Skyblood - Skyblood

Skyblood cover
Napalm Records
Skyblood’s eponymous debut represents what Mats Leven (Yngwie Malmsteen, Therion, Candlemass and in general more bands than you could shake a stick at) had been doing on his own, in his downtime from recording and performing. Not only he does sing here but he also seems to be performing most of the instruments himself (with some guests that are unconfirmed at present).
For those aware of Mats vast discography and his more exotic forays – Skyblood won’t come as a huge surprise, but still the eclectic and varied elements and styles it incorporates, might send the classicists and puritans into a hissy fit. But so be it, I don’t think that when artists express themselves through a solo project, are supposed to please anyone, other than themselves. Call it vanity project, if the music is near and dear to your heart, you simply have to put it out and that might be the case with this release.
“Skyblood Manifesto” is a two-minute cinematic/symphonic/creepy intro that lingers on a little longer than one would expect and leads on, via a weird overdriven vocal to the empathy overflowing hard world rock “The Voice” a song that shows a universal social conscience and consciousness. A worldview that seems to care about what’s going on around the world and a rallying cry for enlightenment… and a revolution against apathy. Vocally, Mats goes back and forth between a lower, almost growl – as low as a tenor can go, to normal Levenisms, during the chorus. Its melodies are a little hard to fathom at first, but if you open up your mind a little, they are endearing and pretty catchy for that matter. I especially love how harmonies seem to follow up the rumbling guitars and bass towards the end.
“The Not Forgotten” is rhythmically busy, but its strong vocal lines, permeate it. It almost has the darkness of your average Therion tune, without aping them. I call it dark hard rock, with tinges of prog and smart vocal arrangements.
“Wake up To the Truth” is really interesting and smart with the intonation on the percussion, making it sound rather unpredictable and avant-garde, in a way. Upon it, Leven goes almost “musical” with a varied vocal approach and even a rather impressive solo for good measure.
“Once Invisible” feels like a twisted, pissed off dark rocker, which is used as a purge that should in theory bring elation by airing the frustrations of people, who have been silently keeping things to themselves, remaining invisible. No more.
“One Eye for an Eye” begins as a salacious gothic rocker, which seems to go into a darker territory for the chorus and then back and forth reaching a mild climax.
“Out of the Hollow” begins in an avant-garde way, but the slowly bellowed and kind of despairing vocals that drip with the bile of purged anger and regret, are bizarrely moving. One can trust Leven to come up with nice, vocal melodies that translate into sufficiently cool choruses, while his verses and riffs vary in terms of inspiration.
“For or Against” is a strange, symphonic piece, where the vocals follow timid soft keys throughout, all moods imaginable, with a melodic playfulness almost bridging moods diametrically opposed.
Last but not least, “Le Vnimeux” (The Venomous/spiteful) isn’t a francophone track, but a slow, melodic, almost acoustic track, with interesting instrumentations on top and a venomous Leven that goes from high to low and back again, probably one of the most impressive tracks on the album, both vocally and inspiration wise… it literally gave me goosebumps.
In a world where 4/4 power metal with costumes seems to become a norm, the mad max nomad like effort, feels like rain to the desert... very needed but unlikely to change the status quo… but art has to happen, so I am happy to have encountered this renegade’s curio(us) release, just for the sake of it.