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Skullflower, "Desire for a Holy War"

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cover imageMatthew Bower's reappearance as Skullflower a couple years back has already yielded a slew of releases that, while retaining his love of all things noisy and guitar based, has shown frequent stylistic shifts.  This, the first installment of Utech's "URSK" series (after concluding the excellent "Arc" series ) is nearly an hour of full on feedback and guitar shriek that, for all its harshness is immensely listenable and demands to be listened to VERY loudly.


Utech Records

The opening “Your Cities, Your Tombs” starts off with a bang, being an extremely thick wall of feedback and distortion that really sets the tone for the album.  In the way many rock bands close their shows with extended sessions of noise and feedback, Skullflower starts with it.  The consistent noise roar of guitar definitely stays throughout like that slightly obnoxious friend that, regardless of their behavior, are still fun to keep around.

The more “rock” Skullflower, is not here.  The sound has much more in common with the dissonance of Tribulation than the more rock tinged Exquisite Fucking Boredom or Orange Canyon Mind.  In some of the harshest moments, namely “Moses Conjured A Blood Niagara” and “Eve’s Dream,” the work isn’t that far removed from harsh noise practitioners in its thick, dense squeal.  Unlike the more abstract acts of that genre, there is always a sense of control and careful arrangement, and it is mostly obvious that a guitar is complacent in at least part of the racket.

Some concessions to Skullflower’s more structured past come up on “Frozen Spectres” and the closing “Divinus Deus,” both of which have a buried rhythmic elements and a bit more of a space rock feel to them, the former’s more obvious guitar strums and sustained notes that aren’t too far removed from Spacemen 3’s “Suicide.”  While by no means gentle or calm pastiches in the storm of feedback, they do have a somewhat more musical tone compared to the rest of the disc.

The most obvious parallel to draw here is that to the classic Metal Machine Music, since that was also a behemoth of a work built around guitars distorting and feeding back in ways Les Paul and Leo Fender never anticipated.  While that was Lou Reed’s 60 minute “fuck you” to the record label, this is Matthew Bower’s art, and it is much more enjoyable with that intent behind it. 

This is one of those discs that simply can’t be enjoyed in tightly controlled or low volume situations.  Like one of my personal favorite unsung moments in the 1990’s UK noise rock genre, it’s like Bodychoke’s “The Red Sea.”  The volume needs to be loud, speakers need to be large, and there should be a moderate amount of ringing in the ears when it’s all over.  


Last Updated on Sunday, 11 May 2008 15:27  


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