On the Air marks the debut of Ukrainian atmospheric prog-metal outfit Sleep in Heads. Boasting a full bodied soundscape that remains fresh while paying homage to the groups collective influencers, On the Air is captivating, cohesive, and, despite cloaking in around 40 minutes, over all too soon!
Throughout the albums’ six tracks vocalist Sonya delivers a consistent and powerful performance. On the albums softer songs, opener “Periphery” and closer “Secret Shelter,” Sonyas’ style rings reminiscent of the ethereal vocals of Anneke Van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering, Devin Townsend, The Gentle Storm, etc) and Lee Douglas (Anathema). While on the more robust tracks such as the driving “Time Like the Sand” or “Blue Fear” Sonya takes on more of a mixture of Anneke and Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) to better suit the mood and, occasionally, blast beat driven atmospheres of the songs. Also handling the lyrics Sonya takes the listener on a journey with spiritual sensibilities that explores emotions, balance and sincerity injecting a feeling of optimism to the work.
Musically, opener “Periphery” is a beautifully composed track paying homage to We’re here… era Anathema with eloquent riffs, bright violins, soft floating vocals and beautiful keyboards. The middle of the album travels at a considerably faster pace consisting of crunchy prog riffs, reminiscent of mid era Porcupine tree or present day The Pineapple Thief, perfectly bridged with the more simplified punch of 00’s Lacuna Coil. Serj’s guitar work is accented with Natli’s tasteful progressive violin and keyboard arrangements, from session musician Nikolay Kirsanov, tying in a soft atmospheric undertone throughout the tracks. Carefully crafted to highlight the ebb and flow of each song the album is driven with an urgent precision by session drummer Erland Sivolapov often giving the songs the sublime, about to derail, post-rock flair executed by Alcest on their heavier tracks from the last decade (drummer Roman has since joined). Produced and mixed with clarity and dynamism each track from On the Air feels three dimension, full and rich creating a true experience for the listening ear.
The album rarely drags with each track having something unique and interesting to offer. The time and energy put into the songs, lyrics and presentation are an obvious display of the group’s passion for the music they create together. Perhaps, the only real fault is not necessarily a fault at all but in listening to the album, in multiple successive plays, I felt I wanted more of the heartfelt refrains, intros and outros. For instance opener “Periphery” is a standout track with a luminescent, airy, beauty to it that leaves one craving for more and its moving outro, while splendid, simply feels too short. This could be a matter of personal preference and certainly the ability to self edit, especially on lengthier tracks such as this, is a highly coveted skill but at the same time cutting the emotionally driven moments short, prematurely, severs the bond between artist and listener. I also found that although the low end of the album was full and robust there wasn’t really any stand out moments for bassist Fann. A couple of progressive bass solos, though not a necessity, would really have added some nice flair to the album.
On the Air captures a sense of lightness and hope, displays a consistent yet varied sound among its six tracks, delivers concise progressive arrangements, and is overlaid with a strong, dynamic vocal performance while relying heavily on the creation of an overall atmosphere. The cohesion and presence in the material is a feat rarely accomplished mid-career let alone on a debut release and I feel confident the best is yet to come from this group!
On The Air, the debut offering from Sleep In Heads is out now! Pick up your copy HERE!