Welcome to instalment number twenty-nine of my 2020 ‘Album of the Year Top 30 countdown’. That means that I’m about to reveal the runner-up in this year’s list.
Thank you again to you all for supporting me over the past month. Without all the comments and banter, I don’t think I would have seen it through this year. And that’s all I want to say, except…
…There’s just time for the usual reminder to anyone new to this series, to check out the links at the bottom of the post to find out who made the cut, from 30 down to 3, as well as my lists from previous years too.
And now, onto the silver medal winners for 2020…
Score Of Much Metal: 97%
I have known about this collaboration for a long, long time. I knew about it before it went public, so I had to keep my mouth shut. And shut my mouth remained until the protagonists brought the news into the open. I liked the snippets that I was privileged to hear way back, but my comment to Tom was ‘will there be any guitar, even just one poignant solo here or there?’ I was a touch disappointed when he responded, simply ‘no’.
However, I was wrong. No, I wasn’t wrong. I was so far wide of the mark, I was effectively doing an impression of the Arsenal strikers during 2020 – I was aiming for the goal, but hitting the corner-flag. When I heard the final, finished, polished product, I crumbled. It is a sensational body of work that pulls together the immense talents of Tom Englund and Vikram Shankar perfectly. It is emotional, it is raw, it is beautiful, and it is strong. Through the fragility and melancholy comes a sense of hope, renewed determination, and of acceptance.
The blend of piano and vocals, intertwined with cinematic atmosphere and effects is breath taking at times. And the melodies are often devastatingly sublime. I marvel at the abilities of these two gentlemen, as musicians but also as composers. Each and every song brings something magical to the listener, but it feels so effortless despite the months of hard work it has taken to get to this point. I always knew about the abilities of Englund and Shankar, but ‘Satellites’ has cemented this knowledge forever.
Despite this not being a metal album, it has come dangerously close to taking the top spot for 2020. In fact, had I have been lucky enough to hear it for longer, it may have actually taken the top prize. As it is, it was only released earlier this month. And, whilst I know that I will enjoy this album more and more as time goes on (I already am, as it happens), I feel like I have only really scratched the surface of the album. There is more to discover into 2021 I’m sure.
Nevertheless, the number two spot isn’t bad for a record that’s as ‘metal’ as my mum! Seriously though, it is stunning, a near-masterpiece, of which these two fine gentlemen should be incredibly proud.
What I wrote at the time:
“Admittedly, piano and vocal music wouldn’t normally be something that I’d be overly interested in. I do like classical music, soundtracks and film scores, but ‘Satellites’ is none of these. Not exclusively, anyway. It is a collection of songs that Tom and Vikram have composed together, utilising the skills of each to the very maximum. And when I talk of talent and skill, it is evident in abundance on ‘Satellites’.
The more I listen, the more enthralled and entranced I become. What started out as a listening experience that I admired and liked, has blossomed into something far stronger. This year has been tough for many of us on many levels and once it seeps into your mind and soul, this music makes a huge impact. It keys into something within me that resonates so strongly, that I find myself openly crying as I listen, with some songs crushingly powerful despite the lack of anything remotely resembling rock, let alone metal.
…the incredibly moving nature of the music should be no surprise, and the dye is cast in the first few seconds of the album’s opener, ‘Horizons’. The opening piano notes from the classically-trained virtuoso are tentative, mournful, brittle, but achingly beautiful. The touch and feel of Vikram is stunning, as are the hushed, introspective vocals of Tom when he joins his partner.
…suffice to say that there isn’t a wasted moment on ‘Satellites’, no let-up in the quality, no reprieve from the gloomy, desolate and incredibly touching music.
When the album comes to an end, I don’t mind admitting that I am shattered. The emotions, the melancholy, the fragility, and the honesty all combine to stir a crescendo of feelings within me. The music is refined and majestic, but there’s a sadness that permeates over and above all else. This means that the experience might be too sombre for some. For me, however, it is damn near perfect. Music that can move the listener to such a great extent has to be special, and so I can only conclude that ‘Satellites’, the debut release from Silent Skies is a truly magical listening experience. Heart-wrenching, but utterly magical.”
Read the full review here.
The list this year so far…
If you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here: