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Skull Fist - Chasing the Dream Review

by Matt Hensch

Bands like White Wizard and Skull Fist are lucky to be riding in the caboose of the retrogressive metal revival train. Am I a fan of the movement? Well, I've been knee-deep in Portrait, In Solitude, Below, and many others since forever, so yes-bring 'em on. Skull Fist fits the 'retro' label, but I find "Chasing the Dream" completely underwhelming. These Canucks play a nifty style of heavy/speed metal, which is cool, but that's all that can be said about the group's music, frankly. It's cool. It's fun. It's energetic and frenzied. But truth be told Skull Fist is a one-trick pony, and these guys can keep me entertained for only so long before I start thinking about superior bands that leave" Chasing the Dream" on the side of the road muttering, "But he said he loved me!

I guess if I'm going to be blunt about it, I'd say "Chasing the Dream" has a lot of value on the surface but not the essential songwriting virtues to hold up the flash and force. Skull Fist's music just doesn't stay fresh. It was hard not to enjoy this at first-the blazing riffs and the electric shredding drove me mad. By the tenth spin I felt like I had absorbed everything "Chasing the Dream" could offer eight listens ago, and although some of the tunes are still fun, most of them start and end unremarkably. Fast riffs, huge choruses, and enough guitar solos to make the population of Swaziland bang their heads are all fine in my book, but these things are done in a manner that seems overtly hammy and shallow. The songs blend together, the rhythm section is ordinary, and it sounds big for the sake of being big.

Maybe I'd feel differently if the vocals were somewhat passible; they are the proverbial anvil that causes the whole ship to capsize, so to speak (not to imply "Chasing the Dream" would have been a flaw-free utopia had they been superior). The vocals are a spiritual amplification of the over-the-top, flashy persona of the music; they are overloaded with effects and studio magic, rendered synthetic to a point where there are tiffs and only tiffs upon each falsetto, each yell and scream. The dude's voice is noticeably charismatic and fiery, and it makes me wonder why Skull Fist didn't unplug the computerized trickery and just go the route of the raw. Imagining "Chasing the Dream" with actual explosions instead of engineered studio bangs makes my heart cry.

A big thing that it comes down to is personal preference, what with the production and the effect-layered vocals, and I just can't get over the feeling that "Chasing the Dream" is loaded up insignificantly with solos and fast riffs just to put on a show. Skull Fist sounds like a band that makes its music for a full-blooded live experience that translates effortlessly from album to stage. It's a fine direction to take; many have excelled molding their records to be as live as possible. The problem with "Chasing the Dream" is that it has no other intrinsic value. If I had to sit through a Skull Fist set, I might find the band fun, perhaps remarkable. But in the studio setting, this doesn't go beyond the ideology of sounding ready for the stage.

Skull Fist - Chasing the Dream


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