One of the great things about music, especially metal in its infinite subgenres, is how personal it can be on a situational level. Be it a physical environment or a state of mind, we create certain playlists that apply to certain situations and there really can be no substitute. Enter Countless Skies. The latest effort (and debut full length) from the English group, titled New Dawn, is an uplifting barrage of melodic death metal that forces an audience to reach a new level of existence. From the imagery to the music, it both inspires and creates a peaceful energy that is extremely difficult to turn away from.
Pitched as melodic death metal, you can certainly hear some influences from northern Europe early on in New Dawn. Leads and percussion not unlike Insomnium fill the space around us quite clearly, allowing the album to grow in a very Scandinavian way as we work through the opening half of the album, concluding with “Solace”. But with some of the longer, more ambitious tracks, you can perhaps hear some atmospheric black metal components as well. A bit subtle, to be sure, but present enough to make the lengthier tracks develop nicely without feeling forced.
All this said, we go back to the underlying theme of Countless Skies’ music, and it’s a theme that I personally adore. From the incredible colors of the album art to the piercingly clean leads that just sweep this sound — and the associated listener — upward, New Dawn, at its very essence, is a stunning display of mesmerizing beauty and an appreciation of solitude. It celebrates the growth that can come from isolation and the discovery of the self, reminding us that only through challenge can there be growth. I said earlier that certain styles of music deserve different settings, and this is one absolutely crafted to accompany the peaceful bliss found on an isolate mountaintop in the summer sun. Yes, the lyrics are filled with more clichés than you could ever hope for, especially in the likes of daybreak (“The Night is Always Darkest Before the Break of Dawn”) and later in the closing “Return”. But here it’s alright. From the imagery right down to the liner notes and everything in between, there’s no mystery as to what Countless Skies is after. Their intentions are reemphasized in every way imaginable, but due to its overall feel-good energy, it never truly feels overdone.
On a musical level you can’t help but feel inspired by the grandiosity. From the opening lines of the introductory “Aubade” through “Heroes”, the sound gallops along. Thanks to well-placed and well-executed leads and equally as engineered clean vocals (especially in the second half of the album), the sound soars in just the right moments. And all this occurs with a healthy dose of solemnity in the lyrics (also not unlike the Insomniums of the world), giving the emotions of the whole thing just a bit more texture. On the whole, the instrumental components make this extremely easy to work through with consistent enjoyment. There are some weaker moments, to be sure. For example, the opening moments of “Incendium” are almost too sharp, too clear, to the point of sounding unnatural. New Dawn is most resonating when the layered rhythms and percussion work with the leads to create a cohesive wall of sound. But when isolated, those leads are too defined, taking away from the otherwise impressive density. They sound almost overproduced relative to everything else. Every other aspect of New Dawn, however, comes together quite tastefully. Sure, it sticks to its formula, which means it can lose its effect in the latter stages of the album. But in terms of aspired energy and environment, the musicianship and production capture it perfectly.
Countless Skies is a band that simply knows what they want to create. And they prove that they know how to deliver it with New Dawn. This isn’t groundbreaking melodic death metal, but they do bring in some subtle external factors to enhance their sound enough. Both somber, yet beautiful and inspiring, New Dawn is deceptively complex in emotion, if not musically. As a result, it becomes the perfect album to isolate and get lost in. It can be thought-provoking and uplifting, all while delivering stunning melodies and rhythms that keep us entranced. Whether or not New Dawn has enough staying power to be revisited down the line is something still to be determined. But in terms of a quality, enticing listen that gives you a refreshing dose of positive energy, look no further.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”