Album Review: Skull - Thoughts of the Others
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Leeds four-piece Skull have begun to make a name for themselves in the close-knit rock and roll circle. They have finally released their debut EP Thoughts of the Others.
Comprised and recorded with the utmost care, attention and their signature dark humor, Skull bring hope to the booming state of the vast rock genre, which is forever moving at speed to catch up with changing trends and frenzied fans. Rock is certainly not dead – as much as Gene Simmons would like to tell you so – and Skull are definitely a band that is pushing Simmons agenda out the window.
Clocking in at nearly 34 minutes, with a modest collection of 16-tracks, Skull’s debut has already earned the band a distinguished reputation with the acclaimed singles ‘RPM’ and ‘Lightswitch’, alongside ‘Whispers’ - the newly adorned single from this record.
Thoughts of the Others truly begins with the softly spoken ‘Midnight Oil’, but it’s really ‘Hide & Seek’ that kicks the record off. Delivering a deeply brash insight into the competitive game that is love and heartbreak, ‘Hide & Seek’ soars above ‘Midnight Oil’ with a captivating bass hook and an almost lo-fi groove where instruments take priority over the vocals. Even though the spoken-word track ‘Rumors’ abruptly bridges ‘Hide & Seek’ and ‘Whispers’ that follows, ‘Whispers’ is able to flourish in a dreamlike state of 80s goth rock sentimentality. Jonny’s vocals are captured perfectly in this track, floating with versatility and animation above the work produced by Aaron, Ben and Mark’s instrumental prowess through an emphasis on different tempos and a strong, hard bass.
Even though ‘Rumors’ does carry a semblance of narrative between the three songs; that’s the inherent problem with this record. Lyrically, the ambiguous, spoken-word breaks work by distinguishing an almost concept album-like narrative. However, they cut the flow of the record completely. It isn’t until we get deeper into the album where this becomes desperately apparent, as the songs are able to - somewhat - breathe into one another in couplets rather than singular tracks.
Thoughts of the Others have an overarching sense of dirty, almost lo-fi guitar rock that suits Skull extremely well, although this aesthetic becomes lost when every three minutes the tracks are interrupted with a strange lull in sound coupled with direct verbal contact from Jonny to the listener. As beautiful as the poems in these seven tracks are – especially ‘Remembrance’ – they don’t quite gel with what the rest of the album has to offer; believe me, it has a lot to give.
‘A Whole’ sets the field for what’s to come, laying down heavier distortion between the guitar and bass, growling vocals and a continuous brashness and volume that is fully torn to shreds in the second-to-next song ‘RPM’ (spoken-word ‘Colours’ sits between the two tracks). Instantly instigating a need to get up, thrash around and violently bounce to the beat and distortion, ‘RPM’ can easily send listeners into a frenzy courtesy of drums that sound like a revving motorcycle engine alongside an equally pulsating guitar riff.
‘RPM’ moves straight into ‘Sleazy’, falling in line seamlessly with a slight groove created by a strange tempo. The absence of a break between the two tracks demonstrates Skull’s ability to create similar sounding songs without them sounding monotonous. After the break presented by ‘Ships in the Night’, ‘Lightswitch’ follows in ‘Sleazy’’s footsteps, where choppy, broken apart instrumentation – courtesy of Aaron, Ben, and Mark - can thrive alongside Jonny’s distorted vocals.
‘Yellow King’ and ‘Paean’ take a strange but mystical turn in regard to theme, where the lyrics swell in tones of myth and legend compared to the more direct descriptors of love, relationships, and loss. ‘Let him know, the wolves are coming / See his head roll, down by the river / Vengeance fills the eye / Before I slay him / His life forsaken, my Yellow King’, Jonny sings. Drums echo around Jonny’s foreboding description, eventually enveloping ‘Yellow King’ into a crescendo of sound.
‘Paean’, meaning a song of praise and triumph, follows in its predecessors’ footsteps whilst differing on tone and an accompaniment of trippy breaks and a strange, haphazard pace that explodes from 0 to 100 for a short amount of time in the epilogue, which then returns to the slow, melancholic stylings of the introduction.
The concluding track ‘Mother’ takes the small, punk-infused break of ‘Paean’ and runs with it, almost sounding like a long-lost Type O-Negative track from the 1990s. Skull’s confidence to end Thoughts of Others with a psychedelic/sludge ballad truly highlights their concise vision in genre, taking the best bits of rock and roll to construct a sound distinct to their sensibilities as musicians.
If it were not for the unneeded, somewhat narcissistic spoken-word breaks, Skull has certainly produced an almost perfect rock record for 2018.
Thoughts of the Others is set for release on April 13th via Shove it Up Your Cult Records.