Much more of the heavy-lidded menace heard in “Animal” finds its way into the later song “Burn”. Skyward are talented enough as songwriters that they can invoke mood with only a few notes and this track is, arguably, one of the album’s premier expressions of that skill. Anna Breeding’s contributions as a second, largely backing, vocalist are critical for the balance they provide. The musical intensity continues to climb with the album’s seventh track “Now”, a wide-eyed passionate workout that never really relents from the first note on. There is much of the light and shade dynamic heard in earlier rock cuts, but Skyward can never quite resist the temptation to pepper the track with a number of subtleties contributing to the overall whole. “Crows and Wolves” utilizes a smattering of natural imagery previously unheard on the album to darken another much more meditative outing for the band. This isn’t an outfit who needs to overwhelm listeners sonically in order to establish mood. Instead, “Crows and Wolves” achieves its effects through the marriage of music alongside Huang and Breeding’s different, yet equally magnificent, voices. This is a debut album of many different colors, sounds, and emotions. Skyward takes listeners on a highly imaginative and often deeply personal journey that helps the release stand out as one of the year’s finest efforts.
9 out of 10 stars.