Fear From The Skies is a slow-burning and strangely interesting debut album from heavy metal band Albatross. This band’s focus has always been on telling a cogent story through music, in the tradition of its chief influence King Diamond. Unsurprisingly then, songs are liberally stretched out to accomplish this mission statement and refuse to be restrained by simple verse-chorus forms. Vocals are an acquired taste but to music of this nature, they are pivotal. Nothing if not dramatic, they shape shift through timbre and pose, and frequently venture out of the comfortable confines of underlying chords.
More fascinating, however, is the strange bifurcation of sound heard when a band having a good hold on song writing realizes their vision with palpably modern techniques. The songs on Fear From The Skies show taste and control over transition, progression, and overall development; despite containing multiple parts and oftentimes drastic, successive changes in mood, they rarely sound a note of discord, and can be admired and even enjoyed at a high-enough level.
The dichotomy arises in the very stuffing of these parts. Albatross may fancy themselves an old school heavy metal band but the individual techniques on display here owe more to common metalcore tropes.This shouldn’t be taken to mean that the band writes metalcore music, but rather that many of the components they use in the process show indelible marks of that side-strain of popular culture. Certain idiosyncrasies of phrase and groove, often supplemented by invasive 4/4 crash hits, all aid in that live-performance vibe that many Indian bands feel compelled towards during the writing process itself. It’s quite possible that metalcore is a subliminal state of mind for the modern band, often manifesting itself in spite of best intentions and, at times, without the conscious knowledge of the band.
It is to the band’s credit then that their sense of arrangement, technical skill and ultimately, breadth of ambition, greatly compensates for these micro-missteps. Fear From The Skies is far from being a perfect album but it certainly makes for all manner of curious contrasts; between style and genre, between vision and execution, and between self-perception and reality. Flawed heavy metal with its heart in the right place, or just about the greatest metalcore album ever? Take your pick.