[Review] Nine Skies – Sweetheart Grips

Nine Skies is a French Neo Prog band, based in Nice. The sound is a solid Progressive Rock, with influences of Pop, Jazz, and Rock, creating a unique blend with very personal traits. Their debut album “Return Home” was released on 30 November 2017, for Anesthetize Productions, given the success obtained on September 15, 2018, it was released in a special edition. In October 2019 their second album “Sweetheart Grips” released for Anesthetize Productions, available in Digital and 2xCD formats made by 12 tracks + an 8-page booklet. Entirely composed by Nine Skies, Mixing and Mastering were curated by Alexandre Lamia, while the graphics are entrusted to Steve Anderson. The band has collaborated with international musicians such as Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson, Steve Hackett, Frost), Clive Nolan (Arena, Pendragon), Dave Foster (Steve Rothery Band) , Dave Foster Band), Riccardo Romano (Ranestrane, Steve Rothery Band) and others. The title refers to a practice dating back to World War II, when the soldiers placed family photos or Pinup Girls, under the pistol grips, called Sweetheart Grips. The album highlights memories and feelings of a young soldier, exposed to a post-traumatic syndrome. In addition to the paradox between the violence of war and the humanity hidden in each of us. Proceeds of the record will be donated to the ‘Ian’s Chain‘ for the prevention of suicide and to help those who have lost a loved one, a victim of suicide. “Vestige” is a short intro made of environmental noises that ends with a woman crying, the song guides us towards “Burn my Brain.” The song begins with a solid bass drum rhythm base and keyboards riff, part of the vocal is a guitar and synth weaving develops. The drums are very technical, and after the entry of a narrated vocal, the track evolves with a melancholic instrumental moment, good only for guitar. We return to the main theme, with the last vocal lines the song closes in crescendo. “Catharsis (Part II)” an acoustic guitar arpeggio and the keyboards in the background create a soft melody, enter warm and passionate male voice, up to half of the song when the narrating voice takes over. The intertwining of mellotron and guitar is excellent and the track exudes pathos, hard to hear a song so expressive these days. After the calm “The Thought Trader” aggressive part, with a powerful drum, elaborate bass turns, the guitar creates massive riffs well-supported by the keyboards. The female voice returns, alternating with the more spoken male one. A great instrumental detachment with a guitar solo stands out in the center of the track, the structure is complex and the instrumental parts are well executed, often changing time. The voice returns and the synth fits well into this song with strong characters. “Alone (Sweetheart Grips Intro)” is the prelude to the following passage, with the narrating voice and the piano, in the end the mellotron is added, and so we come to the final track of the first part. “Sweetheart Grips” is the track that gives the album its title and starts with the heartbeat, then it opens immediately with a nice evolution in the Neo Prog, with the male voice well inserted between the symphonic melodies of the keyboards. The instruments are well blended and the expressive voice, calmer moments alternate with others where the whole symphonic charge of the band is expressed to the fullest. The rhythm accelerates in the central part and then leaves room for an acoustic phrasing between guitar, piano and voice. In the final the charge of harmonies returns and the piece and the first part close. The second part starts with “Somewhere inside Mankind,” immediately the synth and a solid Prog rhythm open the song. Enter the vocals and between good bass lines and tempo changes a magnificent solo of intersecting synth and guitar finds space. It is a tighter track, which decelerates in the final when the sax sit on top. A excellent start for this second part which continues with “Fields of Perdition,” a powerful and aggressive track, which at times leaves room for more melodic moments with the female voice. Remarkable proof of the singer, headboards and guitar are excellent and Drum and bass mark powerful rhythms. “Tyrant or Nothing” has a softer, more oriental start with percussion and acoustic guitar. With the entry of the instruments, a rhythmic and sophisticated sound is created. Entirely instrumental, it is a particular track but well executed and arranged, with the resumption of the initial theme it closes. “Soldiers of Shame” after the piano intro and synth a sudden tempo change creates a more accelerated time. The female vocals offer a solid proof made up of layered voices, the drum creates elaborate rhythms. Noteworthy are the instrumental breaks, guitar over all, with an arpeggiated ending and the piece ends. “Flowers of Pain” is a short break of 2 minutes, a passage made of wind instruments in retro style and interventions Prog. ‘Isolation‘ has a deep bass and acoustic guitars that overlap on a background of keyboards, an interlude violin enriches the central part, ends with a final keyboard only. A remarkable album, both in the drafting in two parts, the well-developed theme and the great quality of the performers. They confirm the good things heard in the previous work, showing a complete and mature sound. The instrumental parts are well elaborated, with excellent phrasing of guitars and keyboards, the bass lines are solid and the drum parts are well elaborated. The vocal adapts well to the music by always offering a proof to the height, both in the symphonic and in the aggressive parts. I recommend this double record, which brings a breath of freshness to the modern Prog scene.

Tracklist

CD 1

01.Vestige
02.Burn My Brain
03.Catharsis (Part II)
04.The Thought Trader
05.Alone (Sweetheart Grips Intro)
06.Sweetheart Grips

CD 2

01.Somewhere Inside Mankind
02.Fields of Perdition
03.Tyrant or Nothing
04.Soldiers of Shame
05.Flowers of Pain
06.Isolation

Lineup

Alexandre LamiaGuitar, Keyboards
Alienor FavierLead Vocals
Anne-Claire RalloKeyboards
Bernard HeryBass
Fad GaliaDrums
Laurent BenhamouSaxophones
David DarnaudGuitar
Eric BouilletteGuitar

With

Pat Ganger Sanders (Drifting Sun)Keyboards (2/4)
Dave Foster (Steve Rothery, Panic Room, Mr. So & So)Guitar (2/2)
Riccardo Romano (Steve Rothery, RanestRane)Vocals (1/6)
Johnny MarterGuitar (1/4)
Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson, Steve Hackett, Frost)Drums (1/2)
Clive Nolan (Pendragon, Arena) Keyboards (1/2)

Nine Skies |Official Website|Bandcamp|Facebook Page|Twitter|YouTube Channel|

Anesthetize Productions |Official Website|Bandcamp|Facebook Page|Twitter|YouTube Channel|

Author: Jacopo Vigezzi

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