VANHELGD  "Relics of Sulphur Salvation"

SKINFATHER "None Will Mourn"

By Dr. Abner Mality

Today's lesson is how to do Swedish death metal the right way. God knows it is easy enough to do it the wrong way. So pay attention, class, while the Doctor elucidates...

Vanhelgd have a leg up because they're from Sweden itself. Not that that automatically means they will know what they're doing, but chances are that they will have a better chance. And they come through on "Relics of Sulphur Salvation".  With titles such as "Dodens Maskatna Anlete" and "Ett Liv I Traldom", there's no doubting the authenticity, especially when it's backed up by the combination of chainsaw guitar and haunting melody that typifies the best Swe-Death. You get that in spades here, with long songs, complex riffing and vocals as grim as somebody running over your cat. It sounds like the real deal. "May The Worms Have Mercy On My Flesh" is not only an awesome song title, it's a kick ass tune, to boot, closely followed by the title track and the raging final blast of "Cure Us From Life". No, Vanhelgd have no originality but the songs are there and the atmosphere is sincere.

That brings us to California's Skinfather. In either an ecstasy of adoration for the great Dismember or merely a shameless ripoff, they name themselves after a Dismember song. No matter how much they want to be Dismember, they don't come close. Here the somber atmosphere of Vanhelgd is lacking. Much of Skinfather's mediocity can be chalked up to extremely lackluster vocals. This guy doesn't have a clue how to do Swedish death metal. He uses a monotonous hardcore shout lacking all nuance throughout the album, reaching his nadir on the atrocious vocal lines of "Dead Still". Yes, the chainsaw guitar sound is here and Skinfather on occasion dredges up some effective riffing, but it doesn't strike deep, it doesn't seem authentic. These guys seem like a California hardcore band that just decided to start doing Swedish death metal. "None Shall Mourn" is not horrible, but it is far from essential and if you have to choose between them and Vanhelgd, it's no contest. Pick up Vanhelgd...or better yet, Mordbrand.