Today’s band hailing from the UK started out under the name Hatespire in 2009, but changed their name to Countless Skies, named after a song from Be’lakor, in 2012. And you would be right to think that the name is not the only thing that Countless Skies have taken as inspiration from Be’lakor. Stylistically, they stalk the same hunting grounds, playing a very melodic branch of melodic death metal. Glow is only their second full length record, but the quality and maturity of the songs presented here can easily make you assume that these musicians are veterans of the genre.
The record consists of 7 songs and clocks in at a runtime of 45 minutes. The first 4 songs are “standalone” tracks, while the title track Glow is divided into a trilogy that forms the tail end of the album. The guitars have a very open and overdriven sound, reminding a bit of post-metal, and the riffing varies between simple powerchords mixed with melodies that might come straight from Insomnium or Be’lakor and the occasional progressive and heavier part that could have been lifted from one of the earlier, back-when-they-were-still-good Opeth records. But not to accuse them of stealing, I think the songs they craft out of those influences is quite uniquely theirs. There is tons of beautiful and heartstring-pulling melodies and solos from James Pratt. The vocals switch between the typical growls you would assume from this genre (very reminiscent of Insomnium here) performed by Ross King (who also plays guitar), and a clean style that is very theatric, urging and passionate thanks to bass player Phil Romeo. Throw in some choir parts (courtesy of guest musicians Anthony Trimming, RJ Learmouth and Vicky Harley on track number 2, Summit), and you have a wide spectrum of vocal styles that fuses the epic and progressive songwriting together beautifully. Last but not least we have Nathan Robshaw on drums who can both deliver death metal blasts and jazzy grooves, always depending on what the song needs at that moment. I am sure he would feel equally at home in Porcupine Tree or Opeth. There is also plenty of cello (guest musician Arianna Mahsayeh) and piano (guest musician Marcello Ciciriello) added to the soundscape of this record, and it blends in magnificently.
Most of the album was recorded in the home studio of lead guitarist James Pratt, who had this to say about the process: “It took a lot of learning and some expensive purchases, but it did have its upside. Not under the normal time constraints of being in a studio, we could take more risks, and get better performances from everyone. We also spent a lot of time adding more layers, harmonies, and even some extra instruments.” The mixing and mastering was finally done by Juho Räihä of SoundSpiral Audio, and the result is impressive. The sound on Glow is professional and clear, but has a certain warmth to it, which fits perfectly to the quite uplifting atmosphere. In this, the triad of songwriting, sound and artwork (made by the insanely talented Carl Ellis) all follow the same direction – it is epic, otherworldly and atmospheric, and the journey of listening to this record is quite a rewarding one.
Glow is pretty darn amazing. In my point of view this is one of the best melodic death metal records of the last years. It has brilliant songwriting and atmosphere and it sounds great. If you like both melancholy and hope in your melodic death metal, you cannot pass this one by.