Guitarist, pianist, vocalist, and composer Zeke Sky is an independent musician who is bringing metal to us in an epic way. A wildly entertaining guy on social media, Zeke has been playing in bands since 2015, and eventually began composing music for a self-fronted project called The Zeke Sky Band. In 2018, the project released Animals of God & War, and then released a couple of singles in the couple years afterward that established new production ethics. Lionheart, Pts. I-IV is the first volume of what will be a three-part release by Zeke Sky as a solo artist. The album is produced by Dillinger Escape Plan guitarist Kevin Antreassian, and also features Adam Pierson on drums. Clocking in at just under 17 minutes, do not let this short album underestimate you.
Our journey begins with “Overture,” a two-minute track that is meant to familiarize the listener with some of the themes to come. With a Celtic undertone, this track is an orchestral deviant from most of the metal this man releases. Synths that replicate strings, horns, and choirs, accompanied by various percussion instruments and both electric and acoustic guitars; this is the 2021 version of Zeke Sky. He even alluded to this approach earlier this year, releasing a disconnected track exclusively on YouTube called “Frodos Bong.”
“On the Tip of the Tongue” is what introduces us to what the new Zeke Sky is all about, kicking up the gain considerably from the opening tune. Zeke has always composed epic metal, never shying away from elements of folk and symphonic music, but it is apparent that a huge step was taken to produce this album. Already with chops like Dave Mustaine on the guitar, this dark second track has so many quirks that it is hard to pinpoint all of the influences. At times it feels like Symphony X mixed with Megadeth, but then he throws in a couple bars that are more along the lines old-school progressive rock bands.
I could have seen Zeke releasing “Faith and Sorrow” as a single, because of its structure, its catchiness, and also the fact that it showcases his versatility on both the guitar and keyboards. Beginning with a low-end riff that one could hear from Dream Theater in the early 2000s, the song quickly shifts gears to a verse/chorus I could hear on a Spock’s Beard album. Adam Pierson delivers a really solid performance, holding down the fort with several different rhythms, changing the entire feel of the song with each section. Along with some sick organ shredding, Zeke presents us guitar solos galore, with a variety of techniques from vicious alternate picking, legato, sweeping, and delicately placed pinch-harmonics. This song is the whole package.
This album unfortunately ends pretty quickly, with “Lionheart” being the closing track. One thing that is noticeable when hearing Zeke Sky’s previous releases to this one is how much more piano is prevalent. Along with being a gifted guitar player, Zeke can certainly hold his own on the black-and-white keys. This track starts off almost like it was picking up where “Overture” left off, but quickly turns the other cheek with sections that display trade-offs between Zeke’s clean vocals and his harsh vocals, which are reminiscent of Ensiferum’s Jari Mäenpää. But alas, the second half of the closing track is home to the album’s climax. It seems that things come full circle here, calling back to the outro of “Overture” in a grand way. I am very curious how this will transition to volume two of Lionheart, since it is such a fantastic closer.
The only downside to an album like this one is that I want more! Thankfully, we do know that there is certainly more to come. Along with the combination of progressive metal and Celtic composition, the lyrics tell a narrative that picks from our favorite psychedelic authors and lyricists. Lovers of progressive metal concept albums should really give this album a spin. The first installment of Lionheart is a thought-provoking and downright ferocious release from Zeke Sky.
Zeke Sky’s Lionheart was released on May 21, 2021. Check it out on Spotify and Apple Music.