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Skrew saves! - 75%

Diamhea, December 7th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, Digital, Independent

And now for something completely different, Skrew reunite and hammer out Universal Immolation, representing a near-entire reconfiguration of their sound and clear attempt to coalesce with the modern death metal movement. You heard me correctly, Skrew is no longer playing industrial thrash anymore, instead taking the sludgy, lumbering slant that represented some of the stronger aspects of their final records before the split and adding a monolithic, rangy edge to it all. The Joachim Luetke-styled cover art is pretty indicative of what you actually get here, which is rupturing modern death metal that plays up monster note progressions and takes advantage of smoother production values. I can't believe I am even writing this, but Skrew try to pull off a modern Behemoth here at times, and actually aren't half bad at it. The introduction of Hunter Townsend on vocals is a huge change of pace, but surprisingly not the most pronounced change that will stick with you after listening to this record. How did it come to this?

Seventeen years is indeed a long time, and I suppose that I shouldn't expect Grossman to consciously overcompensate in an attempt to stir spectres long exorcised in the extended downtime since Angel Seed XXIII. I mean, last time we heard from these guys they were signed to Metal Blade, and here they are releasing Universal Immolation independently as a digital download. The music landscape has shifted plates multiple times since then, and the means utilized to build the industrial monuments Skrew erected in the early '90s aren't necessarily palpable anymore. Conceptually, this has always been a very loose band, so the fact that something of this caliber comes out of left field isn't necessarily that big of a surprise, but the competency in which it is delivered definitely is. I can't call Universal Immolation a landmark by any means, but it is a decidedly titanic sounding record fed on human sacrifices and fueled by jungle steam. Those looking for a decent alternative to Vader and the like might actually like a few of these tracks!

That isn't to say there isn't some trace of old grumbling away in this mixture, as there is a decent representation of Skrew's industrial past revolving around some of the droning riffs and occasional implementation of samples. The keyboards are nowhere near what they used to be for this band, occasionally interjecting some ethereal undertones when the staggering inclination of the rhythm calls for it. Hunter Townsend is also a pretty standard grunter, and while I do miss Grossman's musings in this regard, I can't say that it would necessarily fit within the framework being implemented here. The new lineup agglomerated, which includes the relatively well-respected Ricktor Ravensbrück, performs this particular genre fraternization quite well here.

That leaves us with the question concerning whether or not this should have even been released under the Skrew banner. Well, considering the fact that the band fell so hard and fast in the '90s, augmented by the decent and consistent quality pervading throughout this record, I don't personally mind much. It isn't like the band has been teasing us with a forced return to form or anything, Grossman just needs an outlet to channel his manic conceptions. He is Skrew, so let him have his fun, and try to enjoy this for what it is. Not a landmark release by any means, but a decent and unexpected death metal record.