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Skull Altar – Legion of the Skull

Skull Altar
Legion of the Skull
by Max Elias at 27 January 2021, 10:54 PM

No preamble, no pretense, nothing but pulverizing thrash metal that would make Kerry King grin. That is what SKULL ALTAR stand for and they stand for it proudly. The combination of frenzied tremolo-picked low end riffing and gruff, barked vocals puts one in mind of SUICIDAL ANGELS, except that Tomi Viiltola’s voice is clearer. On “A Time of War and Suffering”, the band delivers around four minutes of solid, battering thrash metal, driven by an artful double-bass attack on the drums.

The band slows down a hair (but just a hair) on “Legion of the Skull”. It’s not a slow song, but it does feel like more of a laid-back mosh than an all-out aural war. The simple, pounding palm muted riffs are ripe for headbanging, and the chorus is even singable. The solo is a time capsule that harks back to classic Teutonic and some of the more aggressive American thrash metal bands; it’s full of pinch harmonics, wailing bends, and swift scale runs. So far it would be hard to call SKULL ALTAR original, but they are talented for sure.

Some more inspired riffing appears on “Inverse”, with an intro riff that uses tremolo picking in a more melodic way and keeps the theme until the second half of the song starts. That second half is unfortunately pretty generic and dominated by a riff that is almost entirely muted low eighth notes, but the band reintroduces the earlier riffs to give the song a stronger finish. Also notable is the intro to “Excision”, because it sees the band do something a little more melodic, even if it only lasts about twenty seconds. Then it’s business as usual with the straight-ahead drumming and caveman thrash riffs. The sliding power chord motif is good for building up energy but becomes stale easily.

This band seems to suffer from not having many ideas in general, and certainly from not having many unique ideas. The individual musicians are good at what they do and the songs are structured well, without too much bloat or meandering. I also appreciate it when a vocalist can manage to be aggressive and intelligible at the same time. Given the time and inclination to write better riffs that stick out more, I think SKULL ALTAR could make a great follow-up release.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Originality: 6
Production: 9

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
  1. A Time of War and Suffering
  2. Legion of the Skull
  3. Inverse
  4. Excision
  5. The Ghost Row in a Dead Shadows
Lineup:
Tomi Viiltola – Vocals
Jani Vartiainen – Guitar
Perti Hallikainen – Guitar
Peachy – Drums
Jortsi – Bass
Record Label: Independent
     


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