There can’t be a worse genre to review than tech-metal. Band and album quality notwithstanding, it’s become the genre that’s produced so much repetitious material throughout its spectrum of acts, to the point where the only ones that offer anything remotely new to say are the absolute biggest around. And that’s unbelievably frustrating, particularly when these bands continue to grow in prominence without picking up any unique traits or points of interest whatsoever, even if their albums do ultimately turn out to be good. And that’s always been the biggest issue with Skyharbor, a band who are perfectly capable of impressing technically, but have never been able to turn that into something that grabs more effusively beyond the typical tech-metal motions.
The issue becomes more extensive when it comes to the fact that Skyharbor are actually growing in stature, and still are yet to hit that distinctive spot that’ll see their work become more than just another lot of tech-metal in an ever-expanding sea. And even with some fairly significant lineup changes (namely a new vocalist and drummer), Sunshine Dust feels like just another small piece in a tech-metal puzzle that isn’t even close to being finished.
And just like so many other albums like this, it’s still easy to see where the appeal comes from, and the isolated moments that see Skyharbor bringing in outside influences really do stand out the most. Out Of Time and Ugly Heart feel much easier to grasp by being rooted in most traditional, straight-laced hard rock, and Dissent is an equally attractive tech-metalcore cut. Beyond that, the amount of precision and technicality is impressive at least, and there’s no doubting that Eric Emery can hit those soaring high points with ease. Whether any of that sticks or is all that enjoyable is a different matter entirely though, and considering how long Sunshine Dust goes with so little payoff for so much of it, it’s more of an endurance test for a casual listen than it really should be. It doesn’t help that it can be bafflingly anonymous either, falling into the background without being able to gravitate towards a solid foundation.
It’s not like this is anything new, though. Skyharbor aren’t doing anything egregious that so many haven’t done before them; it’s all perfectly manageable and listenable for fans of this sort of thing, but even then, when TesseracT and Periphery are providing individual, recognisable personality in this scene, something as faceless as this just refuses to fly. It’s not even all that bad either, just inconsequential with next to nothing to differentiate it from so many of that acts around them. Still, the fans will like it, and to think that Sunshine Dust is directed towards anyone else besides them with be missing the point entirely.
For fans of: TesseracT, Circles, Monuments
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Sunshine Dust’ by Skyharbor is released on 7th September on eOne.