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Dipoko - 50%

Buarainech, January 31st, 2014

I toyed with the idea of putting this review in the main section, as Dipoko only had its African CD-R release in 2012 I figured the material was still fresh enough to warrant inclusion, especially as this is the first time it's really been available in the rest of the world. Instead I put it here along with Pure Steel's recent reissue of the Botswana band's 2nd longplayer, but compared to previous efforts by Skinflint, this is a big step-up in quality.

Aside from the fact the spoken word intro is a hell of a lot less kitsch this time the most obvious sign of this is the improvement in the guitar tone. Sections such as the mid-paced Maiden gallop on “Blood Ox Ritual” and the melodic leads at the end of “Mask Of The Dead” are good enough that they successfully disguise the fact that this band have only one guitarist which previously, apart from the low production values and poor guitar tone, was the biggest factor in how flat and empty the music sounded. With this advancement though has come a catch which is that the early Iron Maiden bass sound so well mimicked on Iklwa has disappeared and been replaced by a pretty horrible elastic band plucking noise, and despite the fact previously I thought Giuseppe Sbrana's heavily-accented Bruce Dickinson impersonation was a bad example of excessive hero worship here I really do wish he was able to hit some high notes more appropriate to this style than his own natural growl.

Piece Of Mind and Powerslave are still the foundations that this is built on, but it is the songs where this plays less of a role where Skinflint's biggest advancements become clear. I still don't get that Cirith Ungol vibe that the label insists is there even on the slower “Ox Blood Ritual” but it nevertheless shows some semblance of power as do the slightly Thrash-tinged “The Mists Of Madness” and the chorus-driven “Iron Mamba.” I still think that if they are left to their own devices in Botswana their newfound northern hemisphere listeners will still see only their novelty value. Skinflint's future should hopefully lie in being flown north to Europe where they can be partnered with an experienced producer to untap their potential, as left on their own at this rate of progress it will still take several albums more til they show anything of true quality. [5/10]

From WAR ON ALL FRONTS A.D. 2013 zine-