Time is an elusive concept, defined by humans and yet in control of them. Whether conscious or not, Skepsis have an interesting, complex relationship with time that can be alluded to with the title of their new EP, Clockwork. Returning with a new line-up after six years, the Western Canadian progressive metal group have a sound that melds classic power metal with modern death metal. And, much like the machinations of a clock, the group’s sound is tight, precise, methodical and consistent. Clockwork will be available on April 22.
Again and again, no matter the length of the release, it has become custom in modern progressive metal to start a record with an instrumental introduction. Though often laborious or half-baked, the nearly two-minute “Conception” is a promising, thoughtful opener that may be one of the most unique, enjoyable parts of this short outing. With a sound that would not be out of place on a Hans Zimmer score, the mysterious, cinematic keys, symphonic swells and dramatic choir set an epic tone for the three tracks to follow.
“Joshua Tree” instantly introduces Skepsis’ distinct sound as fast-paced, technical and intricate; the two worlds of power metal and death metal are seamlessly merged on the track. Tylor Dory, the vocalist of Skepsis and gifted singer/guitarist behind the Tylor Dory Trio, delivers impressive, operatic vocals akin to Russell Allen and Åkerfeldt-esque growls. His approach fits perfectly with the Symphony X-meets-death metal barrage of guitarists John Saturley and John Simon Fallon.
The fast, hooky riffage and neoclassical leads carry on into “The Hourglass”, again alluding to theme of time. Though not particularly distinct from its predecessor, the song is still enjoyable. “Overture to Collapse” finishes the EP with an esoteric vibe and pounding toms before again erupting into Skepsis’ unique sound. Another noteworthy (and particularly evident) comparison to the group is Shogun-era Trivium, despite the (appreciated) lack of -core elements. A marching snare lead into an impressive, extended guitar solo section before thrashy, intricate riffs return. Two bonus tracks released before the EP, “Drive The Nails” and “Spectre” are included on Clockwork; these tracks are notable for, to my ears, being heavier than the EP itself.
Amidst a sea of down-tuned guitars and mid-tempo polyrhythms, Skepsis navigate the waters with a mature, furious, fully-realized sound that avoids obvious tropes. Clockwork is a relentless, if sometimes repetitive, statement that establishes Skepsis’ distinct identity. It was wise of the group to avoid too much experimentation on the release in order to define their approach. However, a full album from the group would benefit from more dynamics and diversity than is found on Clockwork. With excellent production, an astounding introduction and a unique marriage of power and death metal, Skepsis have a very promising future.
Notable Tracks: “Conception”; “Overture to Collapse”
FFO: Symphony X, Yngwie Malmsteen, Trivium, Opeth