There are a lot of skeletons out there. Stuffed in closets. Hanging on metal hooks in medical school classrooms. There is a skeleton in me writing this. And there is a skeleton in you reading it. If you think about all of those sharp, calcified rods and lobes, shifting below tender, malleable flesh, it might unsettle you somewhat. There has been one hiding behind the skin and hair of every human face you’ve ever encounter. Waiting to be released from their fatty, fatefully sentient enclosures. It’s best not to think about how every time you spend time with your friends and family, you’re literally surrounded by skeletons; hollow-eyed, toothy, visions of terror, biding their time until they are liberated from their meat manacles. They will only know freedom in your demise. Best not to dwell on the unseen. It's better to think about things that might help you relax, such as ice cream, familiar stuffed animals, fluffy clouds, and music. Unless you're into metal, in which case dwelling on morbid things IS probably how you relax. In which case allow me to introduce you to some music you might like, (hopefully, maybe, if I do my job right) the soul spurring, d-beat blitz of Austin-based, dark hardcore thrashers, Skeleton.
Skeleton’s debut is half a decade in the making. Grown from metallic hardcore roots, springing forth from bad seeds sewn back in 2014 by founding members David (guitar) and Victor (drums & vocals) Ziolkowski (now Skeleton). The Skeleton brothers have surreptitiously cultivated a congregation for their noise by releasing flexi discs, 7”s and EPs through their Bandcamp page. Their first LP, surprisingly (for some), takes up the crossover-thrash banner that Iron Age first waived above the Austin scene in pure rebel defiance back in 2009 with that grand mutant The Sleeping Eye, and the rogue spirit of which Power Trip later learned to tame and ride like a bolt of lightning through the heart of the American underground. With the addition of Cody Combs on bass and Alex Guzman on second guitar (who plays with David in noisecore suckers Nosferatu) Skeleton seems posed to articulating the next evolutionary step of the punk and metal scene in the South West in a way that no one else has quite polished up their crystal balls well enough to see. Put simply, the world has gotten darker, so the tunes have to get bleaker, and there is no one better suited to shepherd this shift than a desert cult of Mayhem worshiping crust punks.
Skeleton's album begins very on-brand with the title track “Skeleton,” a midnight chase through a dilapidated, urban waste-scape, hurrying past steam-venting manholes and flickering street lights, electric guardians struggling to beat back the strangenesses of the night and the hungry creatures that slither in the shadows of the human psyche. The cacophonous Anti-Cimex crack of the track’s dark and gloomy atmosphere manages to be caustic and terrifying without slipping into the cochlea-piercing, blade-like frequencies that mysterious guy noisecore like Ritual Knife, City Hunter, and Dave and Alex’s other band Nosferatu tend to rend screaming from their pedalboards. There isn’t a hook lost to the fog of feedback as a result, much to the satisfaction of my ears.
And there are hooks here! A thicket of them. Dangling, simmering precariously. Waiting to slip between your ribs and zip-line you into a Cenobite’s sadistic embrace. The furry of “Taste of Blood” is built around a swinging, pendulum-like groove, whose hooks drag you further into its orbit with each gargantuan swaying drift. Later, “The Sword” thrusts, fearlessly forward into a wall of dusk, fiery guitar licks lapping at its heals, hastening its flight as it charges up a mountain of gore to do battle with the blood-varnished ogre at its summit. It's unusually valorous in its encounter with its fast approaching mortality.
Skeleton’s debut is so drastic of a departure from their previous work in some ways that it almost seems like a different band. As recently as 2018 and their Pyramid of Skull EP, the band could be best summed up as a Halshug-styled d-beat revival, but as the amp stacking and hairy locked-groove goon-trot of “Ring of Fire” and the long gratuitous preamble, battle-precession percussion, and stinging volley grooves of “At War” reveal, Skeleton is now a beast of an entirely different, ablate similarly savage, breed. The d-beat that remains in their blood tends to supplement the thrasher and gloomier aspects of their sound, heaving them forward in a shocking rush of adrenaline, such as on “Mark of Death” where d-crushed grooves add a nip of nitroglycerine to the Darkthrone-esque vaunt, and on “A Far Away Land” where a dose of UK82 lends a crusty coat of scabrous purpose to its Bathory-like ax-dance.
Obviously, Skeleton are not the first band to combine black metal, punk and thrash. Midnight has been bending these tripartite demonic energies to his will for decades, and last year Devil Master conducted a successful séance, calling on the specter of Christian Death to help weegee up some maniacal, faithful-terrorizing mischief. And of course, we can’t forget the EVP rife, Mayhem oriented, Throbbing Gristle-d Discharge of Raspberry Bulbs. But I’ll be damned if I’m not convinced that Skeleton has hit on some hereto untapped vein of dark arcana on their debut. Twisting the worn denim threads of thrash-metal into a dense, kevlar-thick breastplate, shielding the band from glancing blows of hesitation and fear, and granting their punk propulsion, an esoteric and preternatural resolve. Skeleton will rock your world as they darken the skies above and give solace to the ghoul lingering behind the mask of your flesh facade, biding its time for its slow release upon your final, labored breath.
Mick is always writing about something he's heard. Possibly even something you'd like. You can read his stuff over at I Thought I Heard a Sound Blog.
8.0 / 10
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