“We played a show where a fairly high-profile person from the music industry came to see us and the first thing he said to us after the gig was: ‘Great show, but ditch the shit suits.’”
Ian Rockett, Shattered Skies’ guitarist, lightheartedly recounts that since the release of their _Reanimation _EP in 2011, the band have been toying with the idea of having a gimmick to stand out from their prog peers. It would seem the three-piece suits they’re wearing in their most recent music video for The End And The Rebirth may not be the answer.
However, following the success of their live performances at HRH Prog in 2013 and 2014, Shattered Skies don’t have to rely on gimmicks to draw a crowd. Four years since Reanimation, their highly anticipated first full‑length album The World We Used To Know is out, and the music speaks for itself.
But why the four-year wait? Rockett explains: “The last three years have been full of transitions. We moved from Ireland to the UK in that time, which turned out to be a bit more difficult than we thought. It should have taken a few months but there were a couple of logistical issues and we were trying to get on our feet in this country. Also, when we moved, our bassist didn’t follow. That’s when we got Jim.”
Bass guitarist and the latest member to join, Jim Hughes goes on to detail that some of the practical issues they endured were the result of a fake Facebook page being created unbeknown to them, as a ripple effect of another band in the same musical genre buying thousands of ‘Likes’. “During that time, when we had no release and nothing was really going on with us, we suddenly jumped up by around 40,000 ‘Likes’ when we were sat at about 6,000 to begin with. That seemed like a very suspicious jump.”
This uncommon phenomenon occurs when a false band profile is programmed to ‘Like’ other similar bands in order to seem legitimate, ultimately disrupting social media communication and ways of keeping track of a fanbase. Visibly frustrated by this event, Hughes explains: “People didn’t know that I was in the band for six months.”
When asked about what kind of followers they have acquired with their blend of heavy tech prog, clean vocals and vibrant keyboards, both musicians agree that Shattered Skies attract both the prog enthusiasts and metal fans alike.
Says Rockett: “It’s definitely a mix. We’ve played Bloodstock and we had an amazing reaction there. We’re playing prog festivals, tech and djent-type festivals and we’ve played more general shows. There always seem to be some pockets of people there who are really into what we’re doing. We have a fairly wide reach and people who come to see us play come from every style of music.”
“We even get the odd dude in a Slayer shirt,” Hughes adds, chuckling. “Those who discover us and like the music really get us on a very deep level. We’ve been told by people who don’t like metal or prog that they really enjoy our music, so who knows really.”
The band describe their first EP as melodic groove metal, but the new The World We Used To Know reveals an obvious musical shift from tech metal to full-on heavy prog, with more collaborative writing between the members.
“There was a time around 2010 when we were big into everything tech and we left our earlier influences like Dream Theater, Karnivool and Faith No More,” says Rockett. “That has kind of come back into our tastes so we’ve returned to a more progressive sound.”
He adds that this was a conscious decision, but reassures us that the new sound is in the same vein as the original Shattered Skies.
“The biggest prog work we have ever done is on this album. Our title track is an 11-minute monster that goes in crazy directions and comes to a great big theatrical conclusion. There are still a lot of heavy riffs. Everything we did on Reanimation has been pushed further: the heavy side, as well as the lighter side, the progressive side and the pop side. We are more comfortable in our own sound now. The production and songwriting are a lot better.”
Furthermore, they insist that the band’s new (relatively) clean-shaven, short-hair look is unrelated to their musical leap. Rockett chuckles: “I still had cool long hair when
I wrote most of the album.”
Shattered Skies believe that their musical versatility is a blessing, and despite having suffered a four-year lull, forcing them back into newcomer status again, they have the maturity to stand up for their style and face the reproaches of some of the most unwavering prog fans, as Rockett states.
“We are always going to be divisive because we have really heavy riffs but very clean vocals. There’s always going to be a certain group of people who want screams and throaty growls, but we like that clean Freddie Mercury or Matthew Bellamy high‑note singing. It’s a cliché to say it, but if you’re not dividing opinions about your music then you’re never going to get anywhere. Every band that has ever been big has pissed a lot of people off.”
The World We Used To Know is available now and is self-released. See http://shatteredskies.bandcamp.com for more information.