The duo, made up of Evergrey frontman Tom S. Englund along with pianist and composer Vikram Shankar, today release their stunning third album via Napalm Records.
Preceded by the critically-acclaimed Satellites and Nectar, released in 2020 and 2022 respectively, the esteemed two-piece excel their trajectory with a collection of ten tracks of melancholic beauty, Englund’s longing vocal shining with emotion matched with the delicate and introspective nature of Shankar’s compositions and keyboard playing. The album also features three bonus tracks, including covers of Iron Maiden and Linkin Park songs with a Silent Skies twist of lavish grandeur. Both members with a clear love for metal that’s portrayed in an almost converse way on their own release, we asked Vikram Shankar for his other favorite covers of metal tracks taking on a different sound entirely.
Tori Amos – Raining Blood (Slayer)
With her version of “Raining Blood,” Tori succeeds in turning this Slayer classic into an arrangement that leaves no doubt as to her originality and creative bent. I really enjoy how the tumultuous chaos in the original is replaced with a profoundly uneasy sense of dread. It’s extremely emotionally potent and a testament to her prowess as an artist.
Melodicka Bros – Unsainted (Slipknot)
Tongue-in-cheek name and concept behind the project aside, Melodicka Bros frequently capture a characteristic in their covers that I find really compelling: they take the original songs and wholly and properly transmute them into a new format, creating songs that sound like they could be original compositions in their new “arrangement clothing.” This is something that we aim to do with Silent Skies as well – it’s far more creatively satisfying for us to do this than to simply regurgitate the original arrangement but in a neutered form.
Flowing Chords – Tourniquet (Tesseract)
I love covers in which songs are taken to unpredictable destinations by creative minds. This cover of “Tourniquet” is a prime example of musicians understanding not just the melodies and harmonies, but also the underlying emotion and narrative journey taking place in the song. This kind of “reading” of a song, paying attention to the spaces between the notes, the poignant meaning left in the air as one note trails into the next, is a goal of Silent Skies when we cover music as well. It’s obvious that Flowing Chords
understands not just the music but the concepts behind “Tourniquet,” and besides, it is just executed SO brilliantly and creatively.
Johanna Kurkela – Nothing Else Matters (Metallica)
Soft cover renditions of “Nothing Else Matters” are fairly commonplace, but this particular version excels in a number of ways. The quality of the vocal is astonishing, and the emotion and purity of Johanna’s delivery is sublime. Furthermore, the musical arrangement is very tastefully executed, with the acoustic instruments arranged in a very intelligent and compelling way, with effective dynamics and great sensitivity to the playing.
Jordan Rudess – Lifting Shadows off a Dream (Dream Theater)
While this might not seem to meet the definition of a cover by a strict reading (Jordan being the keyboardist of Dream Theater), Jordan didn’t play on the studio version of this song, so it still counts in my book 🙂 Furthermore, what Jordan achieves in this cover is something that I aspired to from the very beginning, when I started making piano covers on my YouTube channel well over a decade ago. He completely transfers not just the notes, but the musical essence of the original song into a classical piano format. Listening to his arrangement, one has no question of his classical pedigree, and the
arrangement feels like an eloquent and beautiful classical piano piece, rather than a sequence of chords and melodies awkwardly placed into a new medium. There’s a common theme here to all of the covers I’ve selected. I enjoy when covers don’t sound like square pegs placed into round holes – they should feel like organic expression of artistic creativity, complete musical statements that should leave no question as to the attributes of the original song. In that way, a good cover should not leave the listener
wondering what the original sounds like – it should ideally be satisfying and fulfilling as an artistic statement in and of itself.