Review by George on February 17, 2021.
Sometimes, a band just happens to catch your eye. It could be their name, an album cover or their genre, but in this case it was their country. Albania isn't exactly known for metal and the Metal Archives is listing only 13 bands formed from its 2.8 million residents. Combine the curiosity induced by that rarity with the melodic black/death metal genre tag that some of my favourite bands proudly bear and I was obligated to give Bloody Skies' first demo a chance.
In truth, I would argue that this release walks much more of a melodic death/folk line, though elements of black metal are certainly present. In terms of musical style, the release is a melting pot of various mostly Finnish influences - the driving force of track 2, 'Ranë Këmbanat', is a hammering folk riff reminiscent in tone to Infernal Gates or Duskmourn, while 'Heronjtë Klithin Së Largu' sports a slow, acoustic section which parallels the earlier works of Insomnium. It's not incredibly original and (obviously) can't match the quality of the pioneers of the style, but it's well-executed - the band clearly understand what makes this type of music so enjoyable and do an excellent job of replicating it.
But while Bloody Skies are largely derivative of the aforementioned bands, there's one key aspect which sets them apart: the actual folk music used. As expected, a healthy dose of Eastern European folk makes its way into the release, and while the theme is very much the same nature-worship you'll find in folk-oriented metal from Finland and the US, the composition in these acoustic sections and the instruments used (mainly flutes) give the demo a certain freshness and allow it to stand out over the majority of melodeath being produced nowerdays.
With the guitar lines and folk interludes out of the way, the final element of this release that merits discussion is the vocals. The majority consist of simple but effective death growls but there's also a few clean and spoken-word sections scattered throughout, adding some variety and preventing them from becoming monotonous. I especially enjoy the way they're placed unobtrusively at the back of the mix, allowing the emphasis to fall almost entirely on the guitars while the growls simply provide flavour and accentuate the atmosphere of sorrow. I have a feeling a lot of people would call the production poor and assume that it will see improvement on a full-length album, but personally I find the mix here much more vibrant and characteristic than most nowerdays. I hope they keep it this way.
To conclude, Bloody Skies have produced the most promising demo since Autumnfall's early last year (which I highly recommend for fans of this style of melodic extreme metal infused with folk music). While the intro and second track do promise a little more than the remainder of the release delivers, it's a solid effort all around and has certainly served its purpose - I'm sold on the band's sound and will wait eagerly to hear more.
Rating: 7.7 out of 10249