the acoustic guitar and keyboards supporting the electric guitar solo. However, out of curiosity (and this is not a criticism of the album) I’d be very interested in hearing them playing a less heavy and dense style, a more refined and delicate; given the talent here, I think it would be an interesting and rewarding path for the band to take.
All in all, this is a remarkable debut album and Sky Architect already have their sound and style, which will only get better and refined from now on. I look forward to their next album.