As soon as the opening musical salvo of Malfunction issues forth from my computer, I remembered exactly why I love SkyBurnsRed. Their ability to forge accessible, heavy guitar music and then cut sideways through those rock drives with sweeping violin, is what sets them apart from most bands working on the same circuit today. Over the centuries classical composers from Beethoven to Bartok have embraced everything from folk ditties, gypsy tunes, klezmer and southern spiritual, so given the similarities between classical and rock music, adding strings seems like an obvious move. Obvious maybe, but few have merged the disciplines as well as SkyBurnsRed do on Machines.
The best music is all about conveying emotion and that is what the band do best, not just through the strings that move from defining riffs, to staccato stabs, to gossamer washes as required but also through the sheer quality of the song writing, the soaring dynamic present in those songs and the dark, sensuous and atmospheric cloak that the music wraps around the listener.
People who know the band will find a few old favourites here, such as live favourite Lost at Sea and the aforementioned opener but with the production quality applied here, even they provide a new heightened listening experience. But what the new songs prove is that the band are still in the process of upping their game and setting new benchmarks for their own song crafting.
Pens Down is a tune with a spring in it’s step, a dance groove encased in a rock ethic and Cat and Mouse is a sign post to lesser bands that music can be heavy as hell without having abandon melody. You may think that screaming and shredding make you look cool, but they are no substitute for a great tune. Listen and learn suckers!
For me the centre piece of the album is Riddle, a goth tinged epic that has it all; claustrophobic lulls, slow burning builds into anthemic highs, explosive guitars, dirge laden yet driven, sonorous beats and a violin that seems to chime and dance just out of reach.
SkyBurnsRed may have been off of the live scene for a while now but they have come back with an album that is nothing short of brilliant. Job done, dues well and truly paid, record companies form an orderly queue here!