As the old adage goes: Don’t mess with Texas. In 2009, the Lone Star state gifted us with arguably one of the best hardcore/metal crossover outputs of this millennium, in the form of The Sleeping Eye from Austin riff-lords Iron Age (re-released in 2019 through 20 Buck Spin). Throughout the 2010s, Dallas bruisers Power Trip rose to prominence and eventual worldwide domination, culminating in the release of 2017’s glorious Nightmare Logic. And now, in 2020, the last piece of this Texan triumvirate falls into the place with the self-titled debut album from blackened Austin quartet Skeleton.
Now, admittedly, listening to Skeleton is a wild ride. It’s a record that has little to prove, no time to waste, and absolutely zero fucks to give. Blitzing through 11 tracks in a dizzying 28 minutes, Skeleton deal exclusively in a muscular, head-bang worthy blend of speedy thrash, frosty black metal, and pummelling d-beat. It’s aggressive, loud, and a whole lot of fun. The type of music one expects to find blaring at ear-piercing volume inside a raging house party at 3AM, complete with substance-fuelled debauchery, front-lawn windmills, open flames, and an excess of acid-wash denim.
The opening salvo of the record’s title track and “Mark of Death” acts as the perfect primer for Skeleton’s modus operandi. The former bursts right out of the gate with Victor Ziolkowski’s gargled vocals and lo-fi percussion, backed by catchy, distorted riffs that hit an immediate, visceral groove. On the latter, guitarists David Ziolkowski and Alex Guzman continue to charge forward with galloping riffage, and when the track kicks into high gear with a dime-stop, mid-track tempo change, all doubts about the band’s efficacy should be thoroughly decimated.
Elsewhere on Skeleton, the four-piece take an intersectional approach to their unique brand of ‘metalpunk’ crossover. Caustic cuts like “The Sword,” “Taste of Blood” and “Ring of Fire” hit with the urgency and vitality of Darkthrone covering Motorhead at a crusty basement show. “T.O.A.D,” “At War” and the winding tremolos of “Turned to Stone” sound like streamlined versions of Kvelertak’s sonic party ethos, stripped of all the extraneous psychedelic and classic rock detours.
Towards the back end, “Victory” offers up a brief respite from the chaos at hand with an extended forty-second-long intro riff that barrels straight into the ripping rhythms of “A Far Away Land,” with frigid hints of melody and bassist Cody Combs’ thrumming bottom end. Closing out the record with their longest composition, Skeleton take things in an eerie and morbid direction on “Catacombs,” switching out their driving thrash influences for a haze of blackened riffs and furious d-beat.
All in all, Skeleton is an album that leaves an instant impression, growing stronger and more potent with each repeat listen until it borders on near obsession, making it essential 2020 listening for metalheads of all depravities and depositions.
Purchase Skeleton here.