On Mundo Musique, we’ve featured plenty of bands of the “symphonic” or “orchestral variety. There’s the orchestral/choir pop of bands like The Belle Game, Ephrata and Ages and Ages. There was also the fascinating space-rock orchestra Flowers of Hell. In addition, we’ve looked at melodic, brooding rock bands, like Wolf People and Arboretum, post-metal bands such as WTCHS, and multi-genre-laced hip hop of Young Fathers and Ceiling Demons. Today, we enter the realm of orchestral rock, specifically the music of UK band SkyBurnsRed.
Formed over four years ago, the quartet from Swindon, UK’s mixture of hard and prog rock and orchestra textures have seen them gain a dedicated following. The best way to describe their music is to imagine Dream Theatre being supported by Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The music, however, isn’t unique or otherwordly like Godspeed, but it is beyond the typical progginess that you might be familiar. The addition of Laura Williams on violin and subtle classic arrangements in SkyBurnsRed’s songs gives their music so much-needed texture and additional layers, thus helping to differentiate the band from the hard- and prog-rock collective.
In May of this year, SkyBurnsRed released their debut long player, Machines. The album is a torrid 13-track LP that seamlessly weaves it way between hard and prog rock, classic ’90s rock, and rock-orchestra. It is on the latter tracks where SkyBurnsRed really excels, as the musicianship and “orchestral” elements are more profound and the different instruments merge together beautifully. “Riddle”, for instance, is arguably the best track with Williams’ violin at the forefront while Jase Johnson’s electric guitar, Michael Bowditch’s bass, and James Gray’s drums play second fiddle. This steadily building song has slight melody and rhythm shifts that escalates into a late-70s rock song, akin to the work of Vancouver’s Black Mountain.
Similar in flow and approach are “Cowboys” and “Constellations”, although they are slower numbers. But like on “Riddle”, the musicianship and “orchestral” elements shine through more clearly on these tracks. They aren’t overridden by distorted guitars or hammering bass lines, but rather a perfect interplay between rock and symphonic sounds.
But the hard rock and progginess still abound throughout the album. “You CAN Stop…Just Saying” is very reminiscent of ’90s rock, specifically that by another Vancouver band MOIST. It isn’t quite hard rock, but definitely loud, intense, and just a great rocker. “Malfunction” is the one song that combines the multiple genres together. The prog rock can be heard instantaneously, but if you listen more carefully you can hear the great orchestration behind it, where the Williams’ violin counteracts the quick pace set by Johnson, Bowditch, and Gray to give the number an atmospheric almost haunting quality.
Before Machines, SkyBurnsRed recorded a few EPs, which can be listened to on their Soundcloud page. As you can hear, the Swindon quartet’s sound is maturing, and they’re still searching for that perfect balance between its hard-rock/prog-rock side with its orchestral ambitions. With Machines, they’re getting closer to finding that perfect harmony.
SkyBurnsRed comprises of Jase Johnson (lead vocals, guitar), Michael Bowditch (bass), Laura Williams (violin), and James Gray (drums).
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