Sorting out the myriad connections between the decades long resumes of the Cleveland, Ohio underground legends that make up Shed the Skin is no small undertaking. Key connections exist within certain configurations of From the Depths, Decrepit, Acheron, Soulless as well as the reformation of Ringworm all roughly two decades ago. If you’re fresh off of Faithxtractor‘s latest you’ll find Ash Thomas‘ strong ability to balance melodic and brutal composition is likewise alive in Shed the Skin. As far as I know Acheron‘s ‘The Final Conflict: Last Days of God’ was the last record where Thomas‘d collaborated with Kyle Severn (Incantation, ex-Escalation Anger) who provides drums on ‘We of Scorn’. Bassist Ed Stephens has been active in the Cleveland punk and metal underground since the late 80’s but notably joined both thrashers Vindicator and Ringworm in the last decade. Guitarist Matt Sorg actually joined ex-members of Stephen‘s crossover band (Civil Disobedience) as it collapsed and reshaped into death metal band Blood of Christ but he is best known as the guitarist for Ringworm since they reformed in the early 2000’s. Sorg was likewise a contributor to underrated semi-melodic death bands Soulless and Decrepit (‘Acrimonium’ comes highly recommended). There are many more connections to make but depending on how up to speed you are with US extreme metal obscurities you’ll find the running thread is some emphasis on melody, thrash and death metal alike.
Should I use the word ‘supergroup’ to describe these guys? Yeah, I mean no it is a meaningless word but they’ve done a great job of creating some democratic mixture of riffing, grooving and blasting that represents each musician’s body of work in some way. You’ve got some love for Swedish death metal, death/doom metal, hardcore punk, and good ole’ Midwest death/thrash all firing down the same wind tunnel and resembling the hot tub of extreme metal influence Ohio has been producing for decades. The first thought is the most obvious: Those influences describe later Carcass superficially to some degree and perhaps in this context make good on the intent of early Abominant, Decrepit, and Estuary. Brutal, doomed, melodic, and always capable of shifting their capable sands to see any good idea to completion. It all comes together in some surprising harmony.
None of this is unheard of or should be any great surprise though, as Shed the Skin first gained wider attention when their Swedish death metal influenced ‘Rebirth Through Brimstone’ (2014) EP appeared out of nowhere reminding me of Excruciate‘s ‘Passage of Life’ if seen through Fermenting Innard‘s equally forgotten black/death lens. Some of that similarity still fit on their debut full-length ‘Harrowing Faith’ (2016) which saw the band achieving their ‘signature’ in the sense that their music is inherently pure death metal but capable of bending towards the aforementioned death/thrash, melodic death, and lighter shades of death/doom. That debut was more or less lost in the shuffle along with comparable records from Coffin Lust, Embalmer, and Ruinous that same year and in 2018 their follow-up ‘We of Scorn’ appears as a more potent refinement of Shed the Skin‘s first album, growing but not mutating away from their core sound.
What kept me coming back to this record repeatedly was honestly that mix of thrashed out ‘Heartwork’ style guitar riffs on tracks like “Trepanning Society” and “Luminous Transgression” that avoid leaning into a death ‘n roll direction in favor of pure death metal and death/thrash elements; The clearest example of this is “A Stone Awoke the Titans” where the song’s style begins with a hardcorish thrash riff that segues into a melodic death metal middle part. The title track also follows a similar ethos but throws in rhythm guitar work worthy of a follow-up to Eucharist‘s ‘Mirrorworlds’. These simpler song structures are addictive in that they are catchy, easily remembered between listens, and have an inherent heaviness that helps avoid coming across as trite. Every ‘soft’ or melodic part is more-or-less followed by some heavier, brutal part and ‘We of Scorn’ becomes a satisfying push-and-pull as they snap between ideas that prove their intended relation as they play out.
In combining their shared influences and musical personalities Shed the Skin have produced a death metal album that is successfully melodic in the traditions of old school death metal and manages to avoid tired cliche. It is the sort of album that first demands rapt attention and then becomes a joy to leave on repeat and soak in it’s greater movements. This level of engrossing memorability and characteristic repeatability is shared with the best old school melodic/semi-melodic death metal and comes closer to realizing a style some of these musicians have been perfecting in other projects for years. Highly recommended.
|Released||July 27, 2018|
|BUY/LISTEN on Hell’s Headbangers Records’ Bandcamp!||Follow Shed the Skin on Facebook|
Soul-animating curses. 4.0/5.0
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