When it comes to progressive metal, Britain somehow doesn’t come to mind as the place to find many of those, with the only recognisable name being probably Haken. To come across Sky Empire, therefore, seems like a lucky find. With the addition of one of the prominent singers on the prog metal stage, no less than Jeff Scott Soto, their upcoming second album The Shifting Tectonic Plates of Power – Part One certainly sounds like a promising release.
And so it is. This album feels like a discovery for a prog metal fan used to looking for such music in the direction of the US and the Scandinavian peninsula.
With the risk of oversimplifying things, I’d say this may well be the UK version of Dream Theater. It certainly sounds as epic, deep, profound, as well as melodically and instrumentally elite to be put under the same category. Where things get slightly different is the vocal territory, as Soto doesn’t belong to the myriad of sky high tenors like James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Tommy Karevik (Seventh Wonder, Kamelot) and Timo Kotipelto (Stratovarius). His voice is more on the power aggressive side and it takes some adjustment to see this fit into a progressive metal canvas like this one. Needless to say, it works perfectly: let’s not forget he wrote history with Sons of Apollo, one of the obvious gems in the genre.
The CD starts by diving straight into it, with a nearly 15-minute long instrumental, which you’d expect to find halfway into an album – as if to make a statement that this is going to be some proper progressive metal. Dotted with curvy riffs that would do justice to guitar master like Michael Romeo, it reminds me of the theatrics of his work with Symphony X: a feeling enhanced midway through the track by the symphonic orchestration like the one you’d hear on SX’s albums, promptly followed by curvy piano play and Dream Theater-like instrumentation. There is one more instrumental thrown into the mix: “The Last Days of Planet Fantasy”, which feels more on the heavier prog side while still keeping the composition varied and complicated: signs of good progressive music.
There are other long tracks, too: “Wayfarer” at 10:25 (boasting some beautiful lyrical episodes) and “House of Cards” at 16:20 minutes, which gives this release a serious epic taste.
The theatrical atmosphere continues in the second track where Soto makes an entrance in full power. Within the course of the song, there are plenty of subtle references to the good stuff you’ll hear by bands of high altitude, so credit given where it’s definitely due.
In “Into My Father’s Eyes”, you’d nearly expect to hear LaBrie’s voice: so much of the stylistics of this track are typical for Dream Theater.
While the album is rich in Dream Theater and Symphony X vibes, it sounds like a complete and well rounded piece of work that deserves plenty of praise. It does go outside the box, too, with some jazzy/prog rock elements, so it may appeal to a wider audience. Worth giving them a go for sure, and it would be interesting if they can deliver all this mastership live.
- Review by Angelina Pelova.
- The Shifting Tectonic Plates of Power is released via ViciSolum Productions on 27th October 2023.
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1. Prolegomenon: The Encomium of Creation
2. On The Shores of Hallowed Haven
3. The Emissary
4. Into My Father’s Eyes
6. The Last Days of Planet Fantasy
7. House of Cards