With synth-rich anthemic tracks that radiate an emotional landscape from euphoria to darkness, Magnetic Skies feels very much like a band who have found their calling. And after releasing a series of singles and EPs, the band’s debut album, Empire Falling, is out on Friday 3rd November. Even the album title conjures impending turmoil and drama on an epic scale.
Formed in 2019 with a shared love of ’80s synth-driven post-punk by Simon Kent (vocals & keyboards) and Jo Womar (keyboards), 2021 saw the band evolve into a 4‑piece, with the recruitment of guitarist Carlos Aguilar and drummer Lenin Alegria. Both are featured on the new recordings, adding a new sonic dimension to the songs. Production and mixing on the album were predominantly carried out in-house by Kent, with additional mixing duties performed by Rob Aubrey (sound engineer for Big Big Train/ Asia/ Tony Levin).
Lead track Into Paradise sets the scene, beckoning you alluringly into Magnetic Skies’ world. It hints at the drama to come, as the yearning vocals of front man Simon Kent rise above the shimmering instrumentation. Fading Lights, already featured as a single, is a powerful work, opening with a moody, driving Joy Division-style bass thrum that propels the song through to its final notes. The emotive vocals, on the theme of addiction, rise over the synths, creating a tension that keeps you hooked.
The intensity continues with Suffocate which immediately plunges you into its rich and expansive synthscape. It’s a propulsive and atmospheric number with a lurking air of menace as its narrative, the breakdown of a relationship, unfolds. Suffocate maintains the tempo, replete with multi-layered instrumentation and anguished vocals.
As the midpoint of the album approaches, Magnetic Skies take the pace down somewhat for the title track Empire Falling, it’s a more reflective and expansive number that builds more slowly. Drums take precedence on this lush and cinematic production that makes the most of Kent’s falsetto vocals: “I watched the world come crashing down, like an empire falling”. The following song Magnetic Skies harkens back to the band’s earlier days; it too is slower-paced and gives the album a breathing space.
The pace ramps up again with You Shine On, its opening notes reminiscent of The Human League. This is the most anthemic of Magnetic Skies’ singles. You Shine On blends tension and euphoria in equal measures. The vocals are ethereal and shimmering, opening into a rapturous chorus.
Not A Fire treads a fine line somewhere between the band’s no-holds-barred energetic numbers and their more reflective tracks. This for me was a slow burner that is now up there as one of my favourite numbers on the album. To conclude, Give Me Back that Moment, is a dreamy number about ‘nostalgia for lost people and times and trying to live in the moment and follow your heart’. It presents a different palette to the previous numbers with its reverbed guitars and vocals further back in the mix; the album’s journey is complete, here are calm waters after turbulent seas, there’s a feeling of peace and a sense that resolution has been reached.
Simon Kent has said, “The album is reflective, poetic, and it takes you on a journey lyrically, and in mood from sad nostalgia through to happiness and euphoria. I hope the listener can relate to the sounds and lyrics, find some connection on a personal level – I’d like to move them in an emotional way.” It’s fair to say that with this debut album, Magnetic Skies have more than succeeded.
You Shine On
Not a Fire
Give Me Back That Moment
The Last Time (The KVB Remix)
Into Paradise (Magnetic Mix)
You Shine On (Magnetic Mix)
Magnetic Skies Empire Falling released 3rd November 2023