Countless Skies – Glow Review

UK melodic death crew Countless Skies impressed on their 2016 debut, New Dawn. Although in hindsight I was perhaps a little too generous with my final evaluation, the album signaled a rising voice worth keeping close track of. Some four years later, Countless Skies return rejuvenated, and with the backing of none other than Willowtip Records, a slightly left field label for the band’s rich, layered melodeath tapestry. The intervening years have treated Countless Skies well, and sophomore platter Glow, sounds like a band more comfortable and confident with their lush blend of gorgeous melody, progressive arrangements, and dynamic shifts into heavier realms.

The bombast and Finnish styled melodeath framework is solidified into a more distinctive sonic palette. Sure the Insomnium and Omnium Gatherum influences, and Opethian shades of proggy dynamism remain, yet overall the writing is more engaging and refined than the debut. This is reflected in the confident compositional strides the band has made. Increasingly fluid, epic and balanced arrangements, defined by  genuinely gripping and uplifting melodic passages, glittering leads and harmonies, and the requisite melancholy shades expected of the style, highlight an accomplished album. Gentle ocean sounds open proceedings, segueing into the gradual swell of opener “Tempest.” Some may find aspects of the song/album a little too light and fluffy, but in these troubled times, the change of pace is largely satisfying. The song possesses a radiant, positive vibe within its leisurely, bouncy melodeath structure. Solidly unremarkable growls from guitarist Ross King are offset by bassist Phil Romeo’s hugely impressive cleans, creating a contrasting dynamic that is generally well executed. The massively improved and quite excellent production lends a sonic lushness and detail to songs adorned with cello, piano and choirs to flesh out the usual metal instrumentation.

“Summit” outdoes the opener with added aggression and layered, orchestral, almost folk metal flair. Here the melancholic tone and proggy detours provide a bit more spark and interest. The first half of the album is admirable, frequently solid, and occasionally glorious. However, Glow‘s highest peak resides in the epic three part title track that comprises the last 20 odd minutes of the album. Not to discount the quality cuts that precedes it, this ambitious piece pulls together the different strains of Countless Skies into a unified, cohesive and ambitious whole. Their developing writing skills and progressive leaning arrangements are enlivened by a knack of penning rousing hooks and hugely epic, emotive anthems. “Part 1” showcases the band’s confident writing and progressive tendencies, fluid transitions and shades of darkness and light recalling a lighter Opeth, freshened with their own engaging melodies and Romeo’s beguiling vocals. The remaining two segments flow seamlessly on from the impressive first chapter, the pacing near perfect. Countless Skies merge their soulful, moving guitar harmonies, with layers of complex instrumentation and alluring atmospheres, punctuated with pleasing bursts of speed and aggression. Frequent tempo shifts, hooky songwriting, and show-stopping clean vocals seal the deal across a stunning piece, with an almost euphoric climax.

There is a lot to like about Countless Skies and the impressive progressions they have made since the promising debut. However I feel like the best is still yet to come as they edge towards greater achievements. I earlier mentioned Countless Skies finding their voice and identity, but there remain moments, especially during the album’s first half, where they grapple with balancing influences with their own unique identity. By the same token they avoid derivation and Countless Skies are certainly on the right path in this regard. Meanwhile, the harsh growls of King get the job done but lack a bit of character and though I enjoy the uplifting vibe, every now and then I crave a bit more teeth and heft than what is offered. Otherwise there is much more to praise than knock on Glow, with the strengths of the triple treat title track overshadowing a more than respectable first movement.

Teetering on the edge of greatness, Glow is a beautifully crafted slab of brooding, yet oddly bright and positive melodic death that raises the stakes considerably from the promising debut. And if Countless Skies are able to conjure an album’s worth of songs of the quality of the standout Glow trilogy, we may have something extra special on our hands. As it stands, Glow is a consistently pleasant listen from a band on a steady rise, further consolidating Countless Skies as an increasingly accomplished force, set to become a prominent powerhouse in the current melodeath landscape.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 9  | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Willowtip Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: November 6th, 2020

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