Picture a flashback snippet from a surreal dream; honoured Black Sabbathian apostle doomsters The Skull are playing in a nightclub with walls surrounded by enormous mirrors to inflict either severe self-consciousness or vain inducing temptations, while tatty leftover Halloween decorations are sporadically hanging in every nook and cranny of the venue. Poles apart genres doom and disco collide in an unlikely setting, but behold, it is not a dream but an actual event starting with this reviewer nearly strolling past the said venue due to it being named and signposted outside with glowing blue lights as Kolis. If it wasn’t for long haired, leather and denim clad rockers smoking outside I would have indeed walked on by.
But knocking out any bizarrely dream like notions from anyone’s mind comes from the New Yorkian support act, Kings Destroy, who make the most of only a 30 minutes’ slot by demonstrating focus and intent by powering through their riffy stoner rock. It is a meat and potatoes no nonsense robust rock. It may not be breaking any new ground, but it is reassuringly solid.
There might be a claim that when a seminal, pioneering band split and two bands emerge to carry on the legacy there may be a kind of advantage for the fans. The Skull, possessing one half of original doom legends Trouble, vocalist Eric Wagner and bassist Ron Holzner, will always quite rightly be reminded and lauded about their musical past, and showing this self-awareness incorporate a few Trouble classics at opposing ends of their set, including opener ‘Rest In Peace’ and closer ‘End Of My Daze’ both from their hugely recommended self-titled 1990 album. And both songs demonstrate just how good they were and how The Skull are mightily adept at delivering these doom metal classics.
But, The Skull are not living on former glories and are instead an ongoing evolving band who successfully carve out new classic sounding doom metal quality cuts. They fill the bulk of their set list with tracks from their impressive debut album For Those Which Are Asleep. The aforementioned album’s slow brooding title track spearheaded by impending doom power chords is magnificent. Elsewhere, big on thick chugging Tony Iommi styled riffs and Eric’s idiosyncratic melodic singing sees ‘Trapped Inside My Mind’, his personal favourite ‘Send The Judas Down’, ‘New Generation’ and others all sound equal in quality to their previous band’s ventures. Boosted by this year’s released single ‘The Longing’, aches beautifully with some perfect twin guitar harmonies.
Visually Eric Wagner’s un-showy, nonchalant, even ramshackle, stage presence is delightfully natural – no roaring ‘how are you doing London’ fake macho voice – he chats with the audience, sometimes directly to individuals not even using the microphone, thereby turning him into a captivating frontman. The highlight is when he lights up a cigarette and says ‘shhh, don’t tell anyone’ before a fellow band member points out the possibility of this modern day rebellious act could set off the fire alarm, and with a shrug of the shoulders begrudgingly puts it out.
This all culminates into a set of all killer classic old school styled doom metal. And hopefully it won’t be in a dream when they return to the studio and to these shores again.