As a part of the early djent movement of bedroom projects that also birthed the likes of TesseracT, the multinational Skyharbor, despite gaining a decent critical reception, almost feel like the forgotten sons in comparison to many of their peers. Two excellent albums in Blinding White Noise and Guiding Lights (both Basick) saw a particularly innovative approach within that sphere, with increasing progressive influences throughout, yet didn’t see them quite reach the heights of the likes of the aforementioned TesseracT or Monuments.
Back now with their first album in four years yet with losing both drummer Anup Sastry and talismanic vocalist Dan Tompkins, Sunshine Dust (eOne) feels like it has a lot riding on it for the band’s longevity, and thus is undoubtedly their most ambitious effort in terms of commercial appeal. And, quite simply, Sunshine Dust hits it out of the park.
Much like many of their peers, the early djent sound and aggression has virtually been discarded for a cleaner sound; a substantial change of pace that they have taken to like a duck with a speedboat to the water. Right from first full song ‘Dim’ this new-found aspiration is abundantly clear, being immediately catchy and armed with a towering and impassioned chorus that shows off new vocalist Eric Emery to the full, whilst the likes of ‘Out Of Time’ and ‘Ugly Heart’ prove it wasn’t a flash in the pan moment.
Sunshine Dust doesn’t entirely shy away from its progressive roots completely however and actually shares a lot of ground with Disperse in its refined but exploratory approach. As the album continues such elements creep back in alongside increased heaviness towards its end but maintains fluidity.
From ‘Ethos’ sailing through tonal dynamics, the comparatively abrasive, electronica-tinged ‘The Reckoning’ leading into lead single and heaviest song ‘Dissent’, Sunshine Dust offers depth and variety yet never feels overwhelming nor ill-fitting.
Recent years have seen a trend of bands in that tech/progressive metal banner taking a more song-based, “radio friendly” approach (and that is not meant with any cynicism), and on Sunshine Dust, Skyharbor have evolved and shown they have the chops to sit with the heavyweights and make a mark. Sunshine Dust is a huge surprise in terms of its change of direction for the band and in how well they have adapted to appeal to a much wider demographic. If there is any justice, this album should prove massive and see them make a commercial breakthrough.