Note to self, again, Giz. I keep saying never make assumptions based on band photos; I mean Skeleton Wolf look like they should be called Smoking Green Sun Wizard or something. Well OK, not really but you get my drift… (and before anyone asks, I look like I should be sitting round some fucking garden pond with a fishing rod…). Instead what we get on this first, self-released album from the US Midwest trio is, er, quite, quite different. First up ‘Bow Down To Death’ flickers in with some neat guitar trilling before a great thumping ponderous beat driven riff pounds in. Nope, not a stoner in sight. This is part Amon Amarth, part modern Onslaught. Nice bright production; unflashy but more than just ‘serviceable’. Really nice opener. We then get an extended intro of crows and digging for ‘At The South Foot’ and the other plain influence drops in with the subtlety of an anvil: Immortal. Honestly, this riff could have dropped off the end of the Sons Of Northern Darkness album but then it slides beautifully and deftly into Amon Amarth again. Honestly this is a huge great song; a chest thumper, a rabble-rouser, a barking mad blatant show of influences with a lovely guitar break that is all Skeleton Wolf blended in perfectly.
I take a little step back about now.
Well when you get an album like this, a self-released debut, you have certain things you expect, certain things you hope for and certain things you fear. You expect influences, you hope for green shoots of individuality, you fear unrestricted self-indulgence. Influences? Amon Amarth, Onslaught, Immortal. Skeleton Wolf don’t just wear their influences on their sleeves but on their backs, their fronts, their… Yeah. Influences box ticked big time. There are a couple of occasions when it gets a little too close for comfort but then we get to those nascent shoots of their own identity and suddenly you hear them all over the place in the rhythms, the lyrics and song-writing, and particularly the guitar breaks. Not fully formed yet but absolutely there, so big tick there. Self-indulgence? Nope; well not beyond just playing what the hell they want – nothing here outstays its welcome. Not song, not album.
On songs like ‘Eternal Lies’ they show they can thrash it up and slow it down as well as knowing when to find the quiet in the song. With ‘She’s Insane ‘ they even touch on the epic drama that Grand Magus can bring with an ominous riff. Lyrical concerns seem less Viking, more modern world on the whole. Vocals are harsh throughout but quality. I have to say I think some if this is crying out for some clean vocals, but what the hey.
Honestly this is both hugely promising and great headbanging already; an almost perfect start in fact. A little more solid growth along their own path and they could be serious contenders, and as is they are well worth checking out now without delay.
I really look forward to catching up with their future endeavours. Good stuff.