Anyone familiar with metal likely immediately thinks Sepultura when asked about metal in Brazil and for good reason. Where there is one good band there are likely many others and Brazil is no exception to this rule. Skin Culture has made a name for themselves in their home country by touring with the likes of Sepultura, Soulfly, Korn, Ill Nino, and P.O.D. Now with three albums, a DVD, and an ep under their belts in the past eight years, Skin Culture from Mogi das Cruzes in Brazil should be set to expand their listener base.
Trying to describe a band that may be relatively unknown to the reader of a review is a tricky business as listeners all tend to hear bands through their own experiences and tastes in music, and yet at the same time, it is often critical to keep the reader interested and hopefully encouraged to go do some listening of their own. To my ears, Skin Culture, reminds me a lot of Bury Your Dead, especially their Beauty and the Breakdown album. That being said, lead singer Shucky lists Sepultura, Pantera, Machine Head, Fear Factory, Skinlab, Slipknot, and Soilwork as bands he listened to growing up and those influences definitely come through as well. Simply put, Skin Culture plays an aggressive blend of groove metal with touches of thrash and hardcore. Hard to find anything wrong with that. As it turns out, this album is fairly long in coming to fruition as the band weathered some lineup changes that obviously delayed things a bit. In the end, the album features some notable guest artists, including the original Wailers, yes, those Wailers from Bob Marley’s band.
The album opens with some construction sounds of pounding metal with some drum rolls over the top and then there’s some short guitar feedback to set the tone and expectation and the groove-heavy riff opens up. “Set Me Free”, literally tears away at a torrid pace with a lot of drum fills and rapid fire riffs and vocals. There is not much breathing space on this album as each song has fast, driving sections and many feature sections that are almost question-answer in nature with slow rhythmic pounding being answered by machine gun like riffing and drums. The two guitarists, Attilio Negri and Tueu Isaac, add depth to the overall sound often in subtle ways, a fill here and there, some contrasting melodies here and there, and some other accents that keep the heavy riffing from becoming overwhelming and less interesting as often happens with bands playing this style.
One thing that is often missing in a lot of metal bands, especially in this style is a strong bass guitar presence. “For the Same Hell as Before” features a great bass riff in the beginning that really sets the tone for the song. The drums by Marcus Dotta really come into play in this song as he is given a lot of space to improvise with different fills, rolls, and double bass blasts. The bass and drums really add a lot of character to this song and to the overall sound of Skin Culture. “Ashes and Flames” actually features what might even be called a bass solo section and it is incorporated into the song in a way that fits very well in terms of the flow of the song and the bass is prominently featured throughout “Hear I Preach” Vocally, Shucky Miranda growls and snarls through all of the songs sounding somewhat like Phil Anselmo in terms of intensity and shouting, but definitely with a darker, more aggressive tone that works very well with the sound.
“One Tribe, One Soul, One God” is a song that has to be mentioned in some respect simply because it ends up taking on the flavor of a metallized reggae song and has the added credibility of Wailers from Bob Marley’s band making a guest appearance. The reggae is instantly recognizable but is certainly more metal than any reggae I’ve heard before. Artists chosen for guest appearances on this album were very well chosen. “Blind Soul” features Emi Rojas from the Argentinian band Desierto Gris, and his higher tone, somewhat cleaner vocals alternate and contrast beautifully with the darker, more raspy, vocals from Shucky. Throughout the song, the verses are a back and forth between the two often in a question-answer type format with a clean chorus joining the verses and all of this carried along by a driving groove. This song also has an overall brighter tone and feel to it compared to the rest of the album and carries a bit more of a sense of urgency throughout While still remaining as heavy as the rest of the songs, this one seems to provide a bit of refreshing breather, which is really hard to explain but becomes apparent when listening to the album straight through.
This is an album of hard, driving music with a lot of different elements accenting what is often a heavy groove pervading the sound. I would name this album as possibly my top “sleeper” album of the year. Others may have known what to expect from Skin Culture, but I was immediately impressed from the first play which was my first exposure to their music.
1. Set Me Free
3. For the Same Hell as Before
5. Ashes and Flames
6. Here I Preach
7. The End of My Days
8. One Tribe, One Soul, One God
9. Blind Soul
10. Thirst for Hunting
11. Synthesized Lies
12. Heart Song
13. Slave New World [Bonus Track Version – Sepultura Cover].
Shucky Miranda – Vocals
Attilio Negri – Guitars
Tueu Isaac – Guitars
Nathan Soler – Bass
Marcus Dotta – Drums
Record Label: Stand and Deliver Records, Aug. 2013
Interview With ‘Shucky Miranda’ (Vocalist Of Skin Culture) [Oct. 2012]
Video below “The Flame Still Burns Strong” Album Teaser