Great Scott! Like stepping into a sepulchral time machine, Skelethal have transported us back to when Sunlight Studios was Mecca, buzz saw guitars sounded like a swarm of bees, and vocals were scraped from the depths of the grimiest gutters of hell. I expected a trippier, more experimental angle with the title Interstellar Knowledge of the Purple Entity, but this French duo have summoned all the gloriously noisome tones of the original Swedish death metal bands to piece together an EP so true to the original formula and feel, that it could have been another jewel of the genre.
Hard to believe this band has only been around since 2012 considering they sound so ancient. They’ve been staying the old school course, releasing one demo on cassette and previous EP, Deathmanicvs Revelation, and this one on vinyl. You’ll hear splatters of all the greats here – Grave, Unleashed, Dismember, Megaslaughter, early Necrophobic… you know the pedigree. We Olde Cranky Metal Bastards were around for the formative years of most metal genres and there is a charm to the prototypical bands that played the way they did because that was all they could do, not because it was ‘in’. Would albums like Sodom‘s Obsessed By Cruelty or Carnage‘s Dark Recollections sound so dangerous if they weren’t holding on in a white-knuckle grip, playing at a frantic pace right on the edge of their abilities, and pushing to levels of extremity and downright ugliness? No, new bloods, they would not. So many of the retro bands, be they thrash like Municipal Waste and Bonded By Blood, or the bands in the early 2000’s such as Paganizer and Verminous that emulated the Swedish sound, managed to capture all the basic elements of the style, but missed that vitality that came from tearing into new ground. Amazingly, Skelethal have recreated that feeling without nary a nanosecond of innovation.
A brief, ominous intro, “Subterranean Sigh” opens the proceedings, followed by the ravenous beast that is “Sabbatical Demonic Invocation,” a five minute summation of all that is so fucking great about classic Swedish death metal. That buzz saw guitar retches out of the speakers and is chopped to bits by a drum fill that sounds like it’s being played by a flailing spastic thrown from a rooftop. Ten seconds later and it’s 1990 again, my mullet is back and the hairs on the back of my neck are standing up like they did the first time I listened to Mercyful Fate‘s Melissa on headphones in a dark basement. This monster grooves, reaching breakneck speeds and then lurching and laboring under its own weight with an Autopsy-ish breakdown two minutes in. Keyboards are introduced at the four minute mark, almost at the exact same time as they are on “Left Hand Path.” I hope that was clever and not coincidence.
Each of the three original songs are strong start to finish. A cover of one of the most iconic songs of the genre, Carnage‘s “Torn Apart,” seals the coffin and rather than standing above the rest of the material as a cover of a classic song often does, serves to drive home that Skelethal have penned material as great as their forefathers did back when this all started. The sound is dead on, and though I am reviewing a digital copy, I will have to get the 12” just to hear that initial click as the needle touches the wax and the slight hiss that only comes from vinyl to make this experience even more complete.
Interstellar Knowledge of the Purple Entity does absolutely nothing new musically and does it gloriously. And by so perfectly capturing the sound of classic Swedish death, Skelethal invokes the sentiment which Pentacle (one of the only other bands I can think of in the same class) emblazoned across the back of their opus Rides the Moonstorm: “Don’t forget the ancient feeling… it still rules!” Skelethal don’t sound retro, they sound authentic, and that’s the strength of this little gem. Fellow Olde Cranky Metal Bastards and new bloods alike, climb aboard this DeLorean of Death and strap yourself in for a hell of a ride, because where we’re going, we don’t need roads.