Austin based Skeleton has been lurking in the underground for about four years now, releasing two EP’s before signing to 20 Buck Spin for this year’s self-titled effort. While their previous material skewed very close to 80s hardcore punk and thrash that recalled the noisier Japanese and UK sides of the genre, this album injects a healthy dose of black metal and other metallic elements into the mix for a fast and furious mixture that regularly shapeshifts between genres. It flies by in a compact twenty-seven minutes and although not every song stands out, there are some that will stick with you and make you want to destroy everything in sight.
2018’s Pyramid of Skull showcased Skeleton’s knack at capturing the same raw power and sharper edges of classic hardcore punk, channeling as much Discharge as they did noisier acts like G.I.S.M. That base sound hasn’t gone away for this full length but from the opening of “Skeleton” you’re greeted with tonality and riffing that has black metal elements seamlessly woven in. It’s a style I’ve come across a few times over the years, particularly from some of Youth Attack’s roster, and like some of those bands what Skeleton brings to the table proves to be immediately appealing. They cram a lot into these eleven songs, and with the average track only spanning two and a half to three minutes in length you’re likely to come away from the attack dazed and battered. With this diverse level of influences, it is hard to pin this band down into one specific style of punk or metal, though it is interesting to note that specific songs tend to lean more on one element. “Toad” and “Turned to Stone” go full-on black metal with icy, jagged riffs that fall somewhere between the first and second wave variants of the genre, albeit with a punk rhythm backbone, while songs like “Mark of Death” have a much chunkier and scorching tone that recalls crossover thrash. However, while the overall sound pulls from a lot of different territory there are times where it can be hard to tell some of the songs apart. Given how quickly the album flies by that does make it easy to take this one in as a whole, but this is an area where the group could continue to grow as they move forward.
The instrumentals may give some breathing room periodically, but the vocal work remains abrasive and violent for the entire album. Drummer Victor Skeleton also handles all the vocals for Skeleton and he has a raspier scream that pierces through the recording and demands your attention with each appearance. It’s a bit more on the hardcore/punk side of the spectrum pitch wise than the lower growls or extremely high shrieks one might associate with black and death metal, but the jagged edges and grimy nature of the performance perfectly suits what the group is going for. There are some subtle variations in pitch but for the most part the screaming remains at the same general level, but the intensity remains at a peak level the whole way through and I’m sure this would be amplified in a live environment.
In just a few years Skeleton has changed significantly and upped the metal side of their punk and metal cocktail. It’s the type of sound that has the ability to appeal to a significant amount of the underground no matter where their tastes lie, and there’s plenty of scorching riffs and pummeling drumbeats to be bludgeoned by in just under half an hour. With that being said, the approach the band is going for does lead to some songs that blur together and there remains room for these guys to push these ideas even further and truly merge these musical worlds together so the best seems yet to come. Skeleton is available from 20 Buck Spin.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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