Ever been concussed? Not the part where you actually get punched in the head or whatever, the aftermath, the effects: the symptoms. Those bleared seconds or minutes or hours or days that follow, where everything seems to be beneath a thick sinister fog and the whole world seems to just reel. A state of mind in which all the of the stresses of life are forgotten and the raw animal brain enjoys a moment in the sun. If, like most people, you do not want to intentionally get concussed, listening to Skullflower’s music is a reasonable alternative to what it feels like to be under the effects of a traumatic brain injury.
Appropriately apocalyptically titled Last Shot at Heaven
is Skullflower’s fourth full length album and one that marked something of an end of an era for the band, after this release they would drift away from designing the psychedelic maelstrom of raw churning rock rhythms that largely compromised their earlier work toward a more experimentally inclined abrasive harsh noise type sound. The music Matthew Bower and friends wrote in this early era of the band typically builds itself around sprawling, echoing drums and thousand-yard-stare bass grooves, while hypnotic feedback drenched guitars wash back and forth over the relentless rhythm droning, and intermittent and indistinct voices add lurking, conflicting emotions to create abrasive but texturally rich and subtly visceral sound-scapes.
Opening tune "Caligula" sets the foundation for the ever yawning maw that is the album with its stark, vibrant guitar licks and bites, propulsively evocative bass, and enormous reverberating drums. The repetitive yet immersive sound is overwhelming at first but eventually emerges into a euphoric cacophony before consuming itself like a melting ouroboros in a protracted and chaotic outro. The main groove is a triumphant detachment from reality that brazenly flaunts the enthralling bass tone and invites the listener deep inside its uniquely sordid delirious bliss. Other album highlights include “Rotten Sun II”, where a raw, riveting riff ties together desperate distant shouts and catastrophic percussion, and also “Bad Alchemy”, where a transcendent bass throb stabilizes debauched, intoxicating wails of guitar.
Though Skullflower’s subsequent change in musical direction might seem like it would be the major contributing factor towards the more lackluster parts of the album, the reality is that precedence of bass guitar is what makes the standout tunes really stand out. The rhythm section adds an important grounding conviction to the band’s sound, and without it there just isn’t much to tie the listener down. This is evidenced in the directionless and disjointed “Get the Horn” which features a mildly interesting organ freakout at around halfway through that is really the only worthwhile part of a song which lasts over six minutes. Closer “Blown Dukes” is a spaced-out meander through nothing particular and ultimately wastes a promising ten minutes of the album with its uncommitted distorted guitar doodling. Despite the bloat, Last Shot At Heaven
creates some of the best compositions of Skullflower’s entire discography, with its rich, uncompromising jams, and many of the tracks are among their best material.