When the Netherland's Kingfisher Sky released Hallway Of Dreams back in 2007, I was absolutely delighted by it. Despite my tardiness to pick up their latest release, Skin Of The Earth, which was mainly due to its poor distribution in the United States and my need of a hard copy, it only builds upon the features that made the debut such a success. A guitar-driven, vocally operatic, journey into a folk-laden musical world is just one way of thinking about this band from the other side of the pond. The diversity of the music presents me with a difficult challenge of trying to describe their sound.
Kingfisher Sky is the brainchild of drummer Ivar de Graaf, formerly of Within Temptation, and vocalist Judith Rijnveld. While the music itself is very guitar-focused, one finds the drumming here is far removed from the conventional rock and metal style. de Graaf is a great composer, constructing percussive groundwork that is interesting and dynamic without being distracting. It's his drumming, such as that in "The Craving" from Hallway Of Dreams, that originally made the music so addictive to me. Judith brings a unique style to the band, singing beautiful melodies, with her vibrato providing an additional instrumentation, almost resembling flute playing. In fact, when I originally heard the flute playing on "Two Old Trees", I thought at first that it was Judith's voice. Joining them are Edo van der Kolk and newcomer Chris Henny, who replaces Daan Janzing, handling dual guitar duties to create atmospheric arpeggiated backgrounds and soaring guitar solos (which are thankfully more frequent than in the first album). Eric Hoogendoorn holds down the low-end on bass, making sure de Graaf's drumming doesn't get too rambunctious, while David Gutierrez Rojas and Maaike Peterse help to further fill out the musical tapestry on keyboards and violoncello, respectively. As Maaike joined them on many of their tours following their debut release, her presence here not only makes sense, but adds another avenue for musical depth.
The music on Skin Of The Earth is powerful, though the way it approaches you changes from one song to the next. From the anthemic call to persevere in "Rise From The Ashes", to the metal breakdown in "My Better Part" over laden with operatic vocals, to the lyrically curious and addictive "Liquid Clocks", each tune composes a part of the whole picture. And, if you order a hard copy of the album, you will, in fact, be able to see that picture. As with the cover art for their last release, for which the artwork was painted by Judith's talented mother, she once again graces us -- this time with an amazing 22" x 9" painting on the reverse side of the liner notes. Each song is a piece of the painting, and it results in an eclectic, but entrancing, work of art that I can not accurately describe.
While Hallway Of Dreams remains the favorite of mine between these two releases, I may be biased in that I've had several years to absorb that one. Skin Of The Earth is no slouch in the strength of its songs, and each carries you along on the waves of melodies until the end. Two differences I immediately notice between the two releases, however, is that, one, the drums are less commanding in the mix than the previous album, and two, instead of fading out, some songs cut off abruptly. I did mention that the drums are less distracting, which may be to allow the other instruments room to breathe, but at times I wish they were more front and center to drive the songs forward. As for the sudden endings, I don't know what the intention was with that. Especially on the last song, "The Edge Of Insanity", which begins to fade and then cuts off, I'm left wondering the point.
For those that have a chance, I'd definitely recommend checking out Kingfisher Sky. They're an extremely talented and catchy band, with arms reaching out in a variety of directions to capture pieces of the musical landscape. I find their amalgamation of styles to be interesting and refreshing, and they make the final result sound seamless. If you can only afford to get one of their albums right now (though both are available digitally for under $10), I'd recommend seeking out their debut, Hallway Of Dreams, before you venture to Skin Of The Earth. That being said, their sophomore release is worth your time and contains plenty of songs that will undoubtedly fill your head in the best of ways.
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