Skelethal – Unveiling the Threshold Review

Unveiling thresholds is for losers. What if you don’t have a door? You’ve got a curtain for a door. That’s ok, I guess. Kind of sensuous; you pull back the curtain door and there it is, the threshold. There’s probably a room there too. I‘m more of a door guy myself. I have a door but it’s hung off of a large shelf instead of, you know, a doorframe, so the fucking cats can push it open and ‘unveil’ that ‘threshold’ whenever they feel like it, customarily between the hours of 1 and 4 am. You know what, forget I said anything. Unveiling thresholds is fine (2.5/5.0). You know what’s better than unveiling thresholds though? Unveiling the Threshold (?.?/5.0), the new record from copy-editing champions Skelethal.

Though a combative Al Kikuras rightfully panned the group’s debut, this sophomore record introduces a more fleshed-out Skelethal offering something beyond buzzsaw revivalism. After the departure of founding drummer/bassist Jon Whiplash, the band’s other half, Guillaume Zeller, pieced Skelethal back together at twice the size. Is their resulting impact proportional? While Skelethal remain a bona fide Swedeath act, Unveiling is far less bound to the sinistral trail than past releases. Indebted to the Stockholm style – most heavily to Carnage – the band invigorate that often reductive sound with unusually plentiful and tight rhythm shifts and madcap pacing that hints at speed metal. Hit the kill switch on the HM-2 and the Zeller’s guitar work wouldn’t stick out on a Satan record. The quick harmonized lead that plays out “Adorned with Black Vertebra” has that wiry charm, and the triplet turns in “Repulsive Recollections” are straight out of the ‘80’s shredder handbook. It’s nothing too far out, but compared to Skelethal’s influences, Unveiling feels just a bit wilder.

Like Lik, Skelethal’s take on Swedeath leans heavily on the style’s nasty fun. All that wild guitar work is spread evenly across the eight tracks here and the band never go after an especially grim or dissonant riff. Even in the closer, the clean guitar passages function more as a mile markers letting you know that this is the last song than a real attempt to build atmosphere. That focus lends a bit of character to the record, but Unveiling still feels constrained. I remember a ton of Lik songs for their dark humor or infectious choruses, but the knotty, white-knuckle material Skelethal perform is much harder to recall. Unveiling feels great on the eardrums, but I’ve never felt the need to listen to the record again to hear some song again or relive a particular moment.

Unveiling the Threshold illustrates well the gap between appreciation and enjoyment that characterizes many of the hardest records to write about. While I understand its influences and am impressed by its performances, Unveiling just doesn’t excite me on a sub-intellectual level. Great death metal bypasses the forebrain entirely, sending impulses straight down the cochlear nerve and into your neck. Good death metal can’t take over that easily; either it isn’t strong enough to move the body or it gets caught up in the brain for too long. I have to think about Unveiling to respond to it, and no matter how well I like it after careful consideration, it lacks that physiological force.

Unveiling the Threshold won’t become a classic, but it’s a fun listen that stands out a bit from the crowded field of OSDM releases. Skelethal can write some tight songs and deliver even tighter performances, but the band have yet to leave a mark on me. They’re a scrappy, fast fighter with tight footwork, dodging a lot of the punches that a heavier fighter might just absorb. But the band are always in motion and won’t leave themselves vulnerable for long enough to set up the bruising blows that would really rattle me. Unveiling the Threshold isn’t a sure loser, but it’s not going to rise very far through the ranks.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label:  Hells Headbangers Records
Websites: skelethal.bandcamp.com | skelethal.com | facebook.com/skelethal
Releases Worldwide: November 20th, 2020

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