Artist: Sienna Skies
Album: A Darker Shade of Truth
Have you ever asked—no, begged, pleaded, demanded or any one of a million words more powerful than asked—for the truth, only to be completely shattered upon hearing it? To feel it crush through your ribcage like a wrecking ball, flattening organs and reducing tissue and flesh to masses of scattered, soulless pulp? Honesty—while typically the best policy—isn’t always the friendliest. It can be cruel and unusual; a bizarre, bitter torture that plays with the mind and heart as if they were marionettes. Chances are, you’ve experienced it at least once, and given the title and terrifying aggression laced with uplifting beauty of Australian metalcore outfit Sienna Skies’ latest album, A Darker Shade of Truth, this Sydney quintet know it too. A Darker Shade of Truth is as sinister as it is scintillating; combining dark, dissonant and devastating moments of groove-tinted heaviness with crooned, cleanly sung interludes and choruses that take the fresh lacerations and abrasions scattered across the listener’s skin and soothe them with mesmerizing beauty. Sienna Skies are catchy and crushing all in one fell swoop, creating a stellar showcase of energetic, heavy-handed metalcore prowess with that intangible zest that only Australian bands can truly provide.
Sienna Skies use a wealth of musical prowess to establish a dynamic that ebbs and flows between furious and furtive, keeping the listener constantly on their toes. Percussionist Damion Brohier finds himself at the heart of the band—beating away and delivering fresh, invigorated energy to every track. From the first fill of “Misunderstood,” Brohier’s bass drum is thick and meaty—a perfect contrast to his bright and explosive snare drum. Together, the two are their own arsenal—even on the more metered and mellow track, “Divided,” or “Quarterlife,” Brohier’s percussion remains dominating and driving. Where Brohier is at his best is where he works closely with bassist Josh Wade to create maelstroms of hectic, heavy and utterly abrasive brutality. “Corporate Cross” and “Sepulchre” are incredibly examples of this—as is the bombastic “Misunderstood.” On these tracks, Wade amplifies every crushing thwack of Brohier’s kick drum—setting a galloping candor for guitarists Michael Sankey and Nick Musgrave to keep up with. Where Brohier is a fairly steady and severe driving force, guitarists Sankey and Musgrave find themselves in a much more pliable and adaptable environment. Songs like “Divided”—reminiscent of melodic hardcore-infused metalcore—are proof of this. Much of the song is spent oscillating between cleanly played and crystalline leads that dive into gritty and gruesomely groovy segments out of nowhere. As a corollary, however, “Misunderstood” or the crushing “Corporate Cross” are examples of Sankey and Musgrave following Brohier and Wade carefully—albeit recklessly—stopping at nothing to smash the listener’s sensibilities to smithereens.
Sienna Skies’ heavy-soft dynamic would hardly be complete without a consideration of their vocal element—after all, all the instrumental ingenuity in the world would be for naught if sullied by a vocalist who can’t keep up or complement the musical dynamics. Fortunately, when it comes to A Darker Shade of Truth, frontman Thomas Pirozzi is more than up to the challenge of keeping up with the remainder of Sienna Skies. If it isn’t immediately evident after the dust settles from the explosive “Misunderstood,” then it definitely will be by the time “Quarterlife” reaches its climax. Pirozzi takes the listener on a sprawling tour of emotions on every track—and while some are more muted and melancholy, others, like the secular “Corporate Cross” see Pirozzi lashing out at corruption and greed the whole world over; proving his lyricism matches both his and the band’s penchant for dynamism. However, where Pirozzi makes great leaps lyrically and vocally, some of his lines are somewhat nonsensical. The most glaring example appears in “Separated Hearts,” where Pirozzi (beautifully) croons “hey, are you still awake? I just woke up in Vancouver and I haven’t slept in days.” While he sounds second to none, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to point out where this line might not be the most thought-out. All the same, missteps like these are few and far between, as Pirozzi spends most of his performance on A Darker Shade of Truth shining brightly.
A Darker Shade of Truth is a beautiful and bold full length release that fans of this Australian quintet have been yearning for. Packed with energy and emotion both, Sienna Skies bring their A-Game to the listener’s ears and the result is a memorable and meaningful album that—even in spite of slight pitfalls and the fact that, ultimately it doesn’t reinvent metalcore’s wheel—is nothing short of a great time. Catchy grooves and crushing breakdowns wind their way inside the listener’s head, laced with silky smooth and contagious cleanly sung choruses to soothe the wounds inflicted by the band’s penchant for punishing aggression. All in all, Sienna Skies contribute to the integrity of metalcore’s heavy-to-soft stylings with an album fit for spin-kicks and singalongs both.
For Fans Of: Like Moths to Flames, The Plot in You, Memphis May Fire
By: Connor Welsh