Proving there’s beauty to be found in metal is no easy task, especially considering that the most well-known subsets of the genre are the robotic precision of speed and thrash hit-makers like Metallica and Megadeth. Somehow, though, Skullflower’s IIIrd Gatekeeper makes this beauty seem almost like an afterthought. There’s little-to-no comparison to be drawn between the slow grind of their destructive path and the previously mentioned genres, assured apocalyptic endings aside. No, Skullflower’s bloom is carved out with equal parts stoner riffs and space rock feedback. Take, for example, “Saturnalia,” where noisy shoegaze guitar fogs up the pile-driving rhythm section; there’s a organic looseness to it that eschews the premeditation of a typical metal song. Simply put, it’s more human than machine. However, it’s a snarling relentless maw of sound that not only chews up silence, but manages to use quiet to powerful effect. Check out the eerie spaces in-between the thunder drums on “Larks Tongue;” they only make the bludgeons hit that much harder when they come.
This disc from Crucial Blast is actually a reissue; the original 1992 pressing is long out-of-print. Revived and viewed in a contemporary context only makes the album even more remarkable. Not only can it be seen as a twisted rebuttal to the commercial crossover of metal in the early ’90s, but it’s also apparent how it laid the framework for dirge metal like Sunn O))) and space rock explorers, Paik. In the end, Skullflower seems to transcend the metal tag and end up closer to arctic psychedelica, malevolent slow-core, or primal pre-rock. It’s a glorious testament to raw, messy, heavy, simplicity, something which is sadly lacking in most of the die-cut riffery of their peers.
Crucial Blast Records: www.crucialblast.net