Sometimes, I feel like I've heard it all. Blast beats at 300³ bpm, jazz flutes played through six separate distortion pedals, or death growls from an elephant. A music journalist's worst nightmare is falling into the trap of becoming jaded. Yet there is light at the end of that tunnel and inevitably we stumble upon a project's creativity and experimentation that seems to outshine the dull cloud that tends to hover above the act of listening to heavy dosages of one genre.
I proudly introduce vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Erik Martin and multi-instrumentalist/producer Otto Kinzel, the men behind Skin Drone. The extreme metal trailblazers are releasing their debut LP, Evocation, via Bluntface Records. While the mere mention of subgenres and styles that apply to this LP doesn't quite do justice to the actual sound of the songs, a concoction of industrial, tech-death, and avant-garde metal should be expected.
The first two tracks are a solid representation of the duo's duality. "Scarlet Road" unveils a bass drum and fuzzy guitar lick massacre while "God Complex" segments such chaotic moments into more swallowable pieces with the use of airy transitions. A Cattle Decapitation plus Ministry eardrum slaying is shown on "Death Sentence" and "City Lights." And in direct opposition, "Shepherd of the Damned" and "Ghost Reflection" reveal an acoustic and practically peaceful side of Skin Drone to continue the theme of contrasting dynamics between compositions.
Seven songs into this release and a 'Warning: May Cause Mild Headaches' label may be necessary. Fortunately, the last two compositions are leaning towards a lighter mood. Both "Darkness Within" and "Salvation" further explore a calmer tonality whether it be with the use of piano, ambience, or whispered vocals. Although the intense and dissonant tracks are gripping, I think the patiently paced songs provide a more rewarding experience for the listener.
As a new band without the backing of a major label, I can understand that the production may seem a bit off throughout this album (it should be noted that the sound quality in the video below is significantly compressed than the actual recordings I listened to). While all relentless, the guitar work, drumming, and vocals felt somewhat disjointed from each other. Similarly, the industrial blast beats sounded overly synthetic at parts. Yes, experimentation is a vital aspect of metal, but the group practically crossed the line on some songs.
To be blunt, this album is not designed for easy listening in the slightest. In most cases of extreme music, I find the softer aspects to compliment the heavy parts, but ironically enough, it is the opposite in this LP. The industrial-coated grindcore-meets-technical death metal style coerced me into eagerly awaiting the quieter, melodic portions. Whether this equates to a lack of quality in the meat of the material or rather my personal likening for less abrasive music, an increase in the harmonious musicalities would allow for a more diverse listen. For lack of a better term, Skin Drone has created the cluster mindfuck of the year with Evocation. A sincere bravo is owed to these two musicians who delivered the epitome of envelope pushing.