Soulskinner - Crypts of Ancient Wisdom - (8/10)
Published on January 14, 2015
Xtreem Music’s dedication to all things old school—death, thrash, and otherwise—is nothing short of commendable, as evidenced by its extensive catalog of classic reissues to brand spanking new releases that sound stripped from a bygone but not forgotten era. Recent acquisition, Soulskinner, having previously released two albums on Sleaszy Rider Records, fits snugly at home on the Spanish label, a partnership that couldn’t be perfected even if all the gods under the human pantheon insisted. The new release, Crypts of Ancient Wisdom, is everything one could expect from the union and it’s a nice change of pace from all the other death metal releases that still play homage to the days of yore.
Instead of a gargled production and barely recognizably distinct riffs or a low end that will kill your speakers if turned too loud, which seems to be all the rage among old school patrons, especially the Finns, Soulskinner plays with such amazing clarity that there’s no pretension about it. The initial vibe one gets is actually quite simple in composition but faithfully engrained in a style established by several notable Dutch bands, such as Pestilence and Asphyx, with Sinister being the most obvious and strongest foothold for inspiration.
The catchy and at times groovy riffs can certainly recall Diabolical Summoning, for instance, perhaps in their stylistic similarities and galloping pace or their perfectly timed pitch in the structuring, and the leads, too, which aren’t technical showcases but grittier than a sheet of P12 sandpaper. When the opening riffs of “Deadlands Part 1” kick in Pestilence’s Testimony of the Ancients promptly comes to mind, and shortly thereafter, to drift away slightly from the Dutch theme, there is a total Dismember salute that has a melodic Massive Killing Capacity touch without being completely plagiarized, a fine line indeed, but one that Soulskinner knows not to cross so as to establish absolute ownership of the material.
Indeed, even among Obituary and Bolt Thrower styled chugging the imitation is more respectful than appropriated, a visitation that is as brief and thoughtfully arranged as it is flirtatious and reworked in new contexts, which gives the whole piece an identity all its own. An odd but fitting amalgamation this is, one that Soulskinner has traced with enough dignity and grace to keep the style relevant, but also with enough boldness to make it tirelessly new and exciting.