As a guy whose tastes in the heavier side of things often flits between knifepoint flashes of grindcore and powerviolence to the epic weaving tendrils of post-rock, sometimes I’m looking for something that sates that oomph whilst providing a breath of air. Father Sky promptly delivered.
Traditional doom isn’t my most favourite of genres. When I heard this formed a chunk of what these guys were peddling I was initially reticent but, fortunately it seems, the Sydney quartet have evidently worked hard to draw in a wider breadth of inspiration. Flinging in as much Cave In and Hawkwind as Sabbath, Mastodon and fellow Aussies Adrift for Days, the album undulates from grooving riff territory, to sombre doom, to breakneck sections, all with ease.
A cursory glance on Wikipedia reveals to the less-astronomically-minded (such as yours truly) that ‘A hypergiant (luminosity class 0) is a star with an enormous mass and luminosity, showing signs of a very high rate of mass loss. The exact definition is not yet settled.’
Thanks, Wikipedia. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Pushing through between themes of massive stars, entropy and pulsating waves of energy, Father Sky is solidly consistent yet experimental.
Opener Perseus Arm waves itself in with a static-drenched sampling and bassline – not unfamiliar to the genre – into a power-chord heavy, bluesy intro. Seems standard fare so far – fitting vocals by vocalist/guitarist Nathan Lee, who brings as much of a Truckfighters rock style as he does a Mastodon roar later on. A flashy but not soaring solo rips along, followed by a brief and tasty bass interlude by Lachlan Davidson on low-end. Complementing this playfulness in the rhythm section is Julian Moxon’s drumming, rock-steady but not afraid to play around between chords, giving subtle breath to the chunky riffage.
Ringing straight in from the first track’s outro feedback comes Colossi. Bleeping. Then ooh, what’s this? The drums have picked it up to an almost-thrash pace – then the riff kicks in.
Immediately I am taken to Master of Reality by Sabbath, but with even more growl, punch and bite. This pushes on for a while before fading out into just drums and vox, beckoning the listener with subdued, almost whispered vocals. Chant-like, conjuring imagery of shamanic rituals. Guess even spacefaring doomsters can’t escape the wizard stereotype, eh?
Roaring, the band returns back into the fray. Almost melodic death metal in tempo and noodling, epic leads and gruff vocals swell over wall-sized riffs. This is where Lee’s rougher vocals punch through in a means reminiscent of Rob Flynn from Machine Head. It’s an interesting combination along the rhythmic pulse of Gordon Hammer’s endless, well, hammering of riffs. A chugging breakdown with harmonics flings Colossi back out of orbit.
So, yeah, the third song is Island 3. Coincidence? Hmm. Anyway, our toes are tipped in the shallows of this island with some trills of the drums before we are flung back out into that time-tested doom tradition of a thick opening power chord salvo. However, this track is where the album begins taking its own turns. Pensive, spaced out, like fellow Australian proggers Alchemist, playful with their notes without inviting dissonance.
Vocals back in around the 3 minute mark. More of a gang chant style; along with the massive drum sound, this gives the track an almost arena rock feel. ‘The ancient satellite!’ More simple but soaring soloing. Like thyme, it’s added for a nice unique flavour, not for a garnish. We’re all out of thyme as it rings out back into hammering riff and crashing, head-banging drumming. Not afraid to employ double bass and crashing cymbals, ride, crash. We have shifted into super-cruise mode, people.
Punch it! Divert all power to the main thrusters and push this baby into overdrive! A thrashing intro to Retrograde, those melodeath-inspired leads returning to show you doom metal can be theatrical when it wants to. Chanting style background vocals, the ripping intro gives birth to the colony-ship mainstay of those thick doom riffs.
There must’ve been an incoming radiation warning or something – More out there proggy riffing, those melodic death aesthetics with a tinge of prog. Insomnium in space. Opeth-stronauts. Then, in John Cena fashion, straight outta nowhere comes a reflective, almost Middle-Eastern interlude with bass prominent in the foreground. Rising in crescendo with drums, the band employ tremolo and gnashing drums to give their thick soup of riff a tangy, spicy edge. Retrograde has sated my need for speed – for now.
Entropy, comparatively, begins with textbook Mastodon worship. Lurching wall-high chords along with that gruff vocal returning, like Ahab atop a wave in a thunderstorm. Befits the subject matter, dealing with chaos and the breakdown of matter. A heavier chugging section with a tribal drumming and rhythm. Frantic runs for the guitarists and a hectic up-tempo ascending riff, which makes the eventual breakdown all the sweeter! Slides up and down the neck gives this one a different slant as Lee and Hammer bounce between Davidson and Moxon’s watertight combo. When you’re this massive, you need solid bulkheads within which to operate.
And here comes the first interlude, Krakenmere.
Wait – are we in space or underwater? Was that was the last riff was about? Acoustics?! A relaxed lead which wouldn’t be out of place on an Opeth album, albeit with a sci-fi touch. Weaving in nautical acoustics with sombre piano, the subtle rhythm picks up the pace before relapsing into a very prog progression.
Things get even more pared back as the ship is on fuel reserves. Ryou-Un Maru is cautious. Slow step shuffling drums plodding like footsteps in the snow. Breaking into into arpeggios and slow leads, eventually Ryou opens up, echoing into a super-doomy riff. We found it you guys, we uncovered the leviathan underneath. Spotted the black hole. And so the vocals follow, faintly spoken with the sermon of a wary space traveller. Don’t awaken the space Kraken.
Again, more Egyptian-sounding tinkling gives extra mystery to these murky crawling rhythms. Shouts punctuate the din, bringing a slow, thick wall of tallness. Without warning, the mood becomes more optimistic and we are back into up-tempo rocking out.
‘The children of Gaia hide in the dark’. I dunno, doesn’t sound like hiding with those blues-infested Baroness-like guitar duels. Don’t be mistaken, the guitarwork on offer is without too much pomp – just enough flair to give the soloing a tasteful foregrounding when it decides to shift pass in the same solar system.
No Way Out, though. Here comes a dirge of piano. I think we know what’s coming – yep. Thick riffage. I’ll be honest and say by this point I was clamouring for a change-up on the general theme but hey, I’m a pompous prog nerd. One of the shortest and most straightforward tracks, this one is probably my least favourite on the album. I wasn’t suckered in by this one by this stage of the album, but it’s still solid nonetheless. It’s still full of life.
Out of this we are treated to a very static-y, short, spacey, bleepy interlude. Like satellites in the night, PSR J0835-4510 passes by in a haze of static with little fanfare but serving as an interesting anomaly.
Before long, we are reintroduced back into a star system with my favourite from the album, Solar Landslide. Mechanical/industrial sounding backing, rising drumbeats into the land of fuzz. This time, the riffs are back to that less friendly or inviting end of the spectrum. Welcome back to the dark side of the Oort Cloud, where something nameless moves between the shadows.
‘What remains of my soul?’ cries the vocalist as we get show of very cavernous, almost arena-rock sized drumming. Leads are quickly choked back out by a gloomy progression that returns to swallow them up. Then things get interesting again.
Choir-like female backing vocals, simple arpeggios and echo-laden singing give another nod to Maiden, Priest and gods among the stars. The grandiose return back up the solar scale and feedback-driven washout imply a traveller’s rest from the destruction of a fallen star, left baked in rays to ponder what comes next.
And we arrive at our stellar destination with Apogee.
‘Lost and alone, with God’.
And really funky bluesy soloing too, it seems. An almost alternative rock style croon with melodic backing vocals and acoustics, with steady rhythm and mellotron-like keys.
Gradually the ending creeps upon us, and by the time we’re left in the distorted haze we are reminded of how, in space, the story reaches far beyond us and is more crushing, vast and beautiful than us Earth-bound specimens often give it credit for.
Rocking doom for the space traveller inside of you.
Get Father Sky on Bandcamp here.