Before I delve into the guts of this self-titled debut from Indiana’s Skeleton Wolf, I’d like to pose a question to our loyal readers here at Angry Metal Guy. What is your favorite drunken party metal album and/or band? You know the kind of metal that just lifts a gear and thrives with the accompaniment of alcohol, or is just best suited to the party atmosphere, or at the very least teaming up with a few buddies to knock back brews and jam tunes. Let’s face it, aside from the highly disciplined non-drinking folk and our livers and brain cells, booze and metal goes down a treat. It might be an artist where a handful of drinks are necessary to enjoy on any level, or an unrivaled classic boosted by the bravado of ye olde booze. Perhaps it’s a well known classic like Kill ‘Em All, Number of the Beast or A Blaze in the Northern Sky that boils ya potato. Or the epic viking metal of Bathory, stampeding gallop of Amon Amarth or livewire insanity of Sigh and Desaster. Or maybe it’s a left-field choice or guilty pleasure like Andrew W.K.’s I Get Wet.
Skeleton Wolf fit the bill as a party metal band that doesn’t take themselves too seriously, a refreshing aspect in an all too serious metal scene. The band apply a tongue-in-cheek mentality, boundless enthusiasm while embracing metal cliches, and their rollicking blast of extreme noise is a joy to behold. Loosely classified as blackened thrash, Skeleton Wolf certainly incorporate these elements into their sound without letting strict genre guidelines diminish their rock-out metaltude. Overall their sound doesn’t offer anything particularly original, but their tight musicianship and slick execution smacks of professionalism mixed with a raucous, horns-up attitude, translating to sharp, punchy tunes with scything hooks and boisterously infectious riffs. Skeleton Wolf aren’t here to fuck around and their burly extreme metal hybrid is by no means a watered down splash of disposable waste.
“Bow Down to Death” showcases Skeleton Wolf’s spooky graveyard melodies and taut, fiery riffs propelled by thunderous drum work and a neck snapping chorus. Following a slow building intro with eerie sound samples of a shovel digging into earth and crows squawking in the background, “At the Sixth Foot” eventually rips into a killer thrashy groove and addictive main riff, with its mid-paced cadence enlivened by some nifty dynamics, busy drumming and its overall aggressive tone. Featuring grittier, belched from the bowels of Hell vocals, galloping double bass and a seething torrent of blackened tremolo melodies and grim atmospherics, “Whatever Demons (We All Have Them)” is less immediate than some of the album’s riffier offerings but is a welcome change of pace, descending into a charred, climactic beat-down. Skeleton Wolf’s strange fluctuations between their rabidly grim black metal dealings and thrash ‘n’ roll punch seem slightly at odds with each other, but the songwriting variations are actually quite endearing and don’t hinder the steroid jacked fun and cohesion of this wild ride. For instance later album cut “She’s Insane” blends their differing stylistic components into a ripper jam, again demonstrating their impressively catchy guitar work and memorable song construction. Going out with a bang rather than a whimper, “Forever Awake” closes the album in triumphant style, a delightful romp of melodic blackened thrash anchored by a stupendous central riff and bouncy Gothenburg groove.
Sporting a terrifically gnarly guitar tone, the production is squeaky clean yet packs a weighty wallop that suits the robust nature of the material well. Although consistently solid and enjoyable, there’s nothing on show here to really take the metal world by storm. Despite an efficient 33-minute run time, a couple of the songs are a touch long in the tooth, while the mostly decipherable growls illustrate the band’s cheesier lyrical leanings on tracks like the ultra silly but tremendously fun “M.P.F.F.” And as much as I’ve been pleasantly surprised and enjoyed my time with the album, I’m still unsure about Skeleton Wolf’s longer term staying power.
Knocking up a tidy album full of solid riffs, tight musicianship and pure adrenaline fueled metal anthems that are raucously fun in their simplicity, Skeleton Wolf have crafted an impressive debut. Sitting amidst the smorgasbord of killer releases recently, in the grand scheme of things Skeleton Wolf falls a bit short in comparison, however, it’s a refreshing and sprightly detour, creating the ideal soundtrack for getting the head banging and the booze flowing.