The progressive rock/metal scene in Australia is incredibly strong right now, with groups like Caligula’s Horse, Twelve Foot Ninja, Plini, Ne Obliviscaris, and a host more making waves around the world. It’s to the point that many interesting and unique smaller bands aren’t getting as much time in the limelight as they deserve. The Sydney based quintet Mercury Sky are one such band, crafting some inventive and infectious prog tracks that deserve more attention than they’re currently getting. Such is the plight of an independent band in a saturated market, but that doesn’t mean you should miss out on great music – and their sophomore EP, Infra, is definitely great music that’s worth your time.
If I had to use one word to describe the music of Mercury Sky, it would be ‘busy’. That isn’t meant as a pejorative. On the contrary, the compositions and musical structures used throughout each song feels fresh and full of energy. Segments rarely overstay their welcome, and even in moments of rest and reprieve, there is a forward momentum to each track that feels thoughtfully engaging. This works particularly well in the transition from bridge to final chorus, as they are integrated in a way they feels almost surprising at times (the end of “PreCious” is a good example of this), gnawing at the listener’s attention. This works to pull the listener in the first few times around, but are also inherently interesting to listen to, making for some of the moments I looked forward to revisiting the most in subsequent listens.
Another aspect that builds on the idea of the music being busy is how dense these compositions can be at times. While the individual instruments are never fighting for space within the midrange, it is clearly packed and layered, creating a very full sound. This is in part due to the vocalist having a high register, freeing up room in the midrange (more on that later), but also in how the arrangements themselves are layered. Even in slower songs, such as the intro to “Nausea”, the use of guitar tone and other instruments make it feel more full. At other times, it’s the use of varied complimentary patterns from each instruments that accomplish this (eg. a staccato guitar chording along with harmonized vocals and a prominent bass line). Furthermore, it is at its best when the band is firing on all cylinders, forcing the listener to become familiar with the nuances in the composition (not unlike Thank You Scientist). It is equally rewarding to parse these nuances, but as said before, are also simply engaging on a fundamental level.
The other most prominent piece in the band is its vocals. Kay Thatch is a vocalist that will likely be highly divisive, but is undoubtedly a talented singer. His voice easily soars above the instrumentation, with a heightened pitch and energetic performance. Interesting phrasing certainly helps, but it is Kay’s tone and delivery that make many of the choruses wiggle their way into your subconscious and get stuck in your head. Moreover, his more aggressive delivery at times – which I would have loved for him to do more – are some of the strongest points on the album. There are no growls or screaming per say, but more of a sporadic throaty yell similar to what Chester Bennington used to do (in application, not tone). Key’s vocals combined with the unique arrangements are the main draw of the music here, similar to the way it is in a group like Fair to Midland with these two aspects, just with a significantly more modern prog and assertive approach.
Mercury Sky have crafted a strong set of inventive songs on their second EP. If the vocals are something you can get behind, then Infra has a lot of great moments waiting for you. Dense layers of musical composition on top of quality vocal hooks and an engaging drive make this something worth investing yourself into. There are undoubtedly dozens of albums vying for your attention, but don’t let this one pass you by.
Notable Tracks: “No True Scotsman”; “Blue and Purple”
FFO: Closure To Moscow, Dead Letter Circus, Children of Nova, Fair To Midland