The 1980s is not the decade that birthed metal but it did define it. The standard set by bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and a host of others still casts a daunting and ever present shadow to this day. Many modern bands are still trying to escape its shade while some sit back and bask in the darkness.
John Huber, the maestro behind Skeleton Rose, prefers the darkness. One listen through Necro confirms that he is a meticulous student of metal. John proudly stands on the shoulders of giants letting his influences bleed into the music but never enough to drown out his own originality. This same method has been used diligently by major label bands. Who could forget Machine Head’s The Blackening or their follow-up Unto the Locust? Lest we forget Power Trip’s recent Nightmare Logic? These albums oozed ’80s inspiration without directly ripping off their predecessors.
Necro has this in common with the aforementioned albums with an ear for harmony and a pleasing melody setting an effective juxtaposition to the brutal vocal delivery and subject matter. The tracks on this album are as finely crafted as an authentic 7 layered dip. Each ingredient adding rather than detracting from the entire dish to create one helluva tasty bite.
“Phantasma” opens the album a la’ Trivium’s “The End of Everything” setting the tone for the grandiosity to come. “The Hateful Dead” is an ambitious second track clocking in at 11 minutes. I encourage you to read the lyrics along with the album. John is a poetic writer whose words paint beautiful pictures that complement Skeleton Rose’s lavish soundtracks. The track has enough moving parts to keep the listener engaged and ends on some truly ominous bell tolls that add an extra layer of ambience.
The pace is quickened with “Never Bleed.” The intro to this reminded me of Machine Head in their prime. This is a thrasher to the core with an infectious main riff. It is fitting that this is the shortest track on the album and the song is better for it. “Blood in the Nile” begins with a sickly acoustic march and ominously plucked strings. This track showcases syncopated and complex riffage. Where it truly shines is the solo a little over five minutes in. “Necro” begins with thunderous tom work and eerie leads creating a disorientating experience as John’s vocals erupt into the mix. The disorientation has the desired effect as it compliments the plodding chorus riff well. This ode to death is worthy of being the title track.
Do you remember the soundtrack to boss battles on old Nintendo consoles? “Nine Swallows All” Starts with a riff worthy of a boss battle and it never lets up. This track picks up the pace for the second half of the album and was a wise choice by John Huber. Album structure and song pacing is important people! The song sets itself apart from other tracks on the album with the acoustic break that sneaks its way in at the 5:45 mark. “Pale Rider (Eyes of the Devil)” happens to be one of my personal favorites. The intro creates a soundscape unlike any I’ve heard in modern metal. It is a genre-less intro that could find its way into any song today and that’s saying something. The ending is equally as memorable as the intro but I won’t spoil that…
The album ends with a one, two punch that is “Now I Cast You Down” and “Haunt Me”, two of the best tracks on the album that will stomp a mud-hole in your sorry ass. I’d put the latter up with any metal song released this year. Go listen to them as I have no words to give them justice.
Will we ever top metal’s greatest decade? I don’t know. Necro gives me hope that we can respect our forefathers while creating something entirely original and entertaining. This is a GREAT album that sounds phenomenal too. There was tender love and care injected into this album that exudes that elusive “it” factor. A must listen for 2019 start to finish. Just like that 7 layered dip, the deeper you plunge the chip the greater the reward.
Show Skeleton Rose some love guys!
STAND OUT TRACKS: “Haunt Me”, “Pale Rider (Eyes of the Devil)”, “Never Bleed”