Saturday, January 10, 2009

Review: Grey Skies Fallen - Two Way Mirror (2006)

Grey Skies Fallen [ Website | MySpace | Facebook ]
Two Way Mirror
(2006)
self-released

New York's Grey Skies Fallen is a band with a tumultuous history, as is often the case for up-and-coming acts, having gone through numerous break-ups and line-up shuffles since forming in 1996. Co-founder and frontman Rick Habeeb weathered the successive storms and somehow managed to keep the band alive through it all. He's rejoined by original guitarist Joe D'Angelo on Two Way Mirror, an album that marks a significant shift in style for Grey Skies Fallen. Originally a Doom/Death outfit with similarities to early Katatonia and My Dying Bride, the band opts for a very moody Prog Metal style on this release. While drastic shifts such as this can and do lead to disaster, I find Two Way Mirror to be the strongest and most mature Grey Skies Fallen album to date.

What impresses me most is the band's songwriting ability. It's clear that these guys took the time during the writing process to attend to every detail, placing each guitar solo and drum fill with precision. Unlike many heavy metal artists, the members of Grey Skies Fallen understand how to craft a song that fully involves the listener by building musical tension as the piece progresses toward an eventual climax. In this respect, underlying influences from band like Rush and Yes are discernible. Grey Skies Fallen achieves this sense of envelopment through intricately woven atmospheres that rely primarily on melodic riffs and leads from Habeeb and D'Angelo, as well as Craig Rossi's lush keyboard accents. These elements all work together, mutually supportive without one consistently overshadowing another - which is yet another sign of quality songwriting. Rossi's proggy keys are very distinct on tracks such as "Carry On" and "Blue", while fretwork is the primary ingredient on "This Sinking Feeling" and "Forget the Past", yet an overall balance is maintained throughout the course of the album.

With a drastic shift in musical direction also comes a significant change in vocal style for Habeeb. Gone (almost) are the Death Metal grunts and howls, replaced by a more classic rock style of singing that sounds like something of mix between Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Layne Staley (Alice In Chains), and Doug Pinnick (King's X). Habeeb has a great voice for the musical mood of Two Way Mirror, which he enhances on "Blue" and "This Sinking Feeling" by briefly returning to his former harsh method of delivery.

While I'm impressed with the album as a whole, the two tracks that stand apart from the rest are "Drift" and "Forget the Past". The former combines somber piano passages with atmospheric guitar leads to cement a feeling of utter desolation and grief, setting the stage for the emotional trek to come. "Forget the Past" is the slowest track on the album, but picks up the pace during a groovy '70s-rock-inspired solo before fading out with some crunchy twin-guitar leads. In the end, Two Way Mirror is a well-crafted, cohesive collection of songs that takes the listener on an emotionally dark journey. Buoyant moments, like the uplifting riffs heard on "The Opposite of Up", contrast with expressions of anger, but overall the album conveys a sense of melancholy and despair.

Grey Skies Fallen vow to return to their former Death Metal style on their next release, but I feel that would be a mistake. They have a knack for some complex songwriting, and ought to expand on the ideas they've experimented with on Two Way Mirror. Fans of dark progressive metal should do themselves a favor by adding this disc to their collection.





Track Listing
1 Blue 5:39
2 Drift 3:40
3 Two Way Mirror 4:23
4 The Opposite of Up 5:27
5 This Sinking Feeling 4:11
6 Forget the Past 6:50
7 The Few 4:04
8 Carry On 5:31
Total Runtime 39:45



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