“We’re open to trying some things that maybe we don’t do in some of our other projects.” The story of melodic prog duo Silent Skies

(Image credit: Patric Ullaeus)

Every day for around three months, Evergrey singer Tom S Englund and prolific pianist Vikram Shankar would meet virtually over Zoom to see what musical ideas might blossom between them. The result was their second album Nectar, and despite its digital roots, the rich record brims with emotive soul that manages to be intimate yet absolutely grand.

“It was beautiful, because if I wanted to take a chance on something I could just walk over to my Moog synth or something and just try it,” Shankar recalls. “It was a very free-flowing process where we were throwing a lot of stuff at the wall to see what stuck.”

For a group that pivot on the rudimental pairing of vocals and piano, Silent Skies make a hell of a sound. Not in a brash way, but there’s a minimalist-yet-full, cinematic aura streaming through their backbone. And Nectar is ear-catchingly accessible too, despite some melancholic detours, with huge melodies fit for an even bigger audience and an unashamed pop veneer defined by some elegant vocals – elevated high up in the mix – which are married to deft piano.

“We’re taking influence from so many different things,” Shankar explains from his home studio in North Carolina. “They range from the quite arcane, whether it’s electronic music like Aphex Twin, or we talk about Radiohead or Anathema and Katatonia, and then we love music like Adele as well. It all comes in our melting pot of things that we like to do.”

Silent Skies act as something of an outlet for musical yearnings not always explored in the day job. Englund’s Evergrey sit on the edge of the progressive metal sphere, while Shankar has fingers in many pies, having worked with Haken’s Ross Jennings and Head With Wings while also burning up the keys in instrumental trio Lux Terminus. He and Englund rock up in prog metallers Redemption too. 

“We’re setting ourselves free from some preconceived notions of what someone might expect when they put on a Tom Englund record or a Vikram Shankar record,”
the pianist ponders. “We’re open to trying some things that maybe we don’t do in some of our other projects.”

Their genesis serendipitously stemmed from an Evergrey cover Shankar uploaded to YouTube, which caught the attention of Englund. Suitably impressed with the emotion streaming out of the pianist’s fingers, he got in touch and debut album Satellites followed in 2020.

So what’s next for Silent Skies? The duo, self-described workaholics, are already gazing over the musical horizon. “At any given time we’re like one or two albums ahead of what the public is hearing,” Shankar says. “We’re already working on our third album and fourth albums, and we’re also working very closely together with a company called Saber Interactive, which makes video games.

“It’s difficult to say exactly what the next Silent Skies endeavour is going to sound like, because we have so many different irons in different fires. But we’re always trying to do things that excite us.”

Chris Cope

A writer for Prog magazine since 2014, armed with a particular taste for the darker side of rock. The dayjob is local news, so writing about the music on the side keeps things exciting - especially when Chris is based in the wild norths of Scotland. Previous bylines include national newspapers and magazines.