Silent Skies made their debut in late 2020 with the boundless soundscape of “Satellites,” an absolutely stunning release which celebrated the nascent union between musicians Tom Englund and Vikram Shankar. It was a sonic experience that carried the listener from the depths of sorrow to the heights of hope, its elegance expressed with striking musicality. This first taste of Silent Skies was brimming over with potential and unmistakable passion, and it came with the welcome promise of more material to come.
Fans didn’t have to wait long to see where this duo would tread next, for “Nectar” has arrived just over a year later. This album serves as a natural follow-up to their debut effort, showcasing maturity and well-measured exploration while remaining comfortably in the art-rock niche “Satellites” had created. Both Englund and Shankar have blossomed as artists beneath ever-increasing compositional skill, airtight musicianship, and emotionally compelling songwriting. A confident step forward in musical evolution, a firm declaration of identity apart from other endeavors, and a masterpiece all in one: “Nectar” delivers everything fans could hope for in a sophomore album.
One would be remiss to speak of this album without delving into the musicians behind its magic. Anyone who has followed Tom Englund’s storied career knows of his Midas touch, the ability to drench any project he touches with the beautiful shadows of melancholy. He brings with him a uniquely compelling voice, one which conveys unparalleled power and grace through darkness. While he may also hold the guitar when he is behind the mic with Evergrey, his concerted focus for Silent Skies is delivering an absolutely massive vocal performance. Whether his voice rests just above a soft hum or cuts pain sharply across pointed verses, his confident and unwavering lead makes “Nectar” truly unforgettable.
Vikram Shankar may be the younger of the pair, but he too is a virtuoso and visionary beyond compare: his arrangements are refreshing and inventive, his composition ambitious and invigorating. When his fingers touch keys they seem to sing beneath his mastery, a performance that extends far beyond merely playing an instrument. Each touch is imbued with passion, which allows “Nectar” to find its strength in not just the chemistry between the duo, but their fully committed delivery. This practice of drawing from their very hearts and souls maximizes the impact of what would otherwise be considered a rather minimalistic approach to songwriting.
To fill out the cinematic splendor with even greater warmth and depth, renowned cellist Raphael Weinrothe-Brown contributed his talents across almost every track of “Nectar.” His contributions mesh seamlessly with Englund and Shankar, giving the album spectacular cohesion and chemistry between contributors. The sheer attention to detail is breathtaking, with the layering of instruments and vocals perfectly balanced to highlight each musician’s strengths while lending even greater depth.
Opening track “Fallen From Heart” is an immediate reintroduction to the stripped-back brilliance Silent Skies brings to the table. Englund’s vocals fly above a delicately wandering piano, almost dreamlike as the words fall like fresh snow. This ethereal effect is one of the album’s strengths, and it casts a shimmering veil between musicians and listeners as subsequent track “Taper” begins to unfold. There is both intimacy and distance, a sense of closeness tainted by longing. Such a delicate and reserved atmosphere persists throughout the album, and is beautifully concluded with title track “Nectar” and its haunting instrumentals.
Subtle electronic touches also tie the album together every step of the way. Where “Satellites” relied almost solely on the warm depth of a grand piano to summon its imagery, “Nectar” paints grey skies and frigid evenings with dancing electronic melodies. They enhance the frozen air of “Cold,” and give “Leaving” the boost of energy required to brighten the album’s midpoint, all without abandoning its more subtle approach. This electronic flavor never overwhelms other instrumental contributions and easily melds with the identity Silent Skies has adopted. It also points to the freedom both musicians have to stretch from their other projects, giving them even greater liberty to create tracks that are true to their hearts rather than external expectations.
While much of the album is grounded in carefully crafted ambience, the key highlights of “Nectar” rest in its soaring cinematic heights. “Neverending” is the score to a movie that thunders as steadily as a heartbeat, and “Taper” is a full-bodied journey that fills the listener with a sense of reverie. Silent Skies has crafted a landscape that seems to sprawl boundlessly, carrying passengers through oceanic distances in just ten tracks.
Above all else, “Nectar” is a work of art. It’s the sort of poetry that feels somewhat invasive to indulge in. It’s the pages of a diary tucked just out of reach, wrinkled paper puckered with teardrops, scored with angry strokes of the pen. These are verses that bleed with grief, pour over with love, drown in the darkness of ink stains. Familiar characters make an appearance as the melody weaves its tale: the sun that is always out of reach behind the clouds, the rain that falls on open wounds, the constant pain of longing for something better. And as “Nectar” proceeds, the pages of the diary fall away to reveal a mirror, the silver that peers deep into one’s own soul.
This poignant lyricism, coupled with stunningly beautiful instrumentals, has a way of burying itself deep in a sorrowful heart. It conveys emotions that cling to the skin long after the final note has played, having set a scene so vivid that it can’t simply fade away. Yet despite this depth and beauty, “Nectar” remains incredibly accessible for listeners of all preferences. “Fallen From Heart” is as cleanly produced as it is elegant, while “Better Day”’s gentle dynamics capture threads of both pop influence and modern classical.
The only criticism that can be leveraged against this masterpiece is its relative lack of variety. Consistency threatens to give way to monotony in some fleeting moments, and “Nectar” never quite conquers the breadth displayed in “Satellites.” At the same time, the comfortable flow between tracks truly allows one to sink deep into its comfort without distraction. This project is still young, and has proven to hold incredible potential – and most importantly, it shows two artists who have remained true to their passions.
When it comes time to delve into “Nectar,” Englund himself has the best words of advice for listeners: “let it hurt, let the pain come.” You’ll find yourself better for enduring the agony for the sake of its beauty, and by album’s end you’ll know with certainty that you’re not alone. Like the joy of standing beneath a warm summer’s rain, let “Nectar” wash over you and revel in every moment.
Release Date: February 4th, 2022
Genre: Art Rock
- Tom Englund / Vocals
- Vikram Shankar / Keyboards
- Fallen From Heart
- Let It Hurt
- The One
- Better Days
Sorrow has never been more beautiful than in the comforting embrace of “Nectar.” Adorned with the splendor of breathtaking musicianship and melancholic creative vision, Silent Skies continue to excel in the craft of making memorable and deeply touching soundscapes.