When talking to Daniel Sherrill, my contact from the Chicagoland area special events planning team, he had this to say about the inspiration for Skyline Lights :
‘What inspired this particular release was us wanting to put together a perfect set of songs that the listener would have on their Mp3 player during an evening walk in the city of Chicago after being dropped off by the Metra train. The train I take from Elburn, IL to Chicago drops you off at the Ogilvie Transportation Center which is located right in the heart of “The Loop” area which is the most photogenic part of the city at night. It’s the most calming thing to being foot exploring all of the skyscrapers when they’re lit up at night. You get the full effect out of it on a walk with the right music to lead the way. That’s where the title came from and inspiration. Spring is the season coming up here where I’m having those exact same walks. Now I have a designated playlist for the occasion.‘
The album itself is a massively impressive feat. 145 tracks of country, pop, rock and symphonic metal performed by some of the best female artists around today. Now, that’s a long walk, I have to say. So, unfortunately, I cannot do a written review of all of the tracks. I do, however, have some plans for more features on this soon. In the meantime, I have a review of the first 20 tracks on the album, as well as a few more words from Daniel!
After a brief monologue intro from Jillian Jade Kallenbach, we launch into the title track, sung by Ariel Ryder. It’s a pop track so obviously not what we typically cover here, but I really enjoyed it. It was simple, just a slow piano, simple drums and some fantastic, multi-tracked vocals. The emotion is palpable already, something I feel will be a feature throughout the album. Ariel is one hell of a vocalist and gets to show it off perfectly here.
Shirley Tracanna, front-woman of Czech symphonic metal band Wishmasters, does a fantastic piano cover of Lady gaga’s ‘Million Reasons’. It was beautiful and such a showcase of Shirley’s talent, especially when it’s quite a different sound than her usual work. Moa Lignell also does a fantastic cover, this time of Dire Straits’ ‘Why Worry’. Both tracks are fairly similar in terms of composition, with this one too being a beautiful piano ballad.
When diving further in-depth about the project, Daniel said:
‘This is the fourth such compilation we’ve released and each one features a larger cast than the one previous. “The Skyline Lights” was meant to be the finale of the four albums so extra care was taken to bring a memorable group of artists together this time to create something special and to have a carefully planned release day that everyone could be involved in and share with their fans. I was very pleased with how it turned out.
‘There’s a good mix of Country artists and female fronted Symphonic rock musicians. Usually the two genres are never on the same releases but here everyone’s songs blend in well.‘
Next up Freakstorm bring a country-rock feel to proceedings with their acoustic track, ‘Out of the Door’. It’s definitely the closest track to ‘my thing’ so far, and again it’s so well done. Brimming with emotion, it’s insane that people can get such feeling out of vocals and an acoustic guitar. The storyline through the tracks so far has been fantastic too, setting the scene beautifully.
The album returns to the piano ballads with Demetra Dokos’ beautiful track. Then we finally start getting a few ensemble pieces. While still heavily piano-led, German symphonic metal band Xiphea adds some beautiful strings over the top as well as some distorted guitar for the choruses. It’s a metal ballad through and through and wouldn’t sound out of place on the latest Epica album, it’s that good.
Then you have tracks like ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Big Bang Drums’ that add an almost folk-rock style to their symphonic metal base. Heck, the latter in particular, from Mireya Derksen, feels like it draws together that many genres of music, from rock to metal to folk to electro-pop. It reminds me a lot of The Fifth Element. I would take that as a compliment because what a soundtrack that movie had. This is a personal favourite track of mine, but so far all have been fantastic.
‘Hammer of Thor’ is somehow a folk-pop track, a sub-genre I didn’t know I needed so much of in my life. Oda Gondrosen does a fantastic job on this track, and it honestly wouldn’t sound out of place in Vikings or The Hobbit.
‘Our theatre group/events planning team had been away from doing live events for two years during the pandemic and this series of streaming compilations was a good way to keep active and to engage our usual fans in the absence of live events. We’d been a consistent live event group since 2008 and now that the majority of our state is back to normal we will be directing and collaborating on a series of brand new events with the group members from the Chicago area.
‘A fifth compilation is set for late July to reunite the international group of artists from “The Skyline Lights” and for those who can’t geographically be part of the new events.‘
Erika Johnston Miner has the unenviable task of covering Brian Adams’ classic ‘Heaven’. It’s fitting emotionally, but I do have to admit I prefer the original. It just doesn’t quite have the same power behind it as Adams’ version.
The Soap Girls arrive a little later on to bring some much needed variety to the tracks, adding their own level of punk to it all. However, having said that, it still maintains the same atmosphere and darkness as all the other tracks on the album so far. It’s truly impressive that they have managed to get so many styles into one album while still keeping the same feeling throughout. 18 tracks in and it’s still interesting and flowing well.
Our good friend Jehanna brings her Ancient Waters project to the proceedings with her awesome track, Måneskinsskygge. We already have a review of the album up which features this song, which you can find here. It fits in with this album just as well as her own, too.
The project isn’t just about the recording, either. Daniel and his colleagues are planning a massive three night show across various different venues in Chicago. ‘In the 80s when a movie was too long for one night on regular television they would promote it as a “three part miniseries” at least here in the states like Ben Hur… Sound of Music.. Jesus of Nazareth” all the long two vhs tape movies… like Titanic.
‘So that’s our vibe for the new tour. A three part miniseries. Where the audience comes to all three shows to be in in the running storyline.’