Came for the Art, Stayed for the Hardcore

Feb. 29, 2016


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Sweden's Totem Skin last October released the follow-up to their debut full-length, Still Waters Run Deep.  Weltschmerz is now being released on vinyl, and I have gotten a chance to catch up on an album I missed in 2015.  Totem Skin delivers a mix of crust and hardcore with a few post-metal touches as well.  The opener, "Always Ire," was a bit of a grower for me, but it was the few chill, melodic intro that got me interested to begin with (that and the gorgeous artwork).  These elements are sprinkled throughout the duration between the more traditional, faster bits.

"Longing Leans and Beckons" is another interesting track of note.  The opening riff that recurs here and there actually sounds like a Paramour hook, but the upbeat style is woven carefully into an otherwise harsh and aggressive track filled with far too much D-beat and shrieking to share a stage with such a mainstream act.  Other tracks maintain a much darker aesthetic akin to Grieved or Bastard Feast.  Shrill tremolos back crunchy basslines and thick, punky distortion.

But my favorite track is by far "Pretend."  This song starts off like a Converge outtake with its breakneck speed, fuming feedback, and incredible fury.  And yet suddenly the anger slips away into an incredibly engrossing bit of post metal that, to sound as corny as possible, really touches my soul.  The post-hardcore approach and layered vocals are filled with this great intensity and immediacy that is impossible not to get swept up in.

Now some of you might notice that my overall score here may not seem entirely in line with what I am describing.  The issue here mainly is that while I quite enjoy the album and am anxious to see what Totem Skin do next, it feels like something is missing.  I can't quite put my finger on it, but there is a certain X factor that bands like Great American Ghost bring out in me.  The production is solid, the musicianship is there, the talent is there...I'm just not feeling enough of the connection that I get from "Pretend" throughout the rest of the album.

That having been said, I have been more and more invested with each listen.  Furthermore, I really do think that Totem Skin have what it takes to truly knock things out of the park both live and as they continue to release new music.  You can stream Weltrschmerz in full below.