Sea of Tranquility (Steven Reid)

Colours of the Desert is the first time that I’ve encountered Lithuania’s foremost Prog Rock act The Skys (not to be confused with the US electro-pop-rock outfit of the same name), although it is in fact the band’s fourth album. Bringing together influences such as Pink Floyd (the strongest flavour), RPWL, Fish era Marillion and Eloy, The Skys have created a Neo-Prog album of quite some stature, with bold musical themes being boosted by intricate, yet grand arrangements. The album itself appears to be conceptual, with the desert and the life the passes through it being the central theme – something backed up by the cohesive nature of the music, which uses similar sections to Pink Floyd, or Misplaced Childhood era Marillion to link the songs and make them flow seamlessly from theme to theme. The album starts inauspiciously, and I’d go as far as to suggest that the initial passage of the album’s title track are completely underwhelming. It is a shame that such a convincing collection begins in such an unexciting manner. However things pick up quickly, with Arena like dynamics building the song through clever use of keyboards and a multi-vocal approach. Both guitarist Jonas Ciurlionis and keyboard player Bozena Buinicka provide vocals, with the male-female interplay adding depth to the excellently crafted guitar and keyboard themes. That said while both are interesting singers, Bozena is consistently outshone by the wonderful backing vocals courtesy of Anne Marie-Helder (Mostly Autumn/Panic Room). Helder isn’t the only guest to turn up, with Roger Waters guitarist Dave Kilminster, Scorpions/Fish keyboard player John Young, Cutting Crew drummer Martin Beedle, Holding Pattern guitarist Tony Spada and Eurythmics/Paul McCartney saxophonist Snake Davis all adding their weight to an already excellent album. The band themselves are no slouches though, with Jonas combining with second guitarist Alex Liutvinskij and Bozena’s keyboard to great effect across the nine tracks on show, while Justas Tamasevicius and Ilja Molodcov show great restraint and poise on bass and drums respectively. What really raises Colours Of The Desert above the many albums that contain similar Neo-Prog ideals is the way that The Skys have created selection of music that really flows beautifully from start to finish, but in a way that still spins off on tangents to keep you completely focused on what is going on. The songs vary from introspective and atmospheric, to full on Neo bombast, with “Walking Alone” coming on like prime time Floyd, especially in the guitar solo, whereas “Calling Out Your Name” provides a gloriously catchy chorus that will see you singing the song’s title long after the album has finished. “The Pyramid” takes things into a more film score like direction, with strings underpinning a poignant guitar line, while the saxophone and vocals take us deep into RPWL territory during closing track “What If?”. Colours Of The Desert is an album that improves with numerous listens, maturing and enthralling as you become more familiar with it. I’m off to become even more acquainted right now!