(Iron Bonehead Productions, 2014)
#FOR FANS OF: Swedish Death Metal, Grave, Dismember, Unleashed
One of the more out-and-unabashed portrayals of Swedish Death Metal not found in Scandinavia, French horde Skelethal’s second release, this 7-track EP is surely one of the high points in the genre this year and positions the group fairly high amongst the next crop to take aim at the almighty pedestal. This isn’t just a national take on the genre but straight-up Swedish Death Metal in its purest, old-school form with the hallmarks of the genre in fine form from the get-go as the guitars manage to play with that specific tone that recalls a grinding buzzsaw gearing for action, loud bass-lines thumping away with intense grooves and a quick, up-tempo pace that adds a lot from the Thrash scene with the tempo work in particular here and not in execution. Of course, the pounding drumming and deep, guttural vocals present here do add to that grimy, crusty Swedish atmosphere just as much as the guitar rhythms and patterns, but there’s a certain energy that runs throughout the work as a whole that manages to rise this one above the level of most traditional Swedish-styled imitators. This is certainly among the faster bands in the style and certainly makes for some blistering speedsters in here that rattle throughout the chaotic tempos and paces quite well while also being able to handle the occasional slow, sprawling epic that creates an atmosphere more akin to the cavernous retro Death Metal acts in places before charging back into raging Swedish tracks. The appropriately-titled "Intro" gets things going on the right note with eerie winds, piano trinkling and tolling bells to get the listener in the right mind-frame. "Macabre Oblivion," the proper first song, gives away the best tricks of the band from the get-go, showing a penchant for deep grooves, blasting drumming and that ever-present buzzsaw riff-work that weaves throughout the varying tempos from tight thrasher to atmospheric crawl and does it quite well as it rages throughout. Follow-up "Putrefaction" is pretty similar in terms of overall appeal and presentation but benefits greatly from the bouncy rhythms from the constant, pounding drumming but still has the same buzzsaw guitars and dark, guttural vocals to go with its intense tone. The title track continues the blaring guitar-work and raging tempos found in "Macabre," and the blistering "Curse of the Neverending" follows along with strong riffing and a breakneck tempo. The album’s best track, the utterly raging "Death Returns" starts with a sprawling Doom-like crawl before letting loose on blasting, fast-paced Swedish Death Metal that continues on the breakneck and relentless "A Violation of Something Sacred" that closes the album off and gives this a solid punch to end things on. Overall, this is a pretty fun and enjoyable blast of Swedish-styled Death Metal that succeeds far more than it fails. While the tracks aren’t so bad, the production-job on this one does the drums no favors at all as it renders them as far back in the mix as possible and really destroys a lot of their power as there’s some killer fills and blasts throughout but is rendered more indecipherable than it should be, and really becomes the only real flaw present in this.