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Skullflower - Tribulation

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Artist: Skullflower

Album: Tribulation

Label: Crucial Blast

Review date: Sep. 22, 2006

After taking off almost a decade, Matthew Bower's Skullflower project returned in 2002 and has since been relatively busy. Tribulation follows last year's Orange Canyon Mind but plows a slightly different field of drone. While Orange remained a rock record, albeit a pummeling dirge of one, Tribulation shows that Bower hasn't forgotten the forbidding discharges of his Total project. Far from being rock, this album goes farther into trance-inducing noise drone than any Skullflower album since 1995's Adieu, All You Judges. And even that album's an oddity in the Skullflower discography.

The opening track, with its telling title, "Lost In The Blackened Gardens Of Some Vast Star," establishes the album's modus operandi during the first few seconds. It then plows forward, an unstoppable nine minutes of glacial, massive drone, layers of buzz, hum, scrape, and squawk that's really not so far from Merzbow or, perhaps more aptly, C.C.C.C. The latter's blend of metal, synth and bass formed whirlpools of drone constructed from hard-hitting layers of distortion that are bought back to me by Bower's walls of sound.

Calling out any of the other eight tracks here is fairly pointless, since they could well be movements within a single symphonic blat of buzzing tsunami. The tracks don't start or end, they just cut abruptly from one to the next, and in most cases the change is signaled not by a substantial change but by a frequency shift.

Tribulation will pose a challenge to many who might already consider themselves Skullflower listeners, and likely a number of them will turn away, since the guitar to which they've become accustomed is often unrecognizable here. Nonetheless, if you dig in and persevere, you'll discern the changes and differences in the layers of sound. And one hopes that fans of Wolf Eyes, Yellow Swans and the like will give some time to one of the originators.

By Mason Jones

Other Reviews of Skullflower

Exquisite Fucking Boredom

Orange Canyon Mind

Strange Keys to Untune Gods’ Firmament

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