There are no hard and fast rules about how many guitars are required in a metal band. As a general baseline, two is a pretty good bet – one guitarist to hit the low end, and the other to take the higher riffs, in many cases the concept of a “rhythm” guitarist going by the wayside to make room for some lofty, fretboard-smoking harmonization. But if heavy enough, and if blistering enough, sometimes one guitar is all you need. The Melvins only need one guitar, as do High On Fire. And Carborro, North Carolina trio Black Skies sure as hell don’t seem to need an extra guitar on their new album On the Wings of Time.
Keeping closely within the tradition of gut-churning sludgemeisters such as the aforementioned High On Fire and Melvins, Black Skies seek only the dirtiest, crunchiest drop-D riffs, and deliver them in ample supply. Their basslines rumble, their drums throttle, and their humbuckers squeak from the grind of vibrating strings. No, there’s nothing fancy here, just a straightforward, albeit epic collection of Southern sludge that’s as fun as it is utterly crushing.
Still, there are more than enough tricks in their arsenal to keep On The Wings of Time continually interesting. “Rebirth” bashes with a relentless menace, scarcely letting off the gas between high-octane verses. “Darkness & Disguise” injects a little more psychedelia into their smoky haze, as well as a little extra Southern boogie, and the band’s harmonized male-female vocals recall those of Kylesa’s Philip Cope and Laura Pleasants. By track three, “The Other Side of the Mountain,” an acoustic guitar riff finds its way into the mix, and “Valley of the Kings” even finds the group incorporating some Middle Eastern inspired melodies into their meaty churn.
As metal goes, Black Skies’ On the Wings of Time is a solid, meat-and-potatoes slab of power chord crunch. But its simplicity never grows tedious. For even when Black Skies stretch their tunes out to realms beyond the ninth minute, their melodies remain strong and their songwriting dynamic. No extra guitars are needed here.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.