"Shadow Syndicate"

By El Chief

This has the harmonics and syncopation that made Gojira famous, although Skinned speeds up the pattern and adds a dose or two of violence that the aforementioned French metal experts are now shying away from. It feels weird to compare a band now in its third decade to one that started about 10 years later, but Gojira found a way to break through whereas Skinned continues to fight for notice.

Roughly one minute and 45 seconds in to "Wings of Virulence," Skinned makes an eloquent statement by incorporating a grand piano into the mix. It's a brilliant change of pace but one that extreme metal bands have to employ wisely, because too much of it will make the tune sound like a joke, like a Liberace trading his sequined cape for a leather vest. Wisely, Skinned skirts away from the ivories roughly a minute later and the piano never returns to "Shadow Syndicate."

"As Their Bodies Fall" opens with a thundering bass line that would feel at home in any Megadeth record. When the song quickly descends into the industrial death metal favored by Poland's Decapitated, I understand why Skinned has not made it big: they are trend chasers. In the space of a song and a quarter, Skinned has aped the styles of three more prominent bands instead of worrying about building their own. Hell, the fourth track, "We Are the End," could've been written by The Black Dahlia Murder. This tactic has been more successfully employed by the likes of Avenged Sevenfold and Trivium, who rode the coattails of Guns 'N' Roses and Metallica respectfully in order to build a fan base. Skinned, however, remains on that fringe, hoping that a Lamb of God-style band will throw them a bone every now and then.

Shortly after "We Are the End," the album appropriately runs out of steam. Unfortunately, there are still six more tracks to get through. This happens a lot to Skinned LP's. An initial blast that makes you think there's something there, followed by a lot of floundering.

It's hard to blame Skinned for that. The seeiming rise of a thousand streaming sites coupled with the decline of labels and managers opened the ground for too many bands to emerge, making it difficult for the kids to know when they needed to ape a style to help get them noticed, and when they needed to forge their own path to help them fill out albums and sell concert tickets. Thus you get a disc like "Shadow Syndicate." It's okay, but few listeners are going to give it more than a spin or two. That's a shame because Skinned's talent runs more than skin deep. Too bad no one taught them how to climb the metal mountain.