It is this bottom-feeder’s lowly opinion that creatively, the artistic world is in a dismal place. Movies? Big studios are so bereft of ideas that they’re remaking shitty movies into even shittier ones. It has been speculated that soon movie theaters will be a thing of the past, much like how the record industry died a well-deserved death. Sadly that also gave a very hard and dry ramming to the musicians who the labels were already ramming up the poop chute. Speaking of the poop chute, porn? Well, porn is as good as ever, but now it’s free and EVERYWHERE. The salacious and titillating days of cramming a bunch of pre and a few post-pubescent kids into a car and perusing the porn shops on 42nd street are long gone. Sure, in those days you’d drop a few dimes sight unseen on a VHS tape that turned out to be about as arousing as Rosie O’Donnell, but as much as convenience is a good thing, it can also lead to complacency and a lack of creativity.
Heavy metal, despite primarily being a possession of what we proudly call the underground, is not impervious to the revisionist proclivity of plucking from the past with genres like re-thrash, Even Newer Wave of British Heavy Metal, occult rock, and currently on the chopping block, retro-Swedish death. 2014’s EP, Interstellar Knowledge of the Purple Entity was my introduction proper to Skelethal and it just about made me turn my Fruit of the Looms into a fudge factory. At just 21 minutes, it was a perfect little window to the days of yore when Entombed and particularly Carnage were all. As I pondered in the comments section of my review, “…they’ve released two EPs within 8-9 months… I wonder if they are wise enough to release just a few tunes to keep things from getting overlong. Would the EP have had the same impact if it was twice the length? The world may never know.”
Now we do. The Skelethal ride is a lot of fun for a little trip down memory lane, but when it comes to the long haul it doesn’t hold up. On their first proper full-length, Of the Depths, it’s clear Skelethal are drawing too deep from the well and bringing up some of the muck at the bottom. While they certainly have the right sound and chops as good as Smith & Wollenksy’s, the riffs this time around aren’t as plague-ladenly infectious as the originators. Perhaps it’s because over recent years, and even just the three since Interstellar, a rash of bands have attempted to transcend time in similar fashion to varied success, many documented here on AMG like Narthraal, Ensnared, Sentient Horror, Entrails and the (not) cleverly titled Revel in Flesh.
There are good moments. For example, “Sons of Zann,” christens the proceedings in fine fashion with varied tempos throughout and a great melodic breakdown just over four minutes. The duo layer it over and build as a very tasteful and non-frenetic solo leads back to the crunch and punch. “Spectral Cemetery” opens with a sluggish pounding, and the oft-used but hard to abuse funeral bell toll adds atmosphere, and a later maniacal throaty laugh adds that crucial fifteenth piece of flair to one of the strongest songs herein. “Glimpse of the Great Purpose” leads with a tastefully brief bass lick and then builds up to a crushing riff for the verses that ends with a slick 6/4 twist that, cool as it is, makes the subsequent generic section all the more banal. Unfortunately, as hard as I tried to really get into Of the Depths, for much of it, at the first whiff of a distraction I found a song and a half had slipped by.
For example, not much besides the immaculate title of “Scaly Smelly Flesh” sticks out until the chorus, which is the catchiest moment of the entire album to mine ears. The suffocating slow sludge at just over the two-minute mark is the exact kind of variety the album could use more of, but unfortunately those moments are too few and far between. On its heels, the first half of “Outer Conviction” is as forgetful as Ronald Reagan circa 2003, but when Skelethal apply the brakes and slip into a lower gear, things get menacingly interesting. “Macabre Oblivion” ends the disc with an almost punkish urgency that’s refreshing yet leaves me pondering why one of the strongest songs was relegated to a “CD bonus.” The fact that these days bands have to include bonus tracks as motivation to buy a CD as opposed to streaming or downloading an album is a somber reminder that the state of the music business is so sad, it may as well be New Jersey. No offense Jerseyites, but now that gas is expensive there your state really sucks.