Skullshifter – Here In Hell

I can’t say that I ever really got into that whole ‘New Wave Of American Heavy Metal’ thing. Not just because I think the term is stupid and doesn’t actually exist, but because the sound of the supposed movement was never really something I identified with dramatically. In theory, it should have worked; an equal fusion of Pantera-style post-thrash, metalcore, and melodic death metal, but in practice it seems like a rather disorganized mish-mash of ideas that travel everywhere but never arrive.

Skullshifter is one such band that pulls off the formula a bit better than most, but still trips up on similar issues. The base here is, as expected, post-thrash, but with just a bit of Fear Factory-style industrialism and melodic death metal. The three-track debut EP ‘Here In Hell’ is a concise description of the bands sound in anticipation of their upcoming full-length, effectively demonstrating what the band is all about without tipping all their cards. Opening with ‘I, Punishment’ was a great move; there’s a great Machine Head resembling intro that’s propulsive without being overbearing, and does the best job at transferring between grooves of any of the songs on here. The following two are similarly groovy in nature, with thick, chugging guitars and matching bass and drum lines coming together to form a cohesive, heavy as hell core of music.

So where do the problems lie? Well, in a couple locations. The vocals, while periodically dipping into a growl that fits the music very well, are most often clean, and in many cases strangely proggy, with a sense of melody that’s far too fragile and precise for an industrial machine like this. In addition, the instruments, while often strong and cohesive, just as frequently stray from each other in an attempt at consistent variation. This straying through multiple bridges and breaks reduces the pure strength of what Skullshifter does best: simple, pounding heavy metal. Such an issue can be seen in the lead guitar performances here as well: somewhat meandering and inconclusive.

While this EP isn’t quite my thing, I have no doubt that there are numerous metalheads out there that it would be perfect for. If you dig powerful, groove-oriented metal, you should certainly give this a try regardless of my opinions.

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~ by noktorn on April 2, 2007.

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