SkeleToon - They Never Say Die - (9/10)
Published on February 10, 2019
So, an Italian melodic power metal band, founded by a guy who used to run a Helloween cover act, who write about nerd culture and have a song based on my favourite TV show, Doctor Who? (2016’s “Timelord”) How in the fuck have I not encountered these guys before? The hilariously-named SkeleToon are about to release their third full-length album and, after hearing just one track from it, I forced myself to listen to their back catalogue with a sense of shame. They Never Say Die is exactly what I want in my power metal: joyous, vibrant, celebratory hymns very much in the same vein as Freedom Call or Power Quest. Despite being relative newcomers, SkeleToon may have given us the ‘dark horse’ power metal album of the year.
I admit to having never seen Stephen Spielberg’s 1985 masterpiece The Goonies, and knowing very little about it at all. I’m vaguely aware of what the Truffle Shuffle is, and I know that there are pirates somewhere in the movie – surely that’s enough! However, ignorance will not quell your enjoyment of They Never Say Die. This is well-crafted and expertly performed melodic power metal of the highest calibre. All band members are at the top of their game, especially vocalist Tomi Fooler who reaches stratospheric heights in some of these choruses. Just check his squealing and screaming through the insane top notes of “I Have The Key” with unfaltering control – seriously impressive stuff! I don’t mean to disparage the instrumentalists. Drummer Henry Sidoti is a powerhouse of precision and flair, driving the momentum, even through the slower numbers like the stomping “Hoist Our Colours”. The dual six-string attack of Andrea Cappellari and Davide Piletto is remarkable, trading off leads with joyful aplomb.
We all know power metal songwriting tends to revolve around the effectiveness of the chorus. Well, SkeleToon have churned out some of the best of the year so far on They Never Say Die. “The Truffle Shuffle Army: Bizardly Bizarre” is a certain jolly and bouncy highlight (especially that title!), as is the splendid opener ”Hell-O”. But the supreme jewel in the crown of choruses on this album is the majestic title-track. Such glorious, soaring melodies bring to mind the first two Freedom Call and Edguy albums – no bad thing! The Italians flex their songwriting chops on the more progressively-tinged “When Legends Turn Real”, which turns out to be the perfect album closer. However, finishing up with a cover of Cindy Laupner’s “Goonies R Good Enough” was most definitely appropriate. Speaking of covers, they’ve also thrown in a spectacular version of Avantasia’s “Farewell” which pleasantly surprised me. This album never stops throwing delights in our faces.
The mixing and mastering job is fantastic; such a tight, clean sound makes the most of the sheeny nature of this sub-genre. The only gripe that comes to mind is that the balladic track “To Leave A Land” drags for perhaps a minute too much. I don’t doubt the need for it, but it loses impact among the shorter, punchier tracks like “The Chain Master”. SkeleToon label themselves as ‘happy metal’, just like Chris Bay and co. – and They Never Say Die absolutely lives up to that categorization. This is festive, smile-inducing power metal for metalheads who aren’t afraid to grin a little. Spectacular melodies, amazing performances, phenomenal production quality and stunning artwork. This is guaranteed to be high on many year-end lists come December. I would expect myself to end this review with a Goonies quote, but in the absence of any knowledge, I will just beg that SkeleToon never say die!