Skeletal Spectre: Voodoo Dawn

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Skeletal Spectre: Voodoo Dawn
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Skeletal Spectre: Voodoo Dawn
Death Metal, Doom Metal
Pulverised Records
June 25th, 2013
Release length: 35:55
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Skeletal Spectre is a three-piece Death and Doom Metal band that hails from different regions. Vocalist Vanessa Nocera (Howling, Wooden Stake, Loathsome) is from the United States, while drummer “2008” and everything else member “Behold the Pentagram” are both from Sweden. The band was formed in 2008, and was picked up by Razorback records in 2010 to issue Tomb Coven. Two years later they issued Occult Spawned Premonitions through the same label, but for 2013 are with Pulverised Records to release their latest effort, Voodoo Dawn. With their previous efforts finding decent scores from fans and critics alike, does this new effort show the band growing for the better, or is it just more of the same?

“Voodoo Dawn” clocks in at nearly six minutes, and it’s a sharp and aggressive Death Metal cut. The largely mid-tempo pace is rather infectious thanks to some of the melodic hooks and slight groove some sections have. Around the time of the guitar solo, the music becomes a lot deeper, but also thins out. It doesn’t hurt anything, but the obvious attempt to present a crushing assault doesn’t quite hit like “Bone Dust” manages. This one kicks things off with a much harsher tone, restricting the pace more to mid-tempo guitars with faster double bass kicks at work. The music once again is catchy, and aside a brief slower introductory bridge to the guitar solo, this cut just never lets up, going straight for the jugular like a wolf feasting on its prey.

“She Wolf of Devil’s River” is a far less intense offering, but it still works out great. This one relies more on atmosphere and melody than anything else. The guitar solo picks up the pace and throws some Speed Metal influence into the mix, but once you depart it you end up back into the commanding riffs and drum beat once more. The chorus is a little richer than the main verses, and the lead chords offer up a bit of a sombre, yet glorious atmosphere that carries over to “Haunted Gallows.” The main verses aren’t quite as strong, even seem to be a bit out of place next to the chorus, which is where you’ll find some of that similar emotional material at work. Finally there’s “The Flip-Side of Satan,” which seems to throw everything away and decide it wants to be more Speed Metal with clean singing that simply doesn’t suit the album, or even what the band is going for in this song.

Obviously there are some issues with the release as well. As mentioned, the cymbals have some major washout on them, but it also shows a band uncertain of how they want to sound. To they want to be an aggressive, sharp Swedish Death Metal outfit, or do they want to have more emotional and atmospheric material with heavily melodic hooks that usher in glory and grandeur? Aside some waves to the album’s fluidity, you have a few songs that just aren’t even that impressive for one reason or another. “Serpent Moon” is a punishing cut has some of the most punishing material available. The thick drums and solid bass kicks hammer away, giving a blunt edge to the harsher pitch the guitars offer. The only gripes to be had here are the more obvious washout on the cymbals, and the thinner music to the verses. “Altar of Damballah” is another catchy track that benefits from the sharp guitar distortion well, but there are plenty of spots that end up a bit empty. This is largely thanks to some simpler riffs met by equally simpler drumming, a point proven during the chorus when the drums pick up a little more. The echo effect on the vocals can also become a bit grating after a while considering how tight the lyrics are handled.

Skeletal Spectre is an interesting specimen for the Death Metal world. It’s rare to see a solid female vocal performance in a field like this, and the echo effect honestly just seems like overkill. But, the traces of Black Metal and Speed Metal throughout the album do lend to a heavily varied experience that has something for everyone, only becoming a problem towards the end when some of those shifts really do become obvious. But, despite it and the other issues that exist, Voodoo Dawn does have plenty of catchy material you’ll find your head bobbing along to.

01. Voodoo Dawn – 5:52
02. Alta of Damballah – 3:48
03. Serpent Moon – 4:24
04. Bone Dust – 3:38
05. Shallow Grave – 3:17
06. Black Augury Hollow – 3:09
07. She-Wolf of Devil’s River – 4:21
08. Haunted Gallows – 3:56
09. The Flip-Side of Satan – 3:30
Initial Pressing Score: 7/10

Skeletal Spectre (band)
Skeletal Spectre

Digital review copy of this release provided by Pulverised Records via Clawhammer PR.