SKELETON – Skeleton (2020)REVIEW

The big dumb world of experimental hardcore punk and any semblance of memorable legacy relies heavily on the chance that teenaged naivete eventually gives way to knowing, capable personal style beyond puberty. Either that or the subject never grows the hell up, loves the right sort of drugs, and probably goes metal at some point. I mean, from my own eternally skewed perspective that’d be the best case scenario and I’m always hunting for freaks and geeks who can swing all manner of directions and still land on reasonable ground with whatever music they’d whip out, serious or otherwise. In the case of Austin, Texas dark hardcore punk band Skeleton bring armfuls of evidence mounted in neat piles for their self-titled debut, making a solid case for their being an earnest, groove-chasing (lightly blackened) n’ thrashing weird punk phenom rather than throwaway suburban trashland trendcore.

For the sake of context, about ten years ago I hit a point where anything hardcore that didn’t sound like Cryptic Slaughter‘s third album could fuck off. It takes an inventive, referential, irreverent, and sharply presented record to pull me out of that sentiment, Halshug‘s ‘Drøm’ did a while back and lately ‘Skeleton’ has hit the right spot for the most part. The folks in Skeleton formed their gang as a duo around 2014 between the two Ziolkowski brothers and their presence has stuck on through the years. You’ll generally find Victor (Glaassss, Torture) playing drums and singing with David (Enemy One, Nosferatu) on guitars in this band and their nearby projects, the line-up would eventually include Alex Guzman (Nosferatu, Recide) on second guitar. The only reason I knew who Skeleton were before having their self-titled record dropped on me was through a friend who runs a hardcore punk YouTube channel who’d never seem to shut up about Nosferatu‘s tape from last year. As it turns out they’ve been at it for years with a true do it yourself ethos, building a business from their own circles of creation and gradually hitting strange new territory with each of their smaller releases leading up to ‘Skeleton’.

Actually ‘Skeleton’ (2014) came before ‘Skeleton’ (2020) along with follow-ups ‘Skeleton‘ (2016) and ‘Skeleton’ (2017) each of ’em being cassette EPs or 7″ flexi discs showcasing a ramping up from straight hardcore punk towards the bizarro rip of the ‘Pyramid of Skull‘ 7″, which I’d loved because it reminded me of that Bl’ast vibe I freak out over so often but push to an extreme. The best stuff from those formative releases is mostly on the second self-titled flexi single where a few more sentimental moments poked through the tracklist making for some of their catchier songs. Only some of those songs appear to have directly informed ‘Skeleton’ (the full-length…) but for the most part you’re getting a new feeling, something much closer to Raspberry Bulbs in spirit but surely less noisome and closer aligned with the blackening of punk in a post-Kvelertak and Okkultokrati world. Most any band I could whip out that’d compare in spirit (from Vordr to Sump and anything else in between) would almost certainly end up suggesting something more rooted in raw black metal than Skeleton are in motion, ‘Skeleton’ is a warped adornment of classic hardcore punk rather than the usual punk album from metalheads with poor guitar skills. And hey, it ends up being a solid, catchy good time.

“Skeleton” from ‘Skeleton’ by Skeleton kicks things off with one of the more black metal forward pieces on the album, it is the kind of song you’d expect from Wulkanaz lately where the punk flair of it is for the sake of a memorable hook that is relatively simple in presentation. This is a strong foot forward for the album and they keep the iron hot with “Mark of Death”, a thrasher that holds onto that ‘Dark Thrones and Black Flags’ swing to great effect. The energy holds up and the guitar performances are sharp and brightly presented, allowing the sneer and attitude of the song to bring the filth rather than the recording. “Toad” is where I perk up, feeling a bit of UK82 in the beat and the main riff. It might be a simple and short song where the vocals are draped in hazy blackened distance but it was enough of a hook that I’d spin the whole record a several extra times just to get back into the moment. That’d be the sort of sensation I’d typically derive from a great hardcore record, helping to form my appreciation for what ‘Skeleton’ does. “At War” switches over the the balmy punch of early 90’s hardcore towards the second half, feeling halfway English Dogs to start and then going kinda Poison Idea there at the end instead of going full on metal.

“A Far Away Land” was the clincher for my taste beyond “Toad”, and really where their modus became a bit more clear. Instead of straight up trying to sound like the typical black metal/punk hybrid they’ve pulled their own preferences out of black metal riffing and translated them to the Skeleton of before. It should be a huge shift for folks who’d followed the band before 2018, representing as much of a difference as the leap from ‘Dealing With it’ to ‘Crossover’ at least. Every song of the eleven presented hits the right spot except for what’d actually been the first single released, “Catacombs” pushes into teenaged garage metal band territory with its simple ‘clean’ guitar intro and it feels like a bit of a nothing song following the rest of the album. Why they’d chosen to do a more atmospheric piece rather than something more direct that’d loop back into the first song is beyond me, and feels counter intuitive on the full listen. It isn’t a terrible song by any means, just doesn’t add any serious weight to the record. Hell, even if those 4-5 minutes didn’t click with me getting familiar with Skeleton‘s new fleshy blackened (lets say, toasted?) exterior was a blast for its remarkably catchy and easily repeated trip. They could be more direct with the vocals and more distant with the guitars but for a first shot at it I’d say they’ve nailed something unique and enjoyable out the gates. Moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
LABEL(S):20 Buck Spin
RELEASE DATE:July 10th, 2020
BUY/LISTEN/STREAM:Bandcamp [Digital]
GENRES:Blackened Hardcore, Blackened Metalpunk,
Hardcore Punk

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