I like Skyfire, so I was more than a little surprised that upon shopping for the import version of prior album Mind Revolution, I found out this, their third album, had been released on Spanish label Arise Records. I was also a little surprised that this disappoints somewhat.

Skyfire, along with Norther, have headed the Children Of Bodom sound-a-like contest with unashamed plagiarism, both pawning the same style of peppy, synth heavy, catchy, “poppish” black metal. I thought their debut album, Timeless Departure, had an burst of dynamics that might break them from the pack, a potential that wasn’t quite fulfilled for the horribly under promoted follow-up, Mind Revolution, although still a solid album. Despite a new label though, Skyfire appear to be running in place, because as much as I enjoy the band, their technical proficiency, chosen style and energy, it just doesn’t add up to a memorable album indicative of their ability.

Everything from the trademark copied Finnish (Skyfire are from Sweden) sound is here is spades; galloping, melodic riffs, oodles of twiddling keyboards and grandiose solos along with the rasping vocals-it’s incredibly cookie cutter and even in light of the proficiency, it comes across as somewhat generic, as Skyfire could well play this style in their sleep. Maybe I’ve overdosed in this style, and Skyfire’s timing may have caught me in the wrong frame of mind, but when my pulse isn’t quickened until the sixth track (“Void of Hope”), from a band I usually enjoy, something is amiss. It’s not that Spectral is a bad album, for most fans it’s bound to be perfectly satisfying, but like fellow Finns Norther , I expected album number three to make strides and be something far more special. I’m not asking for a major style shift or 180 degree evolution, but at least something not quite as snugly mould fitting and familiar. Mind Revolution had a couple of really standout tracks on it (The title track and “Colliding in Mind”), there’s no such real attention getters on Spectral, above and beyond solid well played metal, and frankly Spectral left me a little cold and with little desire for multiple listens as the first two albums did.

As expected from them and their ilk, the Andy LaRoque/Studio Underground production is typically Finnish sounding: crisp, clean and vigorous, much more so than the strangely apathetic songwriting. Even though the pacing delivers plenty of seemingly urgent blast-beats and metallic orchestration, it all seems largely superficial, without the depth and satisfying epic atmosphere that Skyfire oozed effortlessly before. Also, the material as a whole just comes across as too “nice”, even at its quickest. Even the concentrated venom of opener “Conjuring the Thoughts”, comes across as forced and a meager shadow of the head swimmingly catchy material on Timeless Departure. The tracks are largely interchangeable, as I could hardly tell the difference between songs like “Shivering Shade”, “Cursed by Belief”, and “Awake”, as they blend into one heavily synth laden, screech fest, albeit proficiently played and rendered. What’s disconcerting is the flashes of their skill such as “A Dead Man’s Race”, where Skyfire’s song writing prowess is painfully obvious but under utilized. A possible victim of both being a surprise release and my own high expectations for anything the band deliver, Spectral seems to only scratch the surface of what this talented quintet can pull off, as they are more than capable of ousting Children of Bodom, Kalmah, Norther and the host of other similar styled bands should they choose too.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
May 17th, 2004


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