(Swords & Chains 2014)
Long-running true metallers Skelator have just released their fourth studio album (or fifth, depending on how you count). ‘King of Fear’ marks their first release on the fledgling Chicago-area Swords & Chains label, and actually the first CD release ever on that formerly cassette-only imprint. And a corker it is. The name of the game here is true metal, featuring a devastating twin-guitar attack, often-blistering tempos, and lyrics about blades that burn with power, building empires of iron and steel, and screaming fires of hell (and that’s just in the first song, folks). For devotees of the style, ‘King of Fear’ should be an automatic purchase, because Skelator execute everything at such a high level. I bet you the Savage Grace and Liege Lord patches on your denim jacket that you can’t listen to the likes of “Stronger than Steel” or “Sword of the Dawn” without headbanging, air-guitaring, and singing along at the top of your lungs. I know I couldn’t.
The catchy songwriting and infectious guitar-driven melodies shine throughout the 41-minute running time of this 9-song album, with Skelator exhibiting a penchant for galloping riffs and snappy tempos that cause the tunes to pass by in a flash. Vocalist Jason Conde-Houston has a unique (and potentially polarizing) singing style that is reminiscent of the likes of Morby (Domine) and even Gerrit P. Mutz (Sacred Steel) in places, without being afraid to go up and get those high piercing notes. Of course there’s a large element of predictability with albums like this, but when the songs and performances are this strong, you won’t hear me complaining. The only two songs that step out of Skelator’s narrow stylistic box just a bit are the thrashy “Raging Demon” and the singalong anthem “Test the Metal” (surely made for the live arena), injecting a bit of variety into the unapologetic true metal assault.
Hats off to Skelator. The Seattle pounders have come a long way since their humble beginnings more than a decade ago. Their best album to date, ‘King of Fear’ is proof positive that they have honed their craft to a deadly sharp edge. Check this disc out, and by the way, you might want to hold off on drafting your “best of” lists for 2014 until you’ve heard this one.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~