CANNIBAL CORPSE. SEVERED SAVIOR. AMON AMARTH. See the pattern? No? Read it aloud. There ya go. It’s called alliteration, and it’s a surefire way to start your new musical career on the right, if not moderately generic, clodhopper. See, I bet you thought I was gonna say ‘foot,' or even ‘path.’ It’s called unpredictability, the opposite of said repetitive language tool, and for many a Metal band looking to distinguish itself, it’s an invaluable skill.
Strike two, SKELETAL SPECTRE. One more, and well, you know the drill.
Jamming out a style of occult-driven Doom/Death that one could swiftly correlate with bands like HOODED MENACE and ACID WITCH, this Swedish outfit is more content with following suit than leading any charge across any mystical and murky fen. Their sophomore effort, 2011’s “Occult Spawned Premonitions,” crawls something evil with a broad display of big dragging riffs and tormented growls, but when the sound ultimately repeats itself with its myriad of ghoulishly familiar arrangements, the same scuttling creature begins to slip and slide in its own trail of slime.
For a trio, there’s no question that SKELETAL SPECTRE have a giant and foreboding sound. The drumming by Haunting the Beyond (yes, that’s the pseudonym this dude went for) lumbers like an extinct giant sloth, and Behold the Pentagram’s (again) string work evenly stirs the Doom cauldron of dazzlingly bizarre solos and crunching power chords. WOODEN STAKE vocalist Vanessa Nocera roars like a dame possessed and lends much passion to the album’s sporadically prescribed imprint, however, when her manner does extend into walking spoken vocals, they stumble awkwardly. While no great leap from her duties in the creakingly similar WOODEN STAKE, Nocera’s migration from soulful to mournful is a real head-scratcher. Undoubtedly affecting, her bewitching vocal style may attract more baying hounds than howling wolves.
Perhaps most disconcerting is the album’s uncanny ability to use consistency against itself. No song truly emerges from the shadows with a bellowing and thundering presence. “Scalped” harbors an interesting take on vengeful Native American spirits; “Sekhmet Prowls the Azure Night” rolls Death-like with one of the record’s more memorable refrains; the album-titled “Occult Spawned Premonitions” mixes in some quirky Stoner-Doom sensibility before marching out with heavy footfalls; and the album’s longest track, the abyssal closer “Domain of the Fleshless Ones,” is pure suffocating Death/Doom. Although “Untimed Bomb” may be the catchiest song of the lot with its head-banging intro and old-school Death nostalgia, its overall effect melds into the album’s foggy atmosphere.
While not a poor album in the slightest sense, “Occult Spawned Premonitions” may have read a little too deep into its own forewarnings. For traditional Doom fans who enjoy their Metal thick and unobtrusive, SKELETAL SPECTRE’s latest will be a worthy addition to their cobwebbed collection (alliteration), but for the intrepid listener who yearns for more than the expected quota, this speeds away like a hit-and-run. It’s safe to merge, but be wary, it’s a yellow light.
(Online September 2, 2011)