Artist: Countless Skies

Album Title: Glow

Label: Willowtip Records

Date of Release: 6 November 2020

Hertfordshire, England. A generally affluent part of the UK, the home of footballers’ mansions and many who commute to work in the capital, as well as being the headquarters of some of the countries largest businesses. It is not the kind of place you’d expect to find a melodic death metal band with progressive tendencies, that is very much influenced by the Scandinavian bands that arguably helped to give birth and then shape this genre. And yet, Hertfordshire is the home of Countless Skies, a band that I have recently come across thanks to a couple of recommendations on my social media pages – got to love your loyal readers, haven’t you? There to pick up the ball when I drop it.

The band at the centre of this review is Countless Skies, a quartet comprised of guitarist/vocalist Ross King, bassist/backing vocalist Phil Romeo, drummer Nathan Robshaw, and guitarist/backing vocalist James Pratt. The album is entitled ‘Glow’ and it’s their sophomore full-length release in a career that began in 2009, albeit as Countless Skies from 2012. And I’m delighted that I was nudged in the direction of this album because as I type I’ve just had the email that my CD order is on the way. That should give you all the information you need as to what I think about ‘Glow’.

The Scandinavian references are there for all to hear across the seven-track record, or five-track if you count the three-part, twenty-minute title track as a single entity. Either way, we get around 45 minutes of quality heavy metal that’s part melodic death metal and part progressive metal. However, there are nods in other directions too, including moments of folk, doom, power, and a smattering of more besides. It is fair to say that Countless Skies are a pretty adventurous outfit, not necessarily wanting to stick to a single approach throughout the album. This might lead to a few accusations around lacking focus or a clear direction. I hear those arguments, but would disagree.

What I hear, above all else, is an album that twists and turns and, to use the cliché, takes the listener on a journey. There is plenty of variety, the music ebbs and flows nicely, offering  light and shade, heaviness and aggression tempered with sections of serene calm and introspection. There are explosions of sound as well as moments of minimalism, not to mention plenty of engaging melodies, all put together in a way that keeps my attention from beginning to end. For just their second full-length, ‘Glow’ demonstrates a fabulous, mature grasp of the symbiosis between songwriting and technical ability.

‘Glow’ opens with the sounds of waves lapping on the shore, as ‘Tempest’ gets things underway in a gentle way. Pianos and synths create the opening melody which is then built on nicely by the rest of the band, erupting into a forceful, yet restrained attack. There’s a smooth transition into ‘Summit’, which has moments of brisk, almost black metal-like assault where the drumming and riffs are delivered at real pace. The end is truly anthemic, with clean vocals soaring above a rich and vibrant soundscape.

‘Zephyr’ is without doubt one of the highlights of the record. I love the way that it starts off in serene, calm fashion, but you can just sense that it is building up to something more. As the heavy guitars enter right on cue, they are accompanied by a doom-like drum beat initially before increasing in speed and intensity. The heaviness may have increased but it’s not at the expense of the elegance of the song. There’s an abrupt cessation of the aggression in favour of a beautiful minimalist passage. A gorgeous guitar melody is introduced, a melody that remains for the final couple of minutes, led by the synths and then the guitar, whilst the brutality returns full throttle. The introduction of passionate clean vocals adds that epic touch, right before a lone piano sees the song to its conclusion.

The title track spans twenty minutes, but is split into three parts. Part 1 is entitled ‘Resolution’ and it begins quietly with acoustic guitars, synths, but an insistent beat from the rhythm section. There’s a brief heavy segment but it quickly reverts back to gentle soundscapes bathed in synths and featuring more acoustic guitars as well as clean vocals. It’s definitely music of strong contrasts, as the heavy sections are quite brutal to counteract the more whimsical segments, which later add further strings in the form of what I assume to be a double bass. The overlaying lead guitar solo is tremendous and lays the foundation for ‘Part 2 – Awakening’ which is incredibly anthemic and powerful. There are forays into more progressive death metal territory and there’s a pronounced progressive feel overall as the song does flit from idea to idea remarkably smoothly. But the ‘chorus’ that features more passionate clean vocals is so damn epic and catchy.

‘Part 3 – Reflection’ represents the final seven minutes of the album but wastes none of that time. From gentle picked acoustic guitar notes, to full-on synth-led symphonic metal extravagance, it is a fitting finale to the record. It’s largely an instrumental piece with gruff vocals appearing in the latter stages, but it’s the clean vocals that catch my attention. The heaviness alongside the vocal delivery reminds me a lot of Devin Townsend. And then, with that, almost too abruptly, the album is over and the silence is deafening.

I’m really impressed with this record, but then you probably gathered that already. There is so much to like that I am always amazed when the album finishes, such is the apparent speed with which it flies past. At the end, I’m never disappointed and I’m often tempted to press play once again. The icing on the cake is gorgeous artwork and a very commendable production. All in all, ‘Glow’ is an all-round great package and should really be on the radar of anyone who enjoys a slice of Scandinavian-inspired melodic, progressive death metal.

The Score of Much Metal: 90%

Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:

Dark Tranquillity – Moment

My Dying Bride – Macabre Cabaret

Sólstafir – Endless Twilight Of Co-Dependent Love

Communic – Hiding From The World

Wolverine – A Darkened Sun

Avandra – Skylighting

Pyramaze – Epitaph

Necrophobic – Dawn Of The Damned

Fates Warning – Long Day Good Night

Draconian – Under A Godless Veil

Mörk Gryning – Hinsides Vrede

DGM – Tragic Separation

Perduratum – Exile’s Anthology

Carcass – Despicable EP

Mors Principium Est – Seven

Cult Of Lilith – Mara

Helion Prime – Question Everything

Soul Secret – Blue Light Cage

Enslaved – Utgard

Dynfari – Myrkurs er þörf

Amaranthe – Manifest

Kataklysm – Unconquered

Structural Disorder – Kingdom Crossing

Skeletal Remains – The Entombment Of Chaos

Prehistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter One)

Ihsahn – Pharos

Hinayana – Death Of The Cosmic
Oceans Of Slumber – Oceans Of Slumber
Okyr – Premorbid Intelligence
Manticora – To Live To Kill To Live
Pain Of Salvation – Panther
Vanishing Point – Dead Elysium
Unleash The Archers – Abyss
Veonity – Sorrows
Nyktophobia – What Lasts Forever
Ages – Uncrown
Awake By Design – Awake By Design
Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape
Gaerea – Limbo
Buried Realm – Embodiment Of The Divine
Navian – Reset
Selenseas – The Outer Limits
Quantum – The Next Breath Of Air
Ensiferum – Thalassic
Long Distance Calling – How Do We Want To Live?
Airbag – A Day At The Beach
Re-Armed – Ignis Aeternum
Atavist – III: Absolution
Frost* – Others EP
Darker Half – If You Only Knew
Atavistia – The Winter Way
Astralborne – Eternity’s End
Centinex – Death In Pieces
Haken – Virus
Pile Of Priests – Pile Of Priests
Sorcerer – Lamenting Of The Innocent
Lesoir – Mosaic
Temnein – Tales: Of Humanity And Greed
Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
…And Oceans – Cosmic World Mother
Vader – Solitude In Madness
Shrapnel – Palace For The Insane
Sinisthra – The Broad And Beaten Way
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Naglfar – Cerecloth
Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews