The Lion’s Daughter – Skin Show Review

Do you all miss Mark Z? I do, too. The poor bastard is eyeball deep in educational files and folders and here I am, cosplaying him in a misguided attempt to bring forth some of his essence. Two previous The Lion’s Daughter albums our dear slutgöatwitchvomitfuckerlörd reviewed, each scraping together very respectable scores and candid praise, but the burden now befalls me to continue the Big Z’s legacy concerning the St. Louis weirdos, a burden I declared to shoulder enthusiastically. Yet the promo for Skin Show gave pause. “It’s the type of record that can easily garner coveted radio airplay.[…] This was our attempt at a straight-forward pop record.[…] I tried to imagine our band playing a giant arena.” If your amygdala is currently screaming at you to duck and cover, well, you’re not alone. But then again, their previous attempt at integrating synths went down very well. Is that still true, or has it all gone down the neon colored gutter?

Well, it’s certainly still very far from a straight-forward pop record. If nothing else, the admirably bulky roar of Rick Giordano immediately disqualifies the record from that coveted radio airplay, because nothing that gravelly and vile has been heard on the air in a long time. The tracks that hew closer to their original style, like the ass-kicking pummel of opener “Become the Night,” use the trimmed down structures to deliver short but sweet slices of catchy cranial carnage. “Werewolf Hospital” is practically upbeat and takes cues from death ‘n roll to deliver a high speed assault that won’t leave your head for a while.

I’m overall more ambivalent about the synth use on Skin Show, though, and about the way the updated band goals1 seem to have affected the songwriting. On the best tracks, the keys serve as a clean and glossy counterpoint to the grit of the guitars and the coarse vocals, the neon sign above the alley with the victim of a grisly murder. This dichotomy is the best part of the album, but oftentimes the grit makes way for the synths, the aggression makes way for strip club beats and I start thinking that a vocal replacement would be all it takes to turn this into Marilyn Manson. The latter half of the album suffers the most from this, with the back-to-back BDSM soundtracks of “Sex Trap” and “Snakeface” a low point in both energy and atmosphere.

Overall, though, Skin Show does manage to win me over. When the synths work, they paint a picture not many bands can manage. “The Chemist” uses slow crawls laden with 70’s horror electronic hums interspersed with moments of addictive rage to excellent effect, and both “Curtains” and “Neon Teeth” have absolutely massive chorus boosted by the synths that work well within the simplified songwriting and are catchy as all hell. The production has become more glossy as the music has, but the strong bass presence, excellent master and largely balanced mixing make up for that. In a sense, the band succeeded in making an album whose skeleton adheres to pop tropes, but the grime and the gloss balance each other out just often enough to remain interesting and worthwhile.

That does leave me fearful of the band’s trajectory, though, because it seems to me they may be teetering on the edge of losing that balance. The promo text made it seem like this is more along the lines of what the members of the band wanted to make with Future Cult, but fear of backlash from their fanbase held them back, and now they decided to stop being afraid. While I think they may be right, and I think that such a backlash may come, I don’t think it’s simply because louder and more distortion means better. The Lion’s Daughter now has two albums that are quite interesting in the way it frames the cleanliness of the keys against the filth of blackened sludge, but the latter half is only just present enough at this point to keep that contrast and not become generic industrial rock. Let’s hope the band can hold onto that part of itself. Because of it, Skin Show remains a cool, catchy and surprising album. I just hope its successor will still be, too.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: April 9th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. As an aside, I was strongly reminded of how Type O Negative advertised their semi-satirical ‘radio-friendly’ Life Is Killing Me.
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