I stand before you today to confess two great sins. First, I was not allowed to watch He-man growing up, so you will not be treated to the appropriate level of jokes that this band name demands. Alas, I’m neither the writer that you want nor the one that you deserve. Secondly, despite living in the Seattle area for my entire life, I had never heard of local band Skelator until stumbling upon them in the promo bin the other day. I was far too busy with real life circumstances to take on a review for this week, but the combination of the band’s location and my physiological response to hearing the advance track required me to reprioritize my life. So, I quickly shunned my far more important responsibilities and began spinning Cyber Metal, Skelator‘s fifth full-length record since forming in 1998.
For the first time in my juvenile reviewing career, I decided to listen to each of the band’s albums to get a feel for how they’ve progressed over the years. Beginning with the early Manowar-esque Give Me Metal or Give Me Death (2008), Skelator reached the height of their epicness on sprawling hour-long, interlude laden concept album Agents of Power (2012). They landed somewhere in between on both Death to all Nations (2010) and King of Fear (2014). All four have merit, are fun listens, and inform their current sound, but somewhere in the five years since their last, the band stumbled upon a winning formula where less is truly more.
Cyber Metal is eight tracks and forty minutes of lean and mean metal glory. The interludes and drama have been discarded to make room for more riffs, solos, and screams. Take the fastest moments from the Maiden and Priest discographies, add a touch of Manowar or Iced Earth heft and attitude, and you might be close to describing what these tales of über nerdery sound like. Just listen to the first twenty seconds of opener “Cyber Samurai,” with its harmonized axe attack that leads into a falsetto wail, and you’ll know if you should keep listening (hint: you should). The final two minutes is a guitar clinic put on by Robbie Houston and Rob Steinway as they go blow for blow with call and response solos and then make up with harmonized hugs. Their chemistry is palpable throughout the record, and their lead work is simply molten. The rhythm guitar tone is one of the most satisfying that I’ve heard in a long time and Darin Wall’s ever present bass provides even more power underneath when he’s not galloping off on his own.
There’s not a moment of weakness to be found among the eight tracks, and there’s something for just about everyone. “Cast Iron” is another solo master class grounded by some fantastic down-picked chugs and melodeathy riffs while embed “Akira” is blistering power/thrash that builds to a furious ending. Things get epic without sacrificing speed on the galloping “Highlander” and the regal “Erlkonig,” and there’s a ton of hard rock swagger on “Seven Scars,” “Psychic Silver Wheels,” and Steel Druhm‘s new theme song, “The Hammer.” I can’t get over how choice the songwriting and production are on Cyber Metal, and it’s clear that Skelator have earned enough XP grinding it out in the underground to gain some high level abilities over their twenty-plus year existence.
The only reason I’m even writing this is because the mighty Ferrous Beuller thought the vocals sounded too much like Michael Kiske, and I was thus able to limply wrest the promo from his iron grip, surely saving it from a gruesome fate. Singer Jason Conde-Houston probably falls into the love him or hate him category, but if you’ve taken a peek at the score, you already know that I give 0.0 poops1 and fall squarely into team love him. He has a very old school delivery that reminds me of a young Halford crossed with a young Dickinson, and I think it fits the music perfectly.
With stellar releases from Idle Hands, Bewitcher, and now Skelator, we may be living in the midst of The Great Pacific Northwest Olde Rush of ’19. I didn’t have time to do this review, but I’ve listened to Cyber Metal and its modern take on classic heavy metal twenty times anyway. It’s really that good, and I pledge to atone for my sins by catching these guys live at the earliest opportunity.
Written by: Ellzebub2, daughter of Holdeneye
Well I personally, think that the music is good. But, I think that the album cover is truly inappropriate. I mean, who would think it’s ok to put a picture of a knight chopping off the body parts of zombies. What if your 3 year old saw that picture? “DADDY! MOMMY! I HAD A SCARY DREAM ABOUT A KNIGHT CHOPPING OFF BODY PARTS OF ZOMBIES!” Alright, let’s get to the report on songs.
Akira : So let me get this straight, this song is about a cartoon. Hmm…… Yeah, this band doesn’t make sense. O.K. The song is pretty good. RECOMMENDED!!!!!
Seven scars : THIS SONG IS AWSOME!!!!!! IT IS DEFINITELY RECOMMENDED!!!
- My co-reviewer required me to go PG here. See below. ↩
- My 8 year old daughter has been wanting to audition for AMG for a while. While I was listening to Skelator, she saw the album cover and took issue and demanded to write the review for it. This was all her. I made no edits. All I did was provide her handle. ↩