Nordic assault unit Totem Skin pour emotion and fiery playing into new mauler ‘Weltschmerz’

totem skinIs it too much to ask that more music that comes down the pike be filled with, you know, feelings? I know life isn’t devoid of that type of thing. But for a site that bases its enjoyment of music almost entirely on feeling, it’s a joy to find something that feels like the people behind it felt the exact same way about what they were creating.

If someone were to tell me that Norway’s Totem Skin literally bled for their art, I would not be surprised. Their amalgamation of metallic hardcore, classic screamo, and fiery ambition is on full display with their crushing second record “Weltschmerz.” At times, they sound like a band that could fit alongside legends such as Converge but also have the same furor of Young and in the Way and Trap Them, making for a volcanic experience for the entire family. Oh, and I mentioned feelings. This thing is erupting with them as the band– dual vocalists Glenn Zettersten and Henrik Dahlqvist, guitarist Christoffer Öster, drummer Sebastian Engström, bassist Johan Wiberg–bear their hearts, which are gushing with plasma and bound to smear you with every last ounce of their sweat and tears. It’s a hell of a collection, a worthy follow-up to debut “Still Waters Run Deep,” and hopefully it captures the minds and spirits of even more people.

Totem skin cover“Always Ire” hints at calm when it begins, as clean notes trickle, but then the blazes are lit, and off they go. The track hits total fury, with wild howls, heavy bursts of emotion, and later some gazey guitars work that glistens over top. The final moments rain down hard, with manic vocals leading into “Longing Leans and Beckons” that has a super upbeat melody and then begins to churn away. The shrieks and wails again display force, while melodic guitars slip in, the pace marches hard, and another explosion strikes before the track subsides. “Reckless Recluse” chars right off the bat, with throaty, death-like growls exploding and the band hitting a thrashy high. Later, the pot simmers and lets off steam, while the vocals continue their assault as a strange, baffling fog settles in and chokes away. “The Mouth of Man” unleashes melodies, tearing into your flesh and going into full throttle. The chorus is riotous and could be a huge highlight live, while the back half of the song goes back and forth from pulling you out of the waves to driving you back in, face-first.

“Pretend” comes to life like a lava flow threatening whatever’s in its wake, and then it ignites. Our dual vocalists trade barbs back and forth, with forceful singing intertwining with the monstrous growls. A melodic front nears, something at which they are so good, and then everything just spills over, like wildlings over the wall. The mauling just keeps coming at a fever pace until the final notes fade and then bleed into “Distant Visitant.” Here, the drums crash down, guitars spiral out of control and spew poison, and the band unloads a ton of bricks that hit and crush everything. Closer “I De Blindas Rike Är Den Enögde Kung” is the longest track at  8:46, with a steely start that takes some time to develop, and once it does, it heads right into the dark mist where no one possibly could know what lurks. The bulk of the song is mesmerizing and numbing before the chugging hits and the guitars get sinewy. The vocals finally arrive about seven minutes in, adding a cathartic blow that unravels savagery and madness that mix with all of the blinding colors and drive the album into a closing wall of static.

Totem Skin’s power and  passion are not to be denied, and their work on “Weltschmerz” smolders from beginning to end. They aren’t just here to pile up style points, though they can do that as well, but instead want you to experience the same things they are. It’s a rousing success of a record that can inject some fire and energy into a heavy music world that surely can use it.

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