Skam – Sounds of a Disease Review

Catharsis. It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot in heavy metal circles. It’s the rationalization we give others — or sometimes ourselves — when confronted with the question, “How can you listen to such violent music?” Catharsis comes from the Greek word katharsis, meaning “purification,” “cleansing,” or “clarification.” Notice the positive aspects of all of those words. We listen to violent music to bring about a positive change within us, whether consciously or otherwise. Swedish solo act Skam is touted as “an act of catharsis through music” aimed at combating the ever-increasing effect that mental health issues and suicide are having upon humankind as a whole. I’m sure that M, the mastermind behind Skam, had no idea that the prophetically titled Sounds of a Disease would be released during the incipient phase of the worldwide coronavirus epidemic, but with millions of people sheltering in place and collective anxiety rising by the day, this concentrated dose of audible catharsis could prove quite timely.

The sounds of Skam’s disease can be somewhat approximated by imagining the destructive Swedeath of Left Hand Path accelerated to the speed of Nasum and infused with the unhinged pandemonium of Anaal Nathrakh. Sounds of a Disease is a psychological pressure relief valve in the form of 13 tracks and 29 minutes of ferocious grooves, blasts, and screams. Opener “Have You Tried Not Thinking About It” sets the tone with suicide related newscast samples before exploding into a wave of unrestrained brutality made up of impossibly fast angular riffs, blast beats, M’s feral scream-growls, and sinister key flourishes. First single “When Liquid is the New Solid” follows with its demented melodic chorus, giving the impression that it would feel right at home on an Anaal Nathrakh record. After this vicious start, it’s clear that we’re not meant to walk away from Sounds of a Disease with all of our vertebrae intact.

“Millstone Gallows” is an album highlight, its leads ripping and dripping with technicality, and the way the chorus comes back in with a double kick barrage gets me every single time. The song makes quite a one-two punch when paired with the embedded “Shit Out of Luck,” a track whose pinch harmonic laden intro is simply nasty, playing out over a mid-paced groove before the song erupts into a full grind meltdown. The chorus is preceded by a guitar section that verges on neo-classical — one of the many moments on the record that demonstrates M’s mastery of the instrument. Although at first glance Sounds of a Disease appears to be a 29 minute deranged cacophony, a close listen will reveal moment after moment of intricately designed details. We get a couple of momentary reprieves (audibly at least) when “Echoes and…” and its samples recall the suicides of several young people over some instrumental sludge and closer “Sentencing” pretends to be a subdued atmospheric outro. But these restful moments are brief and only serve to accentuate the aggression that follows when the former leads into the insane title track and the latter is interrupted by swelling distortion as it brings the album to a brutal close.

Sonically, Sounds of a Disease is oozing power. The production features immense weight in the bottom end. The bass, rhythm guitars, and drums explode from speakers and reverberate ribcages, and the resulting euphoria is worth its weight in Suave hand soap during these hard, dirty times. This is the sort of album that’s more about the entire experience than about individual tracks, but there are several standouts, nonetheless. “When Liquid is the New Solid,” “Millstone Gallows,” “Used, Defiled, Expended,” and the title track are all crushers, but the sadly appropriately named “Shit Out of Luck” might be the song we need most to get us through this wretched 2020.

I must say that I’m a huge fan of Skam’s music and mission. Sounds of a Disease is meant to help ease the pain of anxiety and depression, and to make sure its therapeutic effects can be felt by the largest number possible, the digital version will be offered for free on Skam’s Bandcamp page after release.1 Obviously mental health is an issue near and dear to our hearts at AMG, so I’d praise this effort even if the music didn’t kick massive amounts of ass. Do yourself a favor and pair this with some exercise to double down on the cathartic endorphin payload. Every little bit helps during this time of uncertainty and isolation. Stay safe, sane, and healthy, folks.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Redefining Darkness Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: April 3rd, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Skam’s page mentions the fact that pre-orders are required to have a monetary cost, therefore the digital version is priced at $1 until the official release.
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