Skan is The UK’s largest Optical and Technical Glass Warehouse and Applications Hub. The band Škan is the focus of this review. You’ll have to visit our affiliate site for a review of the UK Glass Warehouse Skan. A caron rides the s of Škan‘s mysterious aplomb; similarly Death Crown, the debut album by this multi-national four-piece, is a mysterious and constantly morphing animal that one will find difficult to put one’s finger on. Further context: The word Škan origninates from the language of the Native American Sioux tribes. It embodies the spirit that the band wanted to capture, one of spiritual, esoteric and cosmic battery. So Škan – whose name struggles to gestate in my mind (it sounds silly to me) – attempt to perform a medley of styles in this cosmic, philosophical, spirit-freeing debut album of theirs. But what does it sound like? Well, imagine death metal with elements of black metal, sludge, and southern rock. Wow.
A heavy slathering of ambient noise makes up perhaps half, or at least 40% of this outing. It opens with moody rustlings of the cosmic mother-earth ambient variety before moving into “Death Wish” which opens with rumbling black/death of the contemporary Behemoth meets Tribulation variety. You’ve already heard it all before. A dramatic droning closure adds to the mystery, but not a lot. Ambient weirdness brings “A Mort” into life – here, Škan are trying their best to create something eerie and cosmically powerful. Without warning, and lacking potency, ambient washes promptly cut off any song development, especially during the opening quarter of the album. This continues for the platter’s first half, actually. As the metal elements start swaggering, grooving and building to a biting conclusion, the atmospheric elements – like snakes on a plane! – hijack and put an end to the pleasant flow.
But there’s a shining beacon in the heart of this inconsistent cosmic swamp. The smooth and heart-touching twang of southern-groove (think contemporary Earth meats Inter Arma) sweeps up any loose ends and unifies the ambient passages with the metal reasonably well. Strong remnants of Earth‘s The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull are recognizable amongst the mid-paced blackened plod. Lonely passages of drifting acoustics plug the gaps, as do more up-beat solos of the southern variety. These moments bring songs to life. “The Womb” is the best example of this. It’s six minutes of crusty cosmic sludge that carries a wondrous slide-guitar twang in its withered holster. Husky sludge shouts ride this wave, less guttural, less death, and this suits the sound so much more. Follow-up “Au Dela,” a two-minute interlude, evokes the aforementioned bands astutely. It could easily pass as the soundtrack to an adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel as it builds and bubbles richly. The blackened death-metal actually detracts from the world-building that the band seem to be trying to create.
Overall, the riffing is forgettable. The mid-placed plod that most of the metal sections consist of reduces the album to a husk of what it could be. The final three tracks are the longest and most metal. “Iron & Blood” simmers, just about bubbling. Two minutes of flat and soulless black-death riffing is saved by an interesting mid-song segment derived through southern territories of soloing, acoustics and sludge-grooves. “Father Quayin,” at nearly 10 minutes, is four of five minutes too long and about as mind-penetrating as a cotton-bud up a nostril. Tempo-shifts, soloing and some clever drumming can’t rescue the flat and uninspiring riff-patterns. 11-minute closer “For The Love of Death” is similarly mundane. Forlorn and sullen, the song is a death-knell. The shadowy remnants of the previous 40-minutes are mushed together and given the moody, grandiose treatment that a lot of closing songs try to achieve. Joseph Merino is a strong vocalist, his husky bellows cascade through the mix with potency and mix with the stranger ambient and electronic touches well. He is especially potent during the sludgier-parts, but these moments are too often drowned by mediocre blackened death-metal. In fact, as is the case with most bands, the members of Škan are incredibly proficient at their instruments. My views are merely personal preference. Duh.
Death Crown is an attempt at bonding the musical and lyrical themes of American folklore and witchcraft with a European blackened death sound. There are moments of real genius here, but these are few and far between. The muddiness of the production does not help – my promo was rough and inconsistent with jarring transitions and strange tones. Overall, too much meandering, too much needless weight, and not enough unification of elements make this an inconsistent effort. Promising, though.