Let’s be honest, for it is honesty (to paraphrase Bill Hicks)that is going to see us out of here alive, Skullflower make music that can by no means be described as accessible. If you find bands such as Sunn O)) hard going it is advisable that you look away now because this is no easy ride. Indeed, while listening to the fist-biting, distorted horror of the opening track for the third time, a colleague asked me, genuinely perplexed, if I really enjoy ‘music’ such as this, or if there is an element of trying to out-weird everybody else but the reply is a simple one: you either get Skullflower, or you don’t – a fact that one can hardly imagine bothers the band much – and no-one would listen to this just to prove a point: it’s just too harassing!
With that preamble out of the way what can you say about Skullflower? Well, for me, Skullflower mark the epitome of drone. This is the tortured, dark abyss that Sunn O)) and Khanate frequently head towards but witnessed from ground zero. There is little in the way of respite and absolutely no get out – if you play this record you’re in it for the whole soul-draining, apathy-inducing 109 minute sleigh-ride into hell…but what a ride! Like staring at static on the television for too long, Skullflower’s genius is that their music is the perfect canvass for the imagination to run riot. Like a horror-movie where the bloodletting is just off-camera, the thrill of the sonic carnage is that it allows the listener to undertake their own personal journey while listening rather than straight-jacketing you into someone else’s trip. Patterns emerge from the murk, the hint of a tune buried in the screaming noise that may be real or may just be your brain trying to make sense of the thing – on my third run through I still can’t work out which it is and it doesn’t detract from the music any.
Like the Red Sparrowes, SKullflower’s song titles tell you more than lyrics ever could, and a glance at the track-list reveals titles such as ‘Starlit mire’, ‘Enochian tapestries’, ‘chaotic demons fly into my eyes’ and ‘gateway to blasphemous light’. In the light of such engaging word-play it is clear that skullflower are positively effusive when the mood takes them, but are more than satisfied to let the songs do the talking.
I have only one criticism, and it is one that I have seen opined elsewhere, a mere CD is not quite enough to contain the sonic beast that is SKullflower. While I pride myself on having a CD player that is the envy of my friends and the cause for endless lamentations by my neighbours, it is just not possible to indulge at the required volume. True, a good pair of headphones go a long way to solving the problem, but the true environment for these purveyors of sonic terror is the concert hall where the bass does more for one’s health in one night that a life-time of prune smoothies might achieve. That, and the minor niggle that it is not available on vinyl, is about all that I can find to fault with this remarkable achievement.
Skullflower are pioneers, so far beyond their contemporaries that they exist in another realm entirely. This is music as art in its purest form, created to satisfy its creator’s demands first and foremost. To witness such a feat is a rare privilege and it is worth noting that there are only 300 copies of this CD in Europe, so getting hold of one is something of a priority if you are a fan of extreme music. It doesn’t get more extreme than this.