To call Great Leap Skyward a supergroup barely scratches the surface, though the band has arisen from the ashes of Knightmare, 4 ARM and Septerrus. Far more than another Aussie Thrash or Death Metal act however, Great Leap Skyward forge new frontiers to adopt elements of Prog, Post-Metal and more to create a truly cinematic experience with a virtually unprecedented musical scope. Indeed, one might even go as far as to say that Australian Metal will never be the same with Great Leap Skyward on the scene, and that in the best possible way.
The album opens with the title track, initially open and ethereal in its sound, if slightly haunting. It isn’t long however before Luke Besley and Jim Munro’s heavy riffs kick in, and it’s here that the first touches of Post-Metal unfold, supported by droning synth and David Allen’s powerful drums. The multi-talented Besley also provides smooth, clear vocals even as the band around him musically capture the post-apocalyptic aesthetic of the album artwork. That being said, there are also uplifting and hopeful aspects to the sound, particularly in Besley’s vocals.
This in no way however prepares the listener for the next track, I am the Black Matriarch. Besley and Munro’s guitars carry even more urgency here, while the former delivers a vocal cadence that might be compared to Meshuggah, but instead of Jens Kidman’s unvaryingly harsh tones, he continues to perform smooth and powerful cleans. There is an element of frenetic doom to this track that strips it of the hope of Great Leap Skyward, instead delving into Matt McConaghy’s bass-driven tension and martial drums. As the track drops into a more gentle space, the tension weaves in and out before the energy kicks up once more, and we are introduced to Besley’s harsh vocals that might be compared to Xenoyr of Ne Obliviscaris.
Album single Singularity begins with an electronic, almost Industrial beat and machine-like sounds. This quickly fills out with heavy guitars and pounding drums in this riff-driven song. The mood is tense, powerful and haunting, with keys embellishing the sense of loss alongside the harsh vocals. Again, this song weaves its way through chunky heaviness to more melodic moments, and even back to more ethereal Industrial sounds. Besley’s powerful scream leads into a section with a clear melodeath groove, here nodding to In Flames and perhaps even Orpheus Omega.
Kindred changes the pace with its gentle, ethereal opening bringing to mind a subtly-lit cavern or grotto, and could perhaps be compared with Porcupine Tree’s lighter moments. The synths and guitars weave their enchantment before the heaviness kicks in, with the lead guitar only a reverberating memento of the tranquillity before. Besley’s vocals continues at a divine measure, soaring alongside uplifting riffs and tremendous drums, while the closing melancholia again brings to mind Porcupine Tree or Opeth.
Deep, resonant drums and forthright, clean vocals hint at the influence of Devin Townsend, particularly from the ‘Ocean Machine’ days – indeed, this album was mastered by Ermin Hamidovic, who has also worked with Townsend. There is truly a sense of grand scale about Junkyard Planet, even cosmic realisation, particularly in Besley’s epic vocal exchanges.
The aptly-titled Nuclear Winter truly does feel cold and mournful, with mysterious sounds weaving through deep drums and focused lead riffs. Besley’s vocals are haunting, and the entire sound is evocative of powerful winds moving over frostbitten landscapes. Besley’s voice carries the chill of the grave, while McConaghy also makes his presence keenly felt. Besley and Munro’s guitars rip powerfully through the despairing atmosphere, and even in the quieter moments, they carry a creepy and unsettling vibe. The beauty of the track is finally resolved most particularly in Besley’s understated, but deeply moving vocals, at these moments of the calibre even of Muse’s underrated frontman, Matt Bellamy.
Sepulchral y Sin Nombre lends a wild, almost tribal feel to the guitars before they launch into their classical mode. It isn’t long before the crunching riffs return of course, and Great Leap Skyward continue on their dark and dreary way that sits comfortably alongside Opeth’s heaviest works. This deathly potent tension continues in much the same vein in the dark and grinding Black Sea of Trees. This final track contains some of the harshest growls on the album, while deep cello spins a strange and melancholy web. This track becomes haunting, even frightening before the final agony and sonic destruction unleashed by Besley and Munro’s guitars. With a swaying riff laden with melancholy and loss, and album comes to a terrifyingly harsh close in pure darkness.
In short, Great Leap Skyward’s debut album is nothing less than a game-changer in Australian Metal, and if you’re not watching these guys, you’ll never know what you’re missing.
GREAT LEAP SKYWARD’S ‘MAP OF BROKEN DREAMS’ IS RELEASED AUGUST 31ST. PREORDER IT HERE!