Music recorded from Autumn 2006 to Autumn 2008 in Oregon, Ohio. All music written and performed by Splinterskin. Illustrations by Saint John. Photos of Splinterskin taken by Andrea St John. Graphic design by Abby Helasdottir. Album released on Cold Spring Records, 2009.
Another CD grabbed from my shelves at random, and another week I find myself listening to something that isn’t technically metal but sure embodies the spirit of metal. Splinterskin could probably be categorised at a push under the genre: “Spooky, dark folk metal”.
I have to say that I really liked this album. What’s not to like? Acoustic guitars; haunting violin accompaniments; whispering vocals; and tales of dancing dead men, sounds of scratching behind walls, and forest rituals.
This is an album that elicits the same emotional response in me as the soundtrack to the computer game Dear Esther, written by Jessica Curry. It has a sleepy, melancholic, haunting character to it; like a cross between Richard Thompson, Tom Morello’s incarnation as The Nightwatchman, and Tom Waits.
The lyrics are poetic and incredibly dark, but strangely and beautifully so. It almost transports you to a far off, simpler time in British history when we lived closer to the elements, in the shadow of the forests that once covered these isles. In places there is an almost innocence to some of the lyrics, a child-like non-judgemental inquisitiveness and observation in the words; while still maintaining a air of horror-lite. It’s quite masterful.
If I’m honest, I didn’t really expect to like this album as much as I do.
The turning point probably came when I accidentally left my clock radio to wake me up to a CD the other morning and I came-to around 06:15 with the spooky lyrics of “Broken Down Hearse” whispering away to my right. It reminded me a little of the first time I ever listened to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album, lying on the floor in the dark at a friend’s house during a party. I lay in the dark and allowed the music to gently rouse me to life. A gentle, if initially freaky, way to greet the day. An interesting way to really get to know an album. I recommend it. And the album.
Review score: 95%