I'm just going to preface by saying this is the album that got me into hardcore music. And although three long years later I really despise most hardcore with the exception of a few bands, I do owe it this debt of gratitude, to maybe let kids hear them that haven't. Granted, the number of kids who haven't heard Skycamefalling are likely few, but if I could make this album as important for somebody else as it was for me then, and still is, then this review has a purpose. A purpose because not only did it get me into hardcore, but underground music in general, and I'm forever thankful.
As for the actual album...
This album has meant so much to what hardcore is today, which can be interpreted as good or bad. On one hand, Skycamefalling, along with Converge, was one of the first bands whose lyrics didn't focus on brotherhood, vigilance, unity, and all those other tough guy hardcore lyrical staples. They opted instead for well-written, poetic lyrics. The song 'Shallow Like Sand' springs immediately to mind; "Trees fall like iron on their way down, we bury our hands in their hearts and waste away again, because I have tried to turn words to stone, tried to fight the day with my eyes closed." It's refreshing to have lyrics that are well thought out during a time in hardcore where bands like Throwdown and Hatebreed were at the forefront of what kids were listening to. It was instrumental in their appeal, and remains so now. So many bands have followed suit in this since. The flipside of their appeal is the integration of some singing parts to the screaming, which again wasn't as prevalent as it is today. There's bands now that pull it off beautifully, but for every band that falls into that category there's 100 that don't. See Victory's current roster if you don't beieive me. Be that as it may, I wouldn't trade what this CD has meant for anything.
The songs are so well done, and so layered, that it makes for an amazing listen the entire way through. Singer Chris unprounouceablelastname's vocal style is something easily identifable. It's not a shrill screamo type voice, it's not a growling, throaty grindcore voice, and it doesn't have the style of the yelling/shouting tough guy singers, it just works. After the instrumental first track, "With Paper Wings" kicks in immediately. And kick it does. Full of intensity and driving guitar, this is probably their signature song. One of my favorite memories at a show was seeing their last set ever. About 100 or so kids crowded in a circle on stage around Chris, screaming the chorus of "With Paper Wings." It's just that type of song; it'll grab you. The piano outro suits the song beautifully as well, as this was also before 500 other bands jumped on the wagon and did it.
The album is so diverse, and flows gorgeously together. The passionate vocals, the guitars seamlessly transition from dissonant and heavy to melodic and slow. If the songs themselves weren't diverse enough for a hardcore record, there's two beautiful instrumental tracks on the album that offset the other songs very, very well. The second instrumental, at a lengthy nine minutes, is one of the most captivating instrumentals I've ever heard period, let alone on a hardcore record. It builds beautifully, and will not disappoint at the end. It has an almost tribal feel to it. Like you should be around a campfire with natives in tiki masks dancing about. And let's be honest, we all love tiki masks.
The album closes as strongly as it began with "An Ocean Apart." Clocking in at ten minutes, don't turn off your CD after the music cuts out about halfway through; it's coming back, and it's coming back strong. A fitting way to end. If hardcore bands still made albums like this, I might have a bit more faith in the scene now. Passion, beauty, talent, intensity, it's here, and in spades.
So as soon as talented, intelligent musicians like these guys want to start making music again, and bands like Poison The Well and Terror stop, let me know so I can start listening again.
These guys are missed.