SOULSKINNER: Seven Bowls Of Wrath
Release year: 2020
Label: Xtreem Music
On their newest, in total fifth full-length album, Greek death metal act Soulskinner face changes. This is their first album without former vocalist Gothmog (also of Thou Art Lord fame), who fronted the band since their inception and for a respectable 18 years. However, the Greek group seem to have taken it in stride, at least if Seven Bowls Of Wrath is to be judged by.
To be sure, there’s nothing particularly original or innovative here, but the album is a solid slab of classic death metal. It’s the kind of stuff that you can’t append many additional descriptors to: this ain’t brutal death metal, progressive, death-doom, technical or grinding. This is death metal, period. That, of course, doesn’t mean that Soulskinner’s sound is nondescript or too generic to be worth noting.
The band originally started out in 2000, after having operated a time under another name. You can hear this in their sound: there is a certain late 90’s/early noughties element to their sound, which is hard to pinpoint. Perhaps it is in how they throw in an occasional riff with a slight black metal bent, or how they add atmosphere to their music with passages that wouldn’t be out of a place on some turn-of-the-millennium dark metal album. But it is there, and in some ways it does characterize the album more than is apparent at first.
Whilst the majority of the album consists of pretty standard death metal, maybe it too with a certain early noughties feel to it, the elements mentioned above lend it a welcome dash of variation. At times, when the greeks slow the tempo down and amp up the melodies, there’s a hint of early Swallow The Sun here, and at other times the more melodic guitar passages bear a passing resemblance to, say, Amon Amarth or the likes. But these notwithstanding, Seven Bowls Of Wrath is still pure death metal that doesn’t wander off into realms too romantic or viking-y.
With competent songwriting, fittingly coarse vocals and a good sense of balance between epic melodies, heavy riffing and the occasional more atmospheric passage, Soulskinner’s newest offering is a fine little album. The sound could perhaps be a bit denser and heavier, but it’s not bad by any means as it is now: there’s balance and each instrument can clearly be heard. Overall, there’s nothing wrong on the album – but also nothing to carry it that final stretch from fine to impressive. The main reason for this is that, as competent as the songwriting is, there’s not a single track here that’ll stay with you.
So, a little short of essential listening and probably not a strong contender for “best of 2020”-lists. Still, Soulskinner have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of on Seven Bowls Of Wrath. This is the kind of solid, reliable meat-and-potatoes death metal which ensures the continued healthy state of the genre.
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