With their album Excavations Of The Mind Rotterdam’s Sky Architect successfully pay homage to some of the great ’70s symphonic progressive rock. Underneath the shifting complexity of an album that explores the “disturbing psyche of a mentally troubled man” lie well placed hints of times long ago.
The band readily acknowledge the influence of legends from the past such as Gentle Giant and King Crimson but also the more recent names of Porcupine Tree, The Flower Kings, and Pain Of Salvation. Yet there is enough of their own direction, ambition, style, and creative imagination in this album to separate it from any ‘sounds like’ list.
Excavations Of The Mind arrives with artwork from Mark Wilkinson who lists Marillion, Fish, and Judas Priest among his many credits. With its dark subject matter the five-piece take us through a complex but always engaging adventure. Its well placed ambition is met by a quality of musicianship which delivers a dynamic album that boldly ventures into some quite unexpected territory.
It opens with the four-part epic “Deep Chasm” which grabs your attention from its opening sequence through to its finale. It’s a piece that really highlights the bands individuality and freedom of expression taking unexpected twists through shifting gears of mood and time structures.
As in the case of many of the masters of the early-’70s Sky Architect cleverly maintain your interest with a well placed ambitious vision. Symphonic passages, and vintage keys build upon a complex, versatile, and yet free spirited atmosphere. All of this is carried off with a dynamic freshness that makes this album a real find.
There is much here to satisfy prog fans both old and new as they explore the mysteries of a troubled mind. The musicianship of “Deep Chasm Part 2: Chime” unlocks the obvious ability collected within the band with a track that sears its way into the troubled areas of your own dark thoughts.
With that you remain alert in intrigued anticipation as you realise that you are never able to second guess just where they are going to take you next. “Deep Chasm Part 3: Changeling” reintroduces the central theme of the four-part piece before “Part 4: Chasm” takes us deeper into the quirky and mangled mesh of madness within this man’s mind.
“The Grey Legend”, arrives with many a hint of past glory days. Meanwhile, “Russian Wisdom” delivers its own touch of additional individuality. Next the title track succeeds in expertly drawing you even further in like a moth to a flickering flame.
In among its twists Sky Architect become exactly what you, by now, want them to be. Innovative and yet in tune with much of what has gone before. Their style dissolves and develops in equal measures delivering a rewarding and highly promising album.
There is a precision, a love, a careful construction, and a deep understanding of just where they want to be that helps deliver some magical, majestic moments of fittingly epic proportions.