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Skelator - Cyber Metal

Cyber Metal
by Sean McGuirk at 26 June 2019, 5:33 AM

It took US Power Metal troopers SKELATOR twenty years to get to the late 1980’s, but here they are, and man, do they feel at home. On their latest, “Cyber Metal,” the band takes on that fruitful period that saw experimentation with synth guitars and robotic dystopias, giving us overlooked gems like JUDAS PRIEST’s “Turbo” and LIEGE LORD’s “Master Control.” The truth is “Cyber Metal” lands somewhere in between those records, with a hefty dose of tongue-in-cheek MANOWAR references and German Power Metal tropes mixed in. That is to say, it’s pretty fucking fun, and is most certainly worth a listen to those who give allegiance to classic Power and the ‘80’s, in general.

A conscious effort was made on this record to avoid saying the word “sword” unless “laser” preceded it, going full-on with the futurism. That’s why much of this record is set in the Land of the Rising Sun, in some distant future (or forgotten past?). Using one of the oldest metal tropes, “Cyber Samurai,” much like the aforementioned “Master Control” or even “Iron Man,” is a classic tale from the first-person (or first-robot) perspective of machinery programmed to do man’s dirty work.  It also sets the tone nicely for the rest of the album’s swift 40-minute run time. Up next, “Cast Iron” is an obligatory driving tune about the glory of Metal, while “The Hammer” has a mechanical quality with some keyboard layering and a classic Halford vocal outro that puts it right in that “Ram It Down” sweet spot.

Taking inspiration from some classic ‘80s pop-ephemera, the band gives us “The Highlander” and “Akira.” The former song, while inviting comparison to LOST HORIZON’s meme-worthy take on the fantasy film, is a melodically sharp mini-epic with some great power moments for vocalist Jason Conde-Houston, who sounds a lot like SACRED STEEL’s Gerrit Mutz (in the best of ways).  “Akira” captures the urgency and intensity of the source material quite well, with some blazing leads from Robbie Houston and Rob Steinway. Newcomer Darin Wall on bass adds to the mix, giving a driving force to “Erlkonig,” a song based on the German legend. A standout track is “Seven Scars,” another one based in anime. It’s pure melodic speed backed by a relentless pounding beat from drummer Patrick Seik and a chorus that recalls the dark majesty of GRAVE DIGGER“Psychic Silver Wheels” is a fun album-ender, taking on the futuristic ‘70s and bands like HAWKWIND, BLUE OYSTER CULT (both fellow Moorcock worshippers).

“Cyber Metal” is SKELATOR’s first on the Gates of Hell/Cruz del Sur record label (SLOUGH FEG, DARK FOREST) and it gives the feeling of a band that is finally getting the tools to take their game to the next level.  Though there aren’t any major musical revelations here, that renewed energy, vitality and sense of fun is all over this disc. In a genre that, by tradition, is obsessed with the past, this feels like a welcome step into the future.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 6
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Cyber Samurai
2. Cast Iron
3. The Hammer
4. Highlander
5. Akira
6. Erlkonig
7. Seven Scars
8. Psychic Silver Wheels
Jason Conde-Houston - Vocals
Robbie "the" Houston - Guitars
Rob Steinway - Guitars
Patrick Seick - Drums
Darin Wall - Bass
Record Label: Gates of Hell Records


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