Cleveland duo Frayle unleash moody, dark doom that flutters with agony on ‘Skin and Sorrow’

Frayle’s full live lineup

Darkness and rage do not necessarily have to be conveyed in audio violence and pulverized muscle after having gone through a bloodletting. There are many ways to let the negativity leak into your flesh and bone and bleed through your pores, and sometimes taking a calculated approach is the best way to fully absorb the forces that are trying to destroy you.

Cleveland’s Frayle aren’t going to flatten you with decibels and force, but they manage to dig right to the heart of their music, which we hear on their second record “Skin and Sorrow.” There has been enough misery to go around these past few years, and the band—Gwyn Strang and Sean Bilovecky—channels that into 10 tracks that stay on a channeled, shadowy pace through most of the record, the bursts spaced nicely out but always satisfying when they land. Amid all of this devastation, pain, and loss are creations that are heavy musically but even more so emotionally, burning through your system and eating away at your psyche. By the way, Frayle currently are touring in support of Cradle of Filth, so their profile very justifiably is rising. Also, while we’re presenting this record now, it’s been pushed back to Sept. 23. That was announced after this piece was written. So, have some patience for a physical copy. It’s worth it.

“Treacle & Revenge” buzzes in like a warm stream, Strang’s seductive calls luring you to your doom. “Hold you to your truth, so bored with empty words, I will have revenge,” she calls as growls lurch, the playing is catchy and gusty, and some sludge hammers the point home. “Bright Eyes” is burly and lurches slowly, the chorus sinking into power and flexing. The playing is dangerously breezy and dark, the guitars smear, and Strang calls, “So many tears, my wicked ways, so many fears all tucked away.” The title track enters amid guitars aching as the dusty ambiance grows and heads west. The vocals slither as the humidity increases and makes breathing a challenge, and then the waters suddenly scald, this gothic desert trap swallowing you whole. “Ipecac” is burly and takes its time, sometimes fluttering, always weighing down on you. Doomy winds push through as Strang’s vocals hypnotize you before letting you burn away. “Stars” opens as Strang calls, “The darkness has returned, it never really left,” as the band delicately stomps before jolting with power. The tempo stamps flesh into the ground, the chorus carves at your heart, and the fog thickens and robs you of your vision.

“Roses” brings guitar spark as the singing stretches its wings, the chorus opening as warmth begins to deliver a thaw. The track plods with calculating force as the playing swarms the mind, and Strang jabs, “Feed you my poison, and I will stain your soul,” as everything ends in ash. “Sacrifant” delivers snarling riffs and a spirit that encircles, the guitars continually increasing the menace. The singing exudes darkness as the pace chugs, whispers haunt, and the power finally fades. “All the Things I Was” has guitars echoing and Strang’s vocals a quiet but deadly force, carving before the bottom drops. The playing slithers through a chasm as the heaviness gets aggravated and raw, trudging and chewing muscle along the way. “Song for the Dead” drips into the scene as dreaminess spreads, Strang calling, “She sings for the dead, only, drawing down the moon, slowly.” Gentle playing and devious emotions snarl as the guitars glisten and spill away. Closer “Perfect Wound” lands in dark guitars and a solemn pace as Strang’s voice and Bilovecky’s guitars intertwine and haunt. The feeling is sullen and wounded, spirits feel like they retreat to the night sky, and the notes drub with Strang wailing, “My beautiful sorrow,” as the final strains dissolve into air.

“Skin and Sorrow” is a new chapter for Frayle, a band that’s slowly been building its presence and unique form of elegant doom darkness. This record gushes and bleeds with personal devastation, frustration, and pain, and it’s impossible to listen to these 10 songs and not absorb every drop. This album is deceivingly powerful, an emotional toll that is paid over and over and refuses to relent until each inch of this thing exists underneath your flesh.

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