Six young men from Southern California make up heavy metal band At The Skylines. They have combined their diverse musical influences, from jazz to classic rock, to create their first album, The Secrets of Life.
There is a definite heavy energy throughout the record that is consistent with the expectations of metal music. However, it is not limited to distorted guitars and consistent rumbling of drums. At some point in every song the storm breaks a little and the style softens enough for simple tempo and rhythm to be recognized. In these parts it becomes evident that At The Skylines is a rehearsed group, with obvious chemistry and determination to come together as best they can in their preferred genre.
The vocals, from singers Chris Shelley and Mark Barela, vary in different parts of each song from the known metal style of deep growling and screaming to emo-rock singing. Almost every track begins with growling, accompanied by thunderous guitar and drums, and then transitions into singing, breaking the violence to make way for emotional lyrics to be expressed. For example, in “Let’s Burn This,” the song begins with the heated and angry lyrics such as “The one last thing you will remember is your failures.” This initial emotion transitions into the singing, with “So now you’ve left me with a bitter taste on my tongue/ I never thought that we would make it this far.” The turbulent balance of anger and anguish in the delivery of the lyrics tells a story of heartbreak and abandonment in a restless, conflicted way.
While At The Skylines does an effective job of capturing the emotional rollercoaster of teen angst in the metal tradition, The Secrets to Life seems to do little else. The songs tend to follow this angry/communicative/angry formula, and to an untrained metal ear the process begins to feel repetitive. There are no overt surprises or unconventional moves, except for in “Forgiveness (Release),” which begins with singing and then turns to growling.
As to be expected with the metal genre, the album comes across as rather angry. It can be a shock blasting through the speakers on a quiet Sunday afternoon, but depending on the atmosphere and the state of mind of the listener, the overall tone could translate into one that is useful for self-expression. At a time in the term where academic frustration is high, The Secrets of Life might be a good option for channeling some of that anger. If the sound appeals to you, At The Skylines will be touring Canada in Dec. Check out their website, <www.attheskylines.com> for more information.