If Skáphe‘s goal was to spook and frighten, they met their goal well. Although it’s been increasingly easy to dismiss atonal and chaotic newcomers in light of how common the Deathspell Omega approach is getting this decade, there are still times where music startles me as much as it should. Skáphe have come forth with a piece of horror noise that manages to take Portal‘s template that extra bit further.
The duo’s success in creating such an atmosphere wasn’t such a surprise. Alex Poole‘s work in Chaos Moon set a fitting precedent for his recent meddlings via Skáphe. Contrary to the band’s first demo, which was a solo work of Poole’s, D.G. of the incredible Misþyrming has joined the project as a vocalist and active collaborator. Considering my admiration of both (particularly the latter), that Skáphe really nails their atmospheric dread was practically something I was expecting. The terrifying murk of bands like Portal and Gnaw Their Tongues clearly formed the basis for their sound, but they have a drugged-out, dissociative bent to the atmosphere that sets it apart from some of the more straight-laced experimental bands.
On Skáphe², for the first few tracks at least, it’s nigh impossible to make out discernible riffs or melodies. Virtually from the beginning, the music has sunk to the very depths of a bad LSD trip. Although the riffs are slightly cleaner than Portal’s noise (but only slightly), it’s still tough to make out all the layers erupting at once. It really is to the album’s credit that Skáphe choose to strike things off so suddenly. Especially when you hear the album for the first time, there’s nothing to ease the impact as it hits. The psychedelic impact of Skáphe² is helped by swirling atonal guitar leads and oppressive, King Crimson-esque basswork. As the album progresses, these more distinctive traits begin to take a more dominant role. Skáphe slow down to the point where the borders of funeral doom begin to open. I can recall an amazing part on ‘V’ (the album’s emotional climax in my opinion) where the usually jarring lead transforms into a sullen melody, with D.G.’s tortured howls sounding like they were drawn direct from an Esoteric song. Skáphe² ends on a much less overwhelming stage than it started with, but they maintain the same immersive, jarring vibe throughout.
Skáphe² is relatively short, but it’s probably better that way. Even falling short of forty minutes, the album is remarkably challenging to get into. There aren’t melodies or even riffs to enable a listener. There’s only the atmosphere, and only the shadowy implication that the noise is being driven by a human hand. The type of chaos Skáphe work with has been played and made familiar by many others in the scene, yet there’s a uniqueness to them that should make this album remembered for years to come.
Tracks 1-6 are Untitled.