skineaterdermalharvestAlthough Skineater is undoubtedly going to be a new name to most, the band consists of characters who have been around the Swedish death metal scene for a long time. From founder Håkan Stuvemark (ex-Wombbath, In Thy Dreams) to new drummer Matte Modin (ex-Defleshed, Dark Funeral) there is a wealth of experience running through their ranks. It came as somewhat of a surprise then to find that despite forming in 2008 it took until 2011 for the band to find an eager record label. Having pressed play it took around twenty seconds before I was scratching my head in disbelief as to why this was the case. All I can say is good on Pulverised Records because even with a brief introduction, ‘Dermal Harvest’ sounds very promising indeed…

‘He Was Murdered’ initially clatters out like some nutter before breaking down into a creepy piece of melodicism. Elsewhere, fast riffs and extremely tight drumming pound away in unison with Jörgen Ström’s furious vocals – which sound vaguely comparable to Marco Aro, only more guttural. The greatest surprise in Skineater’s very tight death/thrash arsenal is their ability to weave in  charming, melodic breakdowns. As the opener reveals with sudden shifts from unbridled anger to sublime guitar lines, this is a supremely capable act. Just to reiterate the point, ‘Dismantling’, fights its way into existence almost like tech death before veering towards some sublime guitar work from Stuvemark and Kari Kainulainen (lead). The latter lays down an awesome solo section which truly brings the slick production to the forefront. Yet for all its clarity, the record still maintains a heavy,  dirty vibe with thumping kick drums and pulsating bass. What I find most pleasing about Skineater is their consistently busy approach to music – be it in the fast, heavy or melodic passages. ‘Your Life is Mine’, for instance, ranges from slaying riffs a la Dissection to intense blasting sessions.

On the subject of the drummer, one of my most enduring gig memories was walking in to the Camden Underworld in 1999 and being mercilessly assaulted by his previous act, Defleshed (R.I.P.). That night Matte Modin’s blast beats seemed to be rupturing the floor of the venue, if not the Earth’s crust. Here, tracks like ‘Stab’ underline the informed choice made by Skineater in recruiting him, as his punishing approach combines seamlessly with yet more superb riffs. Fanboy praise aside, Skineater’s sound as a whole is one of musical cohesion and versatility. Demonstrative of this are  ‘Made of Godsick’ which has a dark, heavy, predatory groove along the lines of Morbid Angel, and ‘Drifting’, where thrash meets that type of psychopathic, braindead lurch which Cannibal Corpse perfected. While there are melodic asides virtually everywhere, one notable exception is ‘Through the Empire’, whose initial assault inspires visions of being held upside-down and repeatedly scraped face-first against a giant cheese grater. With the bonus of some rabid screams reminiscent of Marduk’s Legion, it’s a decidedly good one!

So by now you’ve got the gist of where Skineater is coming from. The climax of the album adheres to this approach, with ‘Thousand Dead Faces’, ‘Bring Them’ and ‘Solitude Discord’ ranging from the sublime to the fast and furious. Overall, I think it’s fair to say that what these chaps are doing will have a fairly broad appeal, mixing together as it does the brutal and the sublime. Although there isn’t a great deal to distinguish those closing tracks from what appeared earlier, ‘Dermal Harvest’ does ultimately succeed in introducing this band as an adrenaline-fuelled force par excellence. Most importantly, Skineater deals out melody in the right way: namely, by backing it up with balls. Big, hairy titanium balls: one bearing the word ‘death’ and the other, ‘thrash’. Well worth checking out.

(8/10 Jamie Wilson)