When Shattered Skies describe their music to us as “bombastic” we suspect we’re onto something pretty special. And thankfully, the quartet’s progressive metal fuelled with cinematic atmosphere – which they summarise as “a lot of groove, a lot of melody, and a real commitment to conveying emotion and power through focused songwriting” – succeeds in being as epic as it suggests.
Founding members Ian Rockett (guitar, keyboards, synth programming and backing vocals) and Ross McMahon (drums, synth programming and mixing) first formed Shattered Skies in their homeland of Ireland back in 2011, gained some traction in the UK and Europe and took the decision to move to England to pursue things further. Ian explains: “We ended up struggling to get our feet on the ground in a new country and it caused a lot of delays and difficulties for us. In that time we did manage to get our first album The World We Used to Know out, which went down well.”
In addition to those struggles, they also had to build a new lineup, which saw English vocalist Gerry Brown and bassist Chris Borland join the group, but it’s certainly sent the band in the right direction. On the additions, Ian says: “We now have a lineup with more passion and creative output than we’ve ever had, and it’s a hugely gratifying feeling to have come out the other end of it all stronger than ever.”
The band are set to release second album Muted Neon two weeks tomorrow (16 November), on which Ian tells us: “We’re very excited, it’s been a long road and a lot of work getting this band back to the right place, and this album was a huge undertaking in terms of the sound we wanted to build, but we’re incredibly proud of it and very hopeful people will enjoy. People should expect crushing riffs, laser-focused technicality, groove and catchy as hell melodies with a lot of emotion when they put this record on.”
And if latest single Shut In is anything to go by, this album is going to be an absolute banger. This epic track opens up with darting synths over big guitar bursts then gives way to a huge low-tuned riff over driving drums. Stabbing guitars lead us into an opening verse of powerful vocals with lingering synth sounds, then screamed vocals answer Gerry’s lead vocals. It build towards a series of guitar solos, that end on a huge growl and screamed vocals then flow into more singalong vocals. Check it out in the video below:
Muted Neon sees Shattered Skies deliver more of a collective effort than ever before and pushes the boundaries of what they’ve previously delivered. Ian expands: “We’re pushing the scale and grandiosity of this band even further. I spent as much time working on the synth/keyboard layers and sound design on this album as I’ve spent on entire album recordings in the past. Ross worked incredibly hard to push the mixing and production to new heights.
“As a band, this is the first time we’ve made a record with all four members contributing creatively, so having so many people putting their hearts and souls into the songwriting has pushed us to another level as well. For example, I wrote all the vocals and lyrics for this band (before now) but on this album, Gerry wrote vocals and lyrics for four songs, and Ross contributed to the vocals on a song as well. Chris also submitted an amazing song in Mercator Map after only a couple of months in the band.”
The Shattered Skies sound is massively diverse, going from huge metal riffs to big melodic rock to electronica with seemingly free reign. And when you learn it’s been inspired by everything from In Flames, Deftones, Pantera and Mudvayne through to Dream Theater, Karnivool, SikTh and score composers like John Carpenter, Mac Quayle and Vangelis, you begin to understand why.
As Ian puts it: “Musically we’re influenced by a lot of things, from metal and prog to dance music, electronic music, synthwave, soundtracks/scores… everything. In terms of themes and topics, we write about our own experiences, struggles, mental health issues, views on social issues, sometimes some political stuff, just anything that we really feel compelled to say something about. We do this because we need to do it, we need to express and create, and we want to share experiences with people and hopefully give them something cathartic to really delve into.”
We’ve spoken to a couple of Irish bands recently – keep your eyes peeled for a new one next week! – and Shattered Skies’ decision to move away from their homeland obviously raises some interesting questions. Ian tells us: “In all honesty, we moved to the UK in early 2013 because the Irish metal scene really wasn’t doing much for us. At that time, it was primarily black metal and thrash metal shows, and we really didn’t fit in, whereas we’d play shows in the UK and Europe and get much bigger receptions and turnouts.
“It does seem like more and more prog metal is going over to play in Ireland, so it must be getting more vibrant which is great to see. We haven’t played in Ireland since 2012 so we’d be really excited to go back there because for Ross and myself, we’re proud to be Irish and it would mean the world to go back and play some fun shows there. Here’s hoping!”
You can see Shattered Skies perform their new music when they play an album launch show at The Black Heart in Camden on 26 November. More info is here.
Finally, Ian adds: “We’re raring to go again, we’re so grateful to the fans who support us, and we want to share meaningful emotional work and experiences with you. We’re hopeful this new album will get people excited about Shattered Skies again because we really feel like we’ve created something powerful here. Enjoy Muted Neon.”
You can follow Shattered Skies on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. Muted Neon is out on 16 November and is available for pre-order here, and in the meantime you can check out their music on Bandcamp and Spotify.