...Of the Depths

I have no idea when the Old School Swedish Death retro movement really got started. With Bloodbath maybe? I do know that it has been running strong for awhile now, but honestly, I never really cared about the retro movement as long as my favorite original Swedeath stalwarts, Dismember, were still (skinned) alive and kicking. Tragedy struck though in 2011, when the “ever flowing stream “ seemed to dry up and Dismember called it a day. It was only then that I started to pay attention to the retro movement, beyond Bloodbath, and began to look for a band to fill the buzz saw craving void that Dismember‘s demise left in me.

Lucky for me, almost originators, Evocation and Entrails had already released a couple of albums of some truly wonderful and worthy metal that any fan of the old Stockholm sound would be proud to own and blast. The following few years would usher in a plethora of retro styled Swede-deathsters to the left hand path from virtually every corner of the globe. Some being really damned impressive, while others, just really damned depressive (not in a good way). Regardless, the fact of the matter is that there are a shit ton of bands vying for your attention in this retro Stockholm of death filled metal world right now.

Case in point, France’s Skelethal. Having just released their anticipated full length debut, Of the Depths…, to the masses,  the band eagerly and unabashedly sets their HM-2 inspired hooks deeply and firmly into your psyche. Hoping, not only, to cleave your head from your body, but to straight up rip your ass a new one. Forget wearing influences on your sleeve, Skelethal opt for a full blown skin suit sound of Carnage/Dismember and Nihilist/Entombed  with a nice dose of God Macabre and Convulse as well. Of course if you really want to nit pick their sound apart, you can even hear traces of influences from early Death and Cannibal Corpse, as well as some UK grind and groove, à la Benediction, Desecrator, Bolt Thrower, and Napalm Death.

Of the Depths… squanders little time when it comes to laying waste, with no true highlight or song eclipsing the other. Each of the album’s tracks pummel, groove, and slay in their own right; some a bit more than others maybe, but none that outshine the album as a whole. Opener “Sons of Zann” rips forth with a Dismembered flair of tremolo runs, crushing riffage, and a bludgeoning groove with some nice reverbed tinged gutturals as opposed to a Stockholm  flavored bark. The track has some good underlying melody to it, and some simple yet effective lead work really helps enhance the mood of the track. Massive groove and crunch gets the adrenaline flowing with “Chaotic Deviance” and its Convulse meets Entombed/Dismember ragings. The band even places a moment of doom in there before closing things out with a quick bit of blastbeats. “Pantheon of the Abyss” and “Outer Conviction” both manage to conjure up a tad bit of a horror metal vibe within the Swedeath melee, something I quite enjoyed and feel works extremely well with Skelethal‘s sound and presentation. Doom drenched chords heavily weigh upon the listener in the beginnings of “Glimpse of the Great Purpose” before racing off into death filled pastures that evoke the spirit of old Cannibal Corpse via Entombed. The song is just full of some awesomely catchy riffs, illustrating just how good the duo of Jon Whiplash (drums & bass) and Gui Haunting (guitars & vocals) really are at their trade.

All of you actual hard copy album owning buyers/collectors, like myself, will be pleased to know that your purchase of Of the Depths… comes with a couple of bonus tracks tacked on. “Macabre Oblivion” which can originally be found on the band’s EP Deathmanicvs Revelation, as well as the compilation release, Morbid Revelations, gets a re-recording and sounds really good, fitting with the albums “proper” tracks perfectly; though the song is a little more direct in its love for Dismember, and while catchy as hell, doesn’t retain as much of the Skelethal sound that Of the Depths… displays. The cover of  “Soon to be Dead” (Dismember) is strongly competent, if not too overtly predictable, and honestly, while being pretty spot on, doesn’t capture the fierceness or intensity that the original gave us so long ago.

With a genuine fresh feel to the material, as opposed to a mindless retro rehash, and the ability to add their own nuances and flourishes of individuality amongst the obvious influenced carnage (no pun intended) might be what is most impressive of Skelethal. Though as I’ve mentioned earlier, this style is full of innovators and imitators and the competition to be heard is stiff. With bands such as the aforementioned Evocation and Entrails and even Desultory releasing some really great material this year, coupled with the ridiculously copious amount of other Swedeath knock offs that have released an album either this year or last, and Skelethal may have quite a task standing out and gaining notice from the pack, no matter how destructively addictive the band is.


[Visit the band's website]
Written by Kristofor Allred
August 31st, 2017


  1. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    yo this is good.

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