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Skullflower - Malediction

From what I've read at least Skullflower seem to be continually reinventing themselves, unleashing everything from drone releases, psyched guitar riffage to all out noise. Malediction sees Matthew Bower return to the studio with Stuart Dennison, the original drummer from the nineties, alongside guitarist Leo Stokoe (Culver / Marzuraan) and Samantha Davies on cello and violin. Malediction combines psych-rock guitars with noise but there are no riffs; Malediction buzzes with a furious amplified static mayhem.

'A'arab Zaraq - Ravens of the Burning of God' features monstrous guitar squall, with a constant stream of feedback, while Stuart Dennison bashes his way around his kit. Bower's voice, naturally, is confined to the background and here, when you can pick up on it, is reduced to a series of pained cries and shouts. 'Ghost Bitch of Black Flame' wrestles with free-form guitar noodling, against blackened molten guitars and some thunderous drum rolls. This is by far one of the most dynamic tracks from Skullflower and given their continued uncompromising output over the years that's saying something. Bower's voice is mixed well back, a shouted wail that forms yet another layer. The entire thing is so cataclysmic and destructive it feels it ought to fall apart at any moment. That they can keep it up is a testament to Bower's talent.

There's a real primitive feel to Malediction; in its formless structure, which is heavily layered partly due to the expanded line-up and instrumentation that here includes cello and violin - not that I could hear it, though. It's been a while since I've heard a Skullflower release but there's a definite trajectory that runs from earlier albums such as IIIrd Gatekeeper to Malediction. Even though they've long since ditched the bass guitar Dennison's rhythms ensure there is still a real loose rock feel to much of this. That said, 'Drenched In Moonsblood' is the bleakest and blackest track from this formation of Skullflower. It's a million miles away from anything remotely rock. A churning slow burning crawl though buzzing guitar drone and queasy screech, with a cello transformed into a low scraping drone. Only Skullflower could produce anything like this.

There's an occultic aspect to the work of contemporary Skullflower - just look at the track titles and recent album titles - but, thankfully, I'm not picking up on the black metal influence that is frequently referenced. Malediction represents Skullflower under the guidance of Matthew Bower, continually reinventing themselves and I'll certainly be checking them out from time to time. Malediction is released o n Second Layer Records in a 6-panel digipack limited to 1000 copies. For more information go to