2021 (Melodic Revolution Records)
As a reviewer of music, your first task is to understand the things you hear. Usually it’s not that difficult but when I got my hands on “Skywound”, the sixth album of the Belgian prog metal band Transport Aerian, I needed several listening-sessions to put the musical puzzle together.
The band under the inspiring leadership of singer, bassist and producer Hamlet is averse to every style and makes music the way they want. We hear a quirky mixture of progressive metal, classical hard rock, electronics, jazz, avant-garde, grunge and cinematic soundscapes. How intriguing do you want it to be? It varies from brutal to tender and from hard to soft, nothing just falls from the sky.
Everything is held together by the poetic lyrics of Hamlet and his extraordinarily expressive way of singing. “Skywound” is a concept album about the tragedy of an ordinary loving couple trapped in the turbulent events of the world on the verge of a catastrophic war. Hamlet sounds surprisingly good without flying of the rails anywhere. He has a rich color palette in his voice with a sound that evokes comparisons with Ozzy Osbourne, Maurits Kalsbeek (Egdon Heath), Peter Hammill and Jargon (Verbal Delirium). His voice is really a huge binder in its entirety and there is also the addition of Rachel Bauer with extra vocals and spoken word.
Transport Aerian, which initially operated as a project, presents itself on “Skywound” as a band, as a quartet. In addition to Hamlet himself and his regular companions Stefan Boeykens on guitar and the aforementioned Bauer, there are two new recruits: Umut Eldem on keys and Paul De Smet on drums.
They immediately hit it right off with the Black Sabbath-like Shall Not Be. The song takes a nice, almost psychedelic, turn complete with a rocking use of the cymbals and in the meantime there are a lot of solo’s. Making a comparison with Pain Of Salvation is not so strange, especially when the bizarre At The Cliff presents itself. Dark ominous electronics are interspersed with heavy guitar chords. It’s dynamic, like the entire CD actually, constantly surprises you with contrasts. Lunatic’s intro, for example, features bright guitar strums that resemble those of Pendragon’s The Black Knight. Then the song almost bursts out at the seams with feverish power. In the meantime, there is also a more calm fragment with beautiful high bass playing because do not forget that Hamlet is not only a good singer but also an excellent bass player.
The album also contains a suite called Fracture. The four parts are scattered on the album and because the acoustic guitar is central, you can say that these parts provide some air and that is necessary.
The atmosphere of the album is quite present, you can’t ignore that. What appeals to me the most is the passage with the sinister violin in Latgalian Gothic. The fact that the song has an appearance towards Van Der Graaf Generator is not only very nice, it also shows the versatile ideas of Hamlet. For example, the closing title track is also a piece of genius composition. It is a theatrical song with a lot of grandeur and a surprising ending with spoken word by Bauer.
“Skywound” is an intriguing album that will definitely catch on with metal lovers. However, there is so much progressive ingenuity in the music that the group of fans is much larger. Do you catch my drift?
© Dick van der Heijde 2022