One of my favorite releases of 2014 was SKYLINER’S Outsiders – it had a raw and powerful feel to it and a great mix of progressive and power metal stylings that combined to produce a debut album that has stuck with me and in regular rotation over the last couple of years. Fast forward two years, and the Florida trio is back with their second album, Condition Black (October 21 on Limb Music.) This new release has a much darker feel than the first album, and the writing reflects that tone. There’s an overall theme of desperation, summed up by the only words of the opening track, “Tidal”: “To create, one must first destroy”, and the writing delivers on that promise with deep, thoughtful and at times really catchy lyrics.
Jake Becker (guitars, vocals) rips through the songs with his baritone vocals and a little bit of grit and really brings them to life. His guitar playing is very precise and driven, with some progressive flourishes rounding out the sound. Nathaniel Curtis (bass) and Benjamin Brenner (drums) provide an extremely solid rhythm corps and pace the songs perfectly. Condition Black consists of eleven tracks; the first five stand alone and build the mood of destruction. “Tidal” is an instrumental piece to open the album, followed by “Condition Black”, “Too Many Voices”, “No World Order”, and “Cages We Create”. These tracks are dark and driving and put you in the proper mood for the second half of the album, which is a five song suite titled “A Divine Triumvirate.”
“A Divine Triumvirate” starts off with the excellent “Starseeker (The Mystery of God)”, questioning the nature of God and the universe and asking for protection and freedom. This flows naturally into “Interlude I: The Firmament”, an atmospheric instrumental track featuring bass and drums that clears your mental palate before segueing into “As Above, So Below (Those Who From Heaven To Earth Came)”, a driving track about the archangel Uriel. “Interlude II: The Dance of Bliss” continues the suite with a five-minute drum and guitar-centered instrumental that sets the table for “The Morbid Architect (That Prison of Veils)”, which winds up the composition with a primal dirge full of dark riffs and death growls.
The album ends on a hopeful note with “Your Hand In Mine”. While the music continues to feel dark, it’s a song about redemption and finding a love that one has been searching for forever, and maybe even the narrator finding his vision of God. It’s the perfect song to round out a great album, and it is definitely one of my favorites.
So, should you pick this up? The simple answer is yes. SKYLINER is a band that puts a lot of hard work into performing great music and writing thoughtful and deep lyrics, and this is a worthy album. Outsiders may always be my favorite disc by them, no matter how many they wind up releasing, but Condition Black is a close second.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Condition Black”, “No World Order”, “Starseeker (The Mystery of God)”, “Your Hand In Mine”