As recently as last year, Austin was still an untapped resource for me. Long heralded as the music city for normal folk, it wasn't until Noble Brown of the crucial Save It for the Breakdown podcast and Black Mercy fame tipped me to the punk and hardcore scene that has long flourished behind the veil.
Members from celebrated Austin crushers including Nosferatu, Recide, Plax, The Real Cost, Enemy One, Residual Kid, and Witewash have been lovingly restitched into the monster that is Skeleton. Set to drop an absolutely pummeling EP on June 30th via Super Secret Records, the blistering assault marks the end of a sound developed, explored, and promptly conquered.
As they've made no secret of their intention to pursue a more metallic, riff-dependent sound informed by stoner, sludge, and the bleakness underpinning the salad days of 90's black metal, the future is as yet unwritten. Today, though, I'm left to contend with an absolute rager of an EP, lovingly recorded and mastered by Orville Neeley and Seth Gibbs, respectively.
From the scorched Earth policy of the cover art to the opening D-Beat salvo of "War," Skeleton's mastery of blown-out hardcore is immediately evident (Side-note: never google "blown-out hardcore"). Fittingly, they've name checked Total Abuse as both an influence and peer.
It'd be easy to see Skeleton sitting as comfortably in the stable of Deranged Records as they would in the late '90s/early oughts Havoc Records lineup, a mélange of cerebral punk fury and hardcore speaker fuzz.
One can't help but find branches of their family tree leaning into frame, but the breadth of influence across the EP is vast and self-aware enough to incorporate more outsider leanings. Though guitar-based, there's a cold and unsettling industrial edge, an almost subsonic hum running beneath every track. There's a hint of The Holy Mountain, long forgotten Crust titans from Florida, on "Dystroy", a blackened alchemy of pace and furious squealing guitar leads. Third track "Burning Flame" is perhaps the truest distillation of their menace and potential. With an opening riff and DIS-gallop every band with a butt flap/back patch would gladly endorse, there's a barked "OOH" at the :23 second mark that will awaken horseshoe pits in squats the world over.
The closer, "Killing/Locked Up," may indeed be our first glimpse into the world they're intent on building: one where Kyuss, Dystopia, and Bolt Thrower all shop at the same grocery store, which just so happens to be staffed by the grimmest painted of corpses. Though still ferociously backloaded, the finale finds Skeleton seeking space and nuance, a defiantly "other" idea amidst the suffocation of the previous three tracks. Again, the surgical blade of industrial music returns to the canvas. This time, though, as the clock ticks away into silence, they seem to be leading us into the oblivion of whatever bludgeoning awaits on the upcoming LP.
Wherever they're headed, I'm prepared to follow... blindly and willingly.