Not only an amazing tribute to the life of American musician Tom Rojack (R.I.P.), but also a lesson in old school Death Metal by five skillful veterans.
Formed in 2011 in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, in the United States by longtime friends Kyle Severn (drummer from Death Metal legends Incantation) and Matt Sorg (guitarist for Ringworm, Charred Walls of the Damned, Blood of Christ and Beyond Fear, among others) after playing together in a tribute to old school band Blood of Christ at a memorial show for their friend Tom Rojack, who passed away in 1997, Death Metal quintet Shed the Skin are unleashing upon the earth their highly anticipated debut full-length beast entitled Harrowing Faith, following their 2014 7” EP Rebirth Through Brimstone. More than just an album, Harrowing Faith is a statement that proves the fire of traditional and brutal Death Metal is far from being extinguished.
And let me tell you that the name of the band, inspired by the track also named “Shed the Skin” from Blood of Christ’s 1993 four-song promo cassette simply titled Promo ’93, perfectly illustrates what the music by this old school Satanic Death Metal horde will inflict in you. Featuring a gory artwork by James “Human Furnace” Bulloch (Ringworm), Harrowing Faith transpires violence and bloodshed, with each one of its 12 compositions offering the listener the talent and aggressiveness of the band’s five Death Metal veterans in a little less than 40 intense minutes.
The obscure and atmospheric intro Plasmic Flames can be considered the calm before the storm in Harrowing Faith, because when the metallic riffs by Matt ignite the mosh pit-generator Daimonic Adytum all hell breaks loose. Moreover, lead singer and guitarist Ash Thomas (FaithXtractor, Vladimirs, Acheron) vomits his deep guttural like a maniac beast, enhancing even more the impact of this excellent Death Metal devastation. Then we have the title-track Harrowing Faith, a brutal havoc played at full speed where Kyle is absolutely on fire, providing more fuel for Ash to thrive with his demonic gnarls. Albeit very technical, it’s still absolutely raw and dark just the way we love in Death Metal, especially the demented sound of guitars the likes of Cannibal Corpse.
Blackened bells tow in a sensational demonic intro for the next tune, Putrid and Pious, as fast and aggressive as the previous tunes. The growls by Ash get deeper and deeper, with the album’s outstanding production and hints of Doom Metal taking the song’s pugnacity to a whole new level. A somber ambience grows in obscurity in Unbound Revenant, once again venturing through the realms of Doom Metal, in special the slow and steady drumming by Kyle, being perfect for fans of extremely Stygian music. Right after that doomed exhibit, a sick guitar solo kicks off a two-minute feast of sheer Death Metal entitled Warband Under the Baphomet, with highlights to its amazing vibe, fierce beats and a superb job done by both guitarists Ash and Matt as well as bassist Ed Stephens (Ringworn, Vindicator, Charred Walls of the Damned) with their lacerating strings. And the band keeps the album at a very high level of quality with the deranged composition CSUM, where not only guitars and drums are in total sync, but the hints of progressiveness added amidst all savagery also increase the overall quality of such hostile chant.
In Alpha and Omega, guitar noises grow in intensity and are violently joined by all instruments, generating total madness in the form of high-end Death Metal for the delight of diehard fans of the genre; followed by Cambion, where Ash sounds like a demonic ogre on vocals. Furthermore, this song shows that Death Metal doesn’t need to be played at the speed of light to be awesome, being as heavy as hell due to its amazing riffs and bass lines. There’s still more destruction to come, starting with Inhuman Accretion, a solid composition with demented guitar solos and endless savagery where Kyle is a stone crusher on drums as usual. The last regular song of the album, named Innermost Sanctuary, is very melodic and keeps up with the rest of the album in heaviness, but sounding slightly generic compared to the other songs, with the piercing guitars by Ash and Matt being its best element, whereas the hellish outro Execration Divine, showcasing the Phantom of the Opera-inspired organ by Brian Boston and the demonic guitar lines by Ash and Matt, puts an end to this lesson in Death Metal.
If you’re not yet familiar with the works and projects by each of the five Death Metal war dogs behind Shed the Skin, I suggest you go check their Facebook page, and in case you want to purchase this scorching gem of extreme music called Harrowing Faith simply visit the band’s BandCamp page or the Hells Headbangers Records’ BandCamp page. Wherever Mr. Tom Rojack is, I’m certain he’s truly honored with the final result that Kyle, Matt & Co. achieved with Shed the Skin, a tribute to his life and to all things Death Metal.
Best moments of the album: Harrowing Faith, Putrid and Pious and Warband Under the Baphomet.
Worst moments of the album: Innermost Sanctuary.
Released in 2016 Hells Headbangers Records
1. Plasmic Flames 2:06
2. Daimonic Adytum 1:55
3. Harrowing Faith 3:10
4. Putrid and Pious 3:39
5. Unbound Revenant 4:05
6. Warband Under the Baphomet 2:01
7. CSUM 3:28
8. Alpha and Omega 4:44
9. Cambion 4:21
10. Inhuman Accretion 2:42
11. Innermost Sanctuary 4:04
12. Execration Divine 2:38
Ash Thomas – vocals, guitars
Matt Sorg – guitars
Ed Stephens – bass
Brian Boston – keyboards
Kyle Severn – drums