French beasts Skelethal make bruising first impression with debut ‘Deathmanicvs Revelation’

SkelethalWhat better way to start another Monday, another grueling week than with some pure death metal that’ll make your soul feel black and rotting inside. That’s likely how you feel anyway, as you look to another week at the grind, so why not have some music that’ll match your disgust?

French death duo Skelethal could be exactly what you need about now. It comes to you by way of Iron Bonehead, one of the most reliable labels when it comes to unearthing the finest, most miserable underground death metal available on the planet. Name one time when they steered you wrong. Right, you can’t, so pay attention. The band’s first EP “Deathmanicvs Revelation” has everything that old-school death metal fans generally demand in their bands: raw power, skull-crushing death, production that sounds like it took place underground, and general ugliness that all the mainstream, polished-to-hell death metal bands have no grasp of whatsoever. This will bust you up and leave you for dead.

Skelethal coverThe two fellows behind Skelethal are guitarist/vocalist Gui Haunting and drummer/bassist Jon Whiplash, who both play in the band Infinite Translation, a thrash-oriented group that also pays homage pretty directly to that genre. So these two guys know a thing or two about what makes their chosen sub-genre pure and destructive, and they bring all of that to the seven-cut, 23-minute “Deathmanicvs Revelation.” The recording will surround you in fire, death, and destruction, and it doesn’t emulate the forces that preceded this band nearly three decades ago, but it shows a reverence for the pioneers of the genre. They sound like they’re eager to take the roots and carry them forward in their own way, and that’s part of what makes “Deathmanicvs Revelation” such a pleasure, even if it’s ugly as hell.

After a creaky, stormy intro piece that lets piano drip like blood, the guys tear into “Macabre Oblivion” that erupts with death glory, furious growls, and raw energy that gallops forward and mauls. Some awesome, doomy guitar riffs sprawl forth as if they’re mid-Black Sabbath worship and the last couple minutes of the song find the band grinding to a halt, blowing up again, and corroding. “Putrefaction” is up next, setting off an obliterating first minute, with gruff vocals, a fast and charging pace, filthy punishment, and some razor-sharp lead guitar work that could char you. The title track comes sweeping in from there, with gut-wrenching death, a punchy, thrash-ridden groove that’s as violent as it is glorious, more strong leads, speed, and vocals that practically are spat on the floor.

“Curse of the Neverending” is burly and mean, and though it’s only 1:51 long, making it the shortest track on the record, it does make the most of its time. Throaty growls, clobbering guitars, and the right levels of intensity make this both fun and bruising. “Death Returns” brings doom back into the picture again, but then it blasts open and starts the mauling all over again. There are some great speedy sections in this song, awesome soloing, and more thrashing that tips a cap a bit to their other band. The final minutes are full of pure devastation, and then it all dissolves into murky synth that sounds like it could soundtrack a B-level sci-fi movie. Closer “A Violation of Something Sacred” lets loose from the start, offering no mercy and providing none, and there even is a section that sounds a bit influenced by American hardcore. Or maybe that’s just me hearing that. The riffs are mean, the vocals go for the kill, and the finish is total demolition that leaves everything in soot.

Skelethal is another great find by Iron Bonehead, a duo that has plenty of admiration for the roots of death metal but has their own ideas for how to carry it into the future. “Deathmanicvs Revelation” is an incredibly positive and brutal start for the band, and anyone who still holds dear the blood and violence on which death metal was built will find a ton to like about this band. Hey, look, a lot of us death metal fans are a little judgmental and defensive, so it’s nice to have a new band like Skelethal to tout with no worries, knowing people like us will feast upon these French monsters’ work.

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