Skin Drone are an extreme metal duo who incorporate elements of tech metal, industrial and avant garde. Sound scary yet? Well it is, like Freddy Krueger is scary, it's exhilarating, fascinating and scary. (Yes that's how I feel about Krueger, best monster ever, deal with it).
This noise is created by Erik Martin (vocals and multi-instrumentalist) and Otto Kinzel (multi-instrumentalist and production). What is particularly impressive is that they create this whilst living very far apart, one in Boston MA and one in Hot Springs Arizona. They don't sit in a room together jamming this out, it's done cross country.
Tracks such as Scarlet Road and God Complex don't hang about in telling us what this album is all about, with relentless double bass and technical heavy and in parts melodic guitar work.
Scarlet Road itself breaks down into a dark spoken interlude then it smacks you in the teeth again very quickly. Whilst extremely heavy the vocal is understandable, a great skill. A second breakdown of ambience offset by the demonic vocal leads into my favourite heavy part of the track, which displays interchanging off riffs that are fat and heavy.
God Complex also has an atmospheric haunting section that leads into the best guitar riff of the track. Lyrically, to me, this track is interesting. My interpretation is that it is commenting on the tyranny and control of organised religion but it can just as easily be seen as addressing faceless corporations who control us through advertising and building a religion of consumerism. Deep I know, but I appreciate the way it gets you thinking, it's intelligently written.
Death Sentence whilst insanely heavy, is slightly more reserved and has elements that remind me of less underground acts such as Slipknot. Whilst Skin Drone would have the masked fellas running scared as a general rule, the riff work has its comparisons.
Shepard Of The Damned starts musically dark, moody and quiet with spoken vocal parts. It feels like mad ramblings and sounds in a murders mind. When I read the lyrics, it seems to portray a revenge killing, and this goes to show how well these guys paint a picture through music and vocal delivery. So far this is the most laid back track and it has a beautifully played guitar outro.
Ghost Reflection is a very nicely written airy light interlude, still slightly menacing but juxtaposed by the sounds of nature creating a relaxing feel, which is well timed on the so far intense offering.
But don't get too comfortable, City Lights opens up with a thrashy riff. This soon becomes and amalgamation of thrash and tech metal style guitar with the million mile and hour drum beats. Guitar wise some of the riff work is impressive on this track. A story of a man mutilating himself under the instruction of God reinforces the macabre subject matter throughout this album.
Witching Hour takes us back to the incredibly heavy side of life following the effective previous formula of including a breakdown, taking it a different direction within a breath.
Darkness Within throws in a nice surprise. It's a more straight industrial metal track in parts which holds back on the relentless drum speeds for the most part.
Salvation ends the album on an epic note weighing in at over 8 minutes. It is also by my favourite track. There is lots of elements on display, from magical programmed sounds, to straight heavy metal, to extreme metal. It also has my favourite drum work, with the bass drum having less speed and more form than in any other of the heavier tracks. This is a great way to see out the album.
This is one of the hardest albums I've had to give a score to, but I like a challenge.
At times the relentless heaviness of the bass drums was too much for me, especially when I heard the finesse of programming ability in tracks like Salvation. Having said that, for fans of extreme metal and/or industrial metal I don't believe it'd be a negative, and that is ultimately the target audience.
The album is well thought out in terms of track order, the softer tracks appear at the right time, to relieve some of the intensity. Whilst the tracks at times have a similar formula in terms of the mood driven spoken word break down but in terms of composition and delivery it has some incredible moments, I particularly enjoyed the sound scapes they create in some of the breakdowns which scope from sublime to sinister.
Finally the way the music supports the lyrical content in creating mental imagery is second to none.
This music is immensely heavy, busy, dark, tense, rage driven and almost psychotic. And this is exactly what fans of extreme metal want. So this is not a negative, in fact it delivers in droves.
This is their first album and they promise to get more complex and heavier! Now THAT I gotta see......
Highlights: God Complex, Salvation; Shepard Of The Damned
Writer: Jonny Radley