Thursday, February 16, 2012

Review: Black Skies - On The Wings Of Time (2012)

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On The Wings Of Time

Black Skies - On The Wings Of Time
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, has long been known for emitting some powerful alt-rock artists. Ben Folds Five, Archers of Loaf, and most famously Southern Culture on the Skids are just a few of the many nationally successful acts the Carolina college town has produced. When it comes to heavy metal and hard rock, however, rattling off a list of names isn't so easy. The trio known as Black Skies are hoping to change that with their third release (and first long-player) On The Wings Of Time, as they harness the unmistakable blues rock of Led Zeppelin into their own sludge of doomy psychedelia.

The band (Kevin Clark - vocals/guitar, Michelle Temple - bass/vocals, Tim Herzog - drums) cite not only Led Zep as a major influence, but Black Sabbath as well. As you might expect, much of On The Wings Of Time serves as an homage to Black Skies' inspirational sources, but the skill with which they blend and expand upon their motivational sounds and inject a bit of post-metal nuance makes this album greater than the sum of its parts. While many of the riffs are simplistic, the liberal application of distortion provides a nice sludgey tone to what is already an incredibly groovy guitar sound. Temple routinely parts the six-string veil with tasty bass solos, but her most engaging contribution is in the vocal department.

Black Skies
Clark, who provides the majority of the vocals, centers himself primarily within a gruff, but clean, range. The rawness with which he dishes out the lyrics is soothed by Temple's melodic croon, though on album opener "Rebirth" both singers adopt a slightly punkish shout to their deliveries. "Darkness & Disguise" and "The Other Side of the Mountain", the former track being the catchiest tune on the album, finds Temple using her voice more for melody than lyrics. The way Clark and Temple compliment each others style is an enjoyable aspect of On The Wings Of Time and, together with the robust guitar sound, keeps Black Skies' basic song structures interesting and enjoyable.

That guitar sound is the almost overwhelmingly dominant element of the album, ranging from subdued, acoustic riffs to the Egyptian melodies of "Valley of the Kings". Almost always steeped in distortion, Clark's riffs are accentuated by numerous sharp leads and fuzzy solos. The instrumental "Weightless" finds Clark breaking out the keyboard to create a nice windswept atmosphere as a means of stretching the band's sound, while Temple adds a bit of a Jethro Tull ambiance with her flute on the majestic closing track "The Sleeping Prophet".

On The Wings Of Time is a well-produced, enjoyable album of independently-released metal. Black Skies' conglomeration of doom, hard rock, and post-metal will appeal to a variety of listeners, and perhaps be an early step in putting Chapel Hill on the heavy metal map.

Track Listing
2Darkness & Disguise5:06
3The Other Side Of The Mountain7:32
5Valley Of The Kings9:30
7Earth Choker5:24
8The Sleeping Prophet9:48
Total Runtime52:23

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