Review Summary: The purveyors of avant weird and wacky unveil another dystopian death metal onslaught.
When we think of Nashville, Tennessee and its storied musical history, death metal simply doesn’t come to mind. Weird, distorted riffs are so far away from the bread-and-butter cuts of country, bluegrass, jazz, rock and Americana are swathed together in one giant honky-tonk that offers live music three-hundred and sixty-five days of the year. Yep, even ol’ Saint Nicholas will belt out a set come Christmas. Bless that cutesy rotund fucker. Thankfully, we’re at least a couple months away from hearing jingles from obtuse members in heavy red jackets.
Bringing our minds back to the present however, are Nashville’s death metal dignitaries, Skin Tension and their most accessible, digestible and forward-thinking display of kaleidoscope metal the band has ever released. While Celebrant
isn’t the twenty-seven hours long, one-hundred and thirty-one tracked megalith of last year’s Omni
—instead clocking in at a feeble, more respectable thirty-nine minutes, it’s still more than chock full of more twists, turns, beats and frenzied instrumentals than you could shake a goat at. That is to say that Celebrant
is more akin to Machinic Impulses Of The Hyperreal
both in theme and in production to wit “that Colin Marston guy” lends his talents, but that’s not the entirety of the new album’s selling point. No, Celebrant
is awash with frenzied, feverish energies—riffs that unfurl like smoke and melt into the waves of cacophony. Feedback seeps from the pores of “Prelate” and quickly into “Gemara” while an endless percussive onslaught courtesy of multi-instrumentalist, part octopus Josh Byrd fills each and every nook to the nth degree. His efforts behind the kit are continually astounding, if not impressive.
The duo’s other half, Edward Longo painstakingly crafts mayhem and noise to flesh out Skin Tension’s more caterwauling moments, clear affronts to sweet, follow-able melodies. This is particularly noticeable in “Chamanchaca” which is conveniently nestled between the album’s two eleven-minute compositions. Sure, the riffs and frenetic drumming continues its frenzied assault, but the melody here is more definable, more in-line with what would be considered a “normal avant garde” aesthetic. Motifs circle and return, hidden under the din before being thrust quickly to the track’s forefront. Skin Tension proves their attention to detail. These tracks are more put together than that of the group’s last couple of records and in being less improvisational, the focus of the expansive “Humboldt” and the lightning in a bottle closer, “Tewel” is clear. Ideas don’t wander off on their own accord, unfulfilled on a tapestry of endless noodling and introspective tweedle necro jazz (although I yearn for a bigger influence throughout this album’s run-time). Instead, and especially in consideration of the closer, the direction and the mayhem is funneled into rage and mysticism. Walls of sound have never sounded so clear.
Skin Tension has always taken that musical direction—more familiar with throwing improvisational ideas at a wall whether they’re likely to stick or not. That’s the brilliance, but also Celebrant
’s crux. It’s still, still
a cop-out. Celebrant
isn’t going to tick everyone’s box…it was made to smash through them. Celebrating the journey from one anti-trope to the next while creating dissonant euphony. Celebrant
is a whirlwind of ideas, of dissonance, of left-hand paths. More importantly, it’s forward-thinking and an absolute blast to listen to.