When Rob Lewis and Matt Smith met each other at the start of 2022, it seemed like an impossible job to put out an album within a year with their full-time jobs and family commitments. But now, their project Guild Theory has finally released its debut album “Streaks of Light Burn The Sky”, and it’s a record that pays tribute to the entire 2000s music scene while putting a fresh twist on it. I wouldn’t be exaggerating If I told you that each of the album’s 12 tracks deserves a separate article, but I’ll settle for giving each one a section to try and describe my experience with this album as accurately as possible for you.
1- Cackled Smile
The first single that the duo released prior to the album. The brooding and dark synth brings a lot of Thirty Seconds To Mars Influence, but the percussion is unlike any other artist I’ve ever heard before. I can 9nly compare the beat of the drums to some oriental beats such as the famous Ma’soum, but I believe that this was unintentional and it made their beat have a special and authentic personality. The bass line will get you singing and humming along due to its grooviness…and last but not least, the vocals which are super ethereal and resonantly melancholic. What a fantastic start to the album!
2- Free From You
This one felt like I’d heard it before but I couldn’t tell where from…and this isn’t in any way due to lack of originality, on the contrary, it’s because there are too many influences and beloved genre tropes that balance this song between freshness and familiarity. With such personal and angsty lyrics comes impeccable guitar work on this track, as we can hear so many different techniques and creative lines. The synths were more dark than aggressive, when compared to the previous track, making this song’s instrumentation both distinct and in line with the story that its lyrics are telling.
The 2000s kid in me that grew up loving Evanescence and Linkin Park immediately fell in love with this song due to its extended vocal lines and how heart-shatteringly good they sound. I’m surprised I didn’t feel the 6 minutes passing as I listened to the piano and percussive ambient sounds that gave this song its ethereal atmosphere. A total masterpiece that felt much shorter than its duration…or maybe it was just me who wanted to listen to a lot more of those vocals and piano.
A highly industrial track with a very special kind of rhythm and an overall percussive atmosphere that feels so theatrical and cinematic…yes, I didn’t think it was possible to create such a mix at first too, but then I listened to this track. The vocals have some effects on them, but the chesty register with which they are sung made them sound very intimate and emotional to me. The song somehow felt informative and “making a statement” rather than being angsty and rebellious like some other songs.
This song has the album’s titular phrase “streaks of light burn the sky”, but that’s not the only cool part of its lyrics. It’s been so long since we’ve heard a GOOD rock band writing GOOD social commentary in their lyrics like this. Moreover, the lead guitar work in this song is highly melodic but well-thought and well-spaced enough to let the percussive elements shine, and the drum lines truly do stick with you on this one. The ending part of the song has the album’s best vocal lines for me here, it’s long powerful phrases with vibrato kept to a minimum (if any) to create that nostalgic 2000s sense…and I’m totally here for it.
6- A Hundred Ways To Forget
A haunting and horrifyingly serene interlude with no vocals. You may say it’s the much-needed breather after the streak of powerful tracks we’ve just gone through.
The album’s longest and most dreamy track. This feels like the guys put their all into composing this one because the details of the harmonies, transitions, and changing tempo are much more complex than the previous tracks. The first two and a half minutes are an extended synth intro from which some elements continue and some don’t. The use of horns was very majestic and sophisticated here, making them shine amongst the other (intentionally) lo-fi elements- once again, it feels like an eye opening-moment in a movie soundtrack. It’s not until the 5-minute mark that the drums, bass, and guitars pick up some pace and play along with the synths and pianos in a way that complements that initial melody without copying it. Believe me when I tell you this is peak songwriting skill. The very gothic aesthetic of using distorted guitars with such a melancholic piano has been used to its fullest extent here because I know the clarity and simplicity of that harmonious part that’s repeated twice here will make it play on its own for days in my head. This is my favorite track on the album by a long shot.
8- Teenage Years
We hear a proper Alt. Rock arrangement this time, but I’m beginning to notice that the album’s melodies feel closely related. The likeness between these melodies is something I highly appreciate because of how it makes me feel like the band will have an instantly recognizable sound fingerprint to them. The transitions from lead melodies to chord progressions were pretty impressive here too, this album should set an example for all Alternative Rock bands that are struggling to make a new song and recycle old ideas instead… I won’t name names.
I’m a sucker for low-range bari vocals, and this track has an amazing vocal arrangement with some added backing harmonies and fantastic instrumentation to go along with it. The guitar tone brilliantly outshines the rest of the instruments and elements in this song for some reason…I just felt like I wanted to repeat to listen to more of that awesome tone and its effects. The lengthy bridge section of the song has the vocals and guitars playing a lot with the scale and changing things up, which made it all the more memorable. After that, we had a totally different section with a brief tremolo-picking part followed by one final chorus, followed by a climactic outro…we’ve established by now that these guys are anything but repetitive or formulating.
10- No Time to Sit and Think
A soulful vocal arrangement guides this power ballad into becoming one of the album’s most emotional moments. The vocals have an impeccable role in the emotional delivery, but we can’t deny the phenomenal drum line and its transitions too. As soon as the song picks up and gets heavier, the soul-ripping guitars take everything up a notch and make the song a lot more impactful.
11- Dark Machina
If there was an Alternative Rock version of The Sisters Of Mercy, then this is what it would sound like. The song has a recurring piano line, a groovy bass line, and drums that make you wanna get up and dance. Another thing we established about this album is how its drums have some of the best-thought-out lines ever. I like the overall jiggly vibe here and how it matches well with the dark timbre of the vocals. With that being said, the vocals were a little higher this time and they gave the vocalist a chance to show off his range and abilities…this one’s a contender, in my opinion, to give the band a breakthrough mainstream success.
The final song of this magnum opus record begins as a soft and emotional ballad with clear and strong vocals. Once the drums and guitars kick in, they elevate the mood as it is…without making a crazy change into a faster tempo or a heavier rhythm, and I really love that. I’m impressed by how the album closer is a very good representation of the skeleton of elements that represent the album, as if it summarizes what happened, without spoiling the special parts and surprises. A fantastic end to a fantastic journey.