2017 (Special Edition 2018) (Anesthetize Productions)
My lucky number is 9 and skies are always beautiful, from early in the morning until late at night, wherever you are. In that respect, the name of the French prog band Nine Skies really appeals to me. And besides that the music of this band from Nice is nice as well.
My large excitement for the band made me decide to review all their albums and publish them as a special on Prog & Rock. It is initially about four albums, but any future work will just join in of course.
Let’s start at the beginning. Nine Skies is founded in 2013 by keyboardist Anne-Claire Rallo and guitarist/pianist/violinist Eric Bouillette with the aim of playing music with some metal. Together with a number of befriended guest musicians, a demo-like EP is made. The progressive rock as can be heard nowadays, is still at progress at that time. Little by little, the band sound shifts from metal-like music to prog and eventually Nine Skies grows into a nine-piece. These 9 musicians have brought a huge amount of styles and influences with them and without falling musically into a lavish rattle box, the band knows how to create a beautifully eclectic unity.
“Return Home”, their debut album released at the end of 2017, brilliantly shows how all those styles come together in the transparent band sound. Nine Skies makes a mixture of Camel and Marillion-like prog with elements of world music, jazz, folk, classical and psychedelic rock. To achieve that, you regularly hear things like piano, acoustic guitar, floaty keys, fusion-like bass work and exuberant guitar solos in Rothery style.
Above all there is the vocal input that leaves its mark, although the music has quite a lot of instrumental passages. This is shaped by two different lead singers, Alexandre Boussacre and Freddy Scott. The two of them give shape to the main characters who are present on this concept CD. In that respect, the sounds is very reminiscent of the albums of the German band Fuchs where there are also two lead singers present. There are certainly similarities both vocally as musically.
The Nine Skies album is about life in the big city, about the absurdities of our current world and the way we learn to live with it. Musically, there are ten songs that frame this concept. The title track Return Home opens with the mysterious sounds of an opening door and someone’s footsteps. These sink into a melancholic piece with piano, guitar and vocals by Boussacre. Some distorted guitar chords bring life to this excellent song. The result is a piece full of delicious basses, crackling drums, dizzying keyboards and furious guitar tones likewise Camel.
Favorite songs that pass by are the jaunty Season Of Greed and the somewhat theatrical Roses Never Hatch sung by Scott.
Nine Skies knows how to assemble the perfect package. In addition to the sparkling character of the music, there are always a few colored pencils such as violin, saxophone or flute. Beautiful in that respect is The Blind Widower where a whole box of Caran d’Ache is used to create a delicious piece of jazz rock. With the whimsical The Slight Snake and the slightly subdued Dust In Town, the band brings some industrialization to the pallet. Both songs are a bit reminiscent of Eloy in terms of atmosphere. Nine Skies never really misses the mark.
Songs like the instrumental The Blind Widower (Part II), the quiet Time For Them To Go and the incomparable closing track A Way Back continue the good line of the album. But that’s not all. In 2018, the album was released as a Special Edition with four bonus tracks. These songs are alternative versions of tracks that are also on the regular album but sound here in a shorter, instrumental variant. Those who are a fan of a lot of violin can count themselves rich, Everyone by the way.
“Return Home” is an impressive album in every way. Nine Skies is a fascinating band. You don’t hear them that often.
© Dick van der Heijde 2022