Skyharbor – ‘Sunshine Dust’ (Album Review)
Since absolutely smashing it with the incredible Guiding Lights back in 2014, Skyharbor have been through more than their fair share of upheaval. Drummer Anup Sastry and vocalist Daniel Tompkins left within six days of each other back in June 2015, while Sunshine Dust itself was taken back into the studio and re-recorded late last year. Inevitably, a creative direction change has been coming – but especially considering the great music that’s come before, this album is largely generic and disappointing.
Skyharbor are clearly going for a more accessible sound on Sunshine Dust, and there’s nothing wrong with that in itself. Mixing some nu-metal influences into Dim and Dissent was a brave and well-executed move – although naturally it’s proven controversial among YouTube commenters and forum denizens alike. No matter how trendy it may still be to bash heavy music made around the turn of the millennium, the latest version of Skyharbor at least sound interesting when they embrace it.
The remainder of Sunshine Dust throws up some cool moments here and there, such as the churned-up staccato part right at the end of Out Of Time; the beatdown riff found at 2:44 during Synthetic Hands; and some great screams near the climax of DisengageEvacuate. But those are very small parts of an underwhelming whole. The vast majority of this album is a poor-quality mass of distorted strumming, lame lyrics, vocals that try too hard to sound like Dan Tompkins (and are painfully Auto-Tuned in places), arpeggiated chords, synth pads, and Tesseract-ripoff bass grooves.
Then there’s the unholy trio of tracks that come right before Dissent. Ethos, Ugly Heart, and The Reckoning are absolutely unlistenable; the first two tracks have no place whatsoever on even a grassroots band’s first-ever debut EP, and the latter is a monumentally tedious instrumental that goes on for almost six-and-a-half minutes. Post-Dissent, Menace shows early promise by evoking Incubus during its intro, before collapsing into mediocrity; Temptress is a pointless interlude that does contain some chunky chugs (which could’ve been used to great effect in an actual song); and even title track Sunshine Dust is let down by a below-par vocal that spoils any intended effect even as the song fades out and the whole album ends.
Skyharbor should’ve put more faith in their ability to evolve and come out swinging with something challenging, fresh, and unique. They could’ve done it, and of course the anti-alt-metal backlash would probably have been more severe than it already has – but at least the results would’ve been notable and, most importantly, listenable. Instead, Skyharbor have played it far too safe, and lost their way.
LTK RATING: 5/10
Pre-order Sunshine Dust (out September 7) on iTunes.
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