PICK OF THE WEEK: SkyThala twist death metal to their strangling will on warping ‘Boreal Despair’

I miss being surprised. We have an insane amount of music available to us, what with the internet and all, and that can take away from the novelty of finding incredible bands that hit buttons we didn’t know we had. As an old, I remember when there wasn’t a flood of bands and music at our disposal, and finding something that’s truly a challenge doesn’t happen all the time. But it still happens.

Digging into “Boreal Despair,” the debut record from mysterious entity SkyThala, led to one of those discoveries that keeps you believing in ingenuity and finding something different. I don’t have a reliable lineup, but I found one that credits vocalist/guitarist Ryan Clackner (Arcane Morrow, Vile Haint, Primeval Well), keyboardist Edward Longo (Primeval Well), and drummer Sean Meyers (Beneath the Red Dawn), most of those bands existing on the Moonlight Cypress Archetype label, one that’s taken me over and made me a major fan. Just like the bands that exist there and on I, Voidhanger, this project’s label home, expect the unexpected. There is death metal at the core, but it branches well beyond that (Stravinsky is dropped as an influence) and proves the deadliest of the dark arts still can be bent to your will.

“Eternal Nuclear Dawn” is the 10-minute opener and is musically immersive as it starts before insane shrieks rattle the cages, ripping open and consuming everything in front of it. The playing gets proggy and daring, halting momentarily for keys to twist in the atmosphere, the pace engulfing and completely disorienting. Synth haunts as the violence increases, the howls lurch, and doom bursts through the gates, crushing to its merciful end. “Variegated Stances of Self Mockery” is the second-longest track, running 9:49 and spilling into eerie coldness that freezes before the playing spits lava. Savagery throttles as gothy winds blow, shrieks mar, and synth trumpets triumphantly, extending a blanket of fog. Sorrowful playing melts out of that, wiry pulsing works through your bones, and an atmospheric black metal push crushes and fades. “Boreal Phrenological Despair” teases before it fully explodes and confounds, the storming feeling oppressive and unmanageable. The shrieks strangle as delirious guitars tangle your brains, running into a strange and mangling force. Organs blare as the haunting truly gets under way, growls snarl, and a frantic pace jabs and blasts into dust.

“Rotted Wooden Castles” emerges from the murk, the riffs jerking and slithering, clouds enveloping and bringing on a massive chill. Shrieks ripple as the synth strikes, the leads glimmer, and everything goes on a strong run, rushing and wrenching. Howls slash the senses, a spastic burst bruises, and the menace finally bleeds away. “At Dawn They Walk” starts with synth pumps and mind-warping playing, the vocals crushing your will to live. The tempo gets delirious as organs rustle and send chills down your spine, and the guitar work even hints at jazzy elegance mixed with blood. The pressure mounts and chews at your synapses, storming and delivering vicious final blows. Closer “Yielding Quivers of Revolution” gets off to an unhinged start, surging through hell, chaotic winds whipping and eating into bones. The pace is relentless and dangerous, running into synth clouds and hanging in the air, blistering your swelling flesh. Acoustics arrive and add gentle haze, spirits waft through, and the final notes bend into time.

SkyThala push death metal into surprising, even sophisticated areas even while your brain is being utterly shredded. “Boreal Despair” is a record that needs time to sink in and multiple visits to fully grasp, and even then, the human brain can only stretch so far. This is a surprising, refreshing band and album from artists that have been making strange sounds deep in the underground for some time and are now ready to pierce the surface and infect everyone else.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100086637551901

To buy the album (U.S.), go here: https://metalodyssey.8merch.us/

Or here (Europe): https://metalodyssey.8merch.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://i-voidhanger.com/