Skinlab is back. Late last month, the band released its first new album in a decade when it released its new album Venomous. Released through Art is War Records, the 10-song record was produced by Ulrich Wild (Deftones, Static-X, White Zombie). It features original member Steev Esquivel (vocals, bass) joined by fellow familiar Skinlab member Snake on guitar, Fabian Vestod on drums and Marcos Medina on guitar. This new offering from one of the underground metal outfit is an interesting return for the band, as is evidenced through the album’s title track. This will be discussed shortly. Just as notable as that song is the far slower, more contemplative ‘Demons,’ which will be addressed a little later. Also very notable in this record is the very Static-X-esque ‘Eyes Of Your Enemy.’ It will also be addressed later. When these songs are considered alongside the likes of ‘For The Fallen’ and the clearly sociopolitical ‘Amerikill (The Trigger),’ the whole of those songs and the album’s four remaining songs becomes a positive new effort from Skinlab and a welcome return from the veteran underground metal outfit.
Skinlab’s first new album in ten years is a fierce, fiery return for the band. It is a record that the band’s most devoted fan base will appreciate just as much as the new generation of metal fans. That is proven in pat through the album’s title track. The song’s arrangement is a mid-tempo work whose guitars, drums and bass come together to form its foundation. Esquivel’s cookie monster growls works alongside those instrumental portions of the song to make the whole of the song a steady, solid slab of metal from beginning to end. Wild’s experience working with nu-metal acts is obvious in the song, too, as the song does have a bit of a nu-metal/aggro-rock feel at times. That aside, the song still stands out as one of the album’s most notable works at least for its musical arrangement. The song’s lyrical content makes it just as notable.
Deciphering the song sans lyrics sheet is slightly difficult, but enough of the song’s lyrics can be understood here that one can make an educated inference about the lyrical content. Esquivel sings in the song’s lead verse, “So many people die living the dream/With the blind man leading the blind.” He adds here, “Never conform to conformity/With all this hatred deep inside/We’re not gonna live/’Cause we’re all gonna die.” This comes across as a very charged social commentary, with Esquivel seeming to make a statement about people needing to do their own thing. There is that mention of the blind leading the blind, and that causing people to die living the dream. People give in to certain standards from those who don’t know anything, and we need to just live our own lives. That is of course just this critic’s own interpretation of these lyrics. Esquivel even mentions at one point, ‘you never know when your time may come.” That strengthens the noted interpretation even more. That being the case, this is a seeming message that listeners everywhere will benefit from receiving. That is because while it may not be the first time that any musical act has put out a message of living one’s own life, it is a message that is always pertinent. To that end, this seeming message is critical, and when considered along with the song’s heavy, pounding musical arrangement, makes clear why this song is one of the album’s most notable works. It is just one of the album’s most notable works. The far more contemplative ‘Demons’ is notable in its own right.
Whereas ‘Venomous’ presents a heavy, plodding musical arrangement and strong seeming reminder of living one’s own life, ‘Demons’ presents a decidedly different picture. This song’s arrangement is far more reserved than almost anything else in the record. The only other song that can rightly be compared to ‘Demons’ in terms of musical arrangements is the album’s closer, ‘The Family.’ The arrangement at the center of ‘Demons’ can be argued to be a bit of a blues-infused work due to its bass and drums, which form its foundation. That is not to say that it boasts a blues-rock sound, though the guitars do add a bit of a bluesy touch. That aside, it still very much presents a rock sound, just with a distinct blues sort of tinge. That in itself makes the song stand out clearly among its counterparts on this record. The song’s musical arrangement is just one part of what makes the song stand out. Its thought-provoking lyrical content adds its own share of interest for listeners.
Esquivel sings in the song’s lead verse, “Walking alone/I’m so tired and cold…I’ve got nothing to use…how long can I last when I’m living a lie/’Cause it’s only a matter of time when my demons collide.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “Jaded and cold/I’m so bitter and old/As my bones are now turning to dust/Wasted and bruised/I’m so tired and confused/Now that my ashes have now turned into rust/How long can you last when you’re living a lie/As we know, it’s a matter of time when our demons collide.” This comes across as someone who is at a very low point in life. Esquivel goes so far later as to sing, “I’ve got nothing to lose/When I’m living on borrowed time.” So again, here is someone who is dealing with some very difficult thoughts and emotions. Lots of people have been at that point, so to hear someone else expressing those thoughts can actually come as a form of therapy so to speak, knowing that they are not alone in battling those thoughts and emotions. To that end, it makes the song even more powerful and notable. It is not the last of the album’s most notable entries, either. ‘Eyes of Your Enemy’ is another of the album’s most notable songs.
‘Eyes of Your Enemy’ stands out in part because of its musical arrangement. The arrangement in question lends itself easily to comparisons to works from Static-X with the sound its guitar line, its thrash style drumming and effects in its vocals. That is especially in the call and response moments. That is a direct throwback to an effect used in Static-X’s works. Of course, considering that Producer Ulrich Wild worked with that band, too, that should come as no surprise here. If for no other reason than its musical arrangement, this composition is well worth the note. Of course the song’s arrangement is not its only element. It also presents its own thought provoking lyrical content.
The lyrical content, without a lyrics sheet to reference, is not easy to decipher, but as with other songs on the album, just enough is decipherable that at least some inference can be drawn about said content. Esquivel makes mention in the song’s chorus of becoming the killer or becoming the prey. There is also a mention in the song’s lead verse of someone making broken promises. He even mentions in the chorus of it being “too late to turn away.” While the interpretation could be wholly wrong, there is enough here to infer at least that the song’s subject is expressing deep-seated feelings of anger towards someone who has done the subject wrong. Of course, this could be completely incorrect as an interpretation. Either way, it goes without saying that Esquivel and company give listeners plenty to think and talk about here. That alone makes the song stand out that much more, with its metaphorical language. Between that ensured discussion and thought brought through the lyrical content and the engagement and entertainment generated through the song’s musical arrangement, the whole of the song proves to be its own key point in the record’s run. Keeping that in mind, the song – when considered alongside the other songs discussed here and the rest of the album’s entries – shows even more why Venomous proves to be such a strong new return for Skinlab.
Skinlab’s first new studio recording in a decade is a telling statement about the band and its place in the metal community today. The 10-song album shows the band as a group that despite poor record sales in the past, lineup changes and more, its members will not let that adversity keep it sidelined. It is a record whose musical and lyrical content blends well into the metal community today, as is evidenced in the songs discussed here. Between those songs and the rest of the album’s works, the whole of Venomous proves to be a record whose bite is as strong as its bark. Yes, that terrible pun was intended. It is a record that proves it’s hard to keep a good band down. The band will launch a tour in support of Venomous Jan. 23 in Sacramento, CA. The band’s tour schedule, news and more is available online at:
To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.