Skull Fist- Chasing the Dream

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Canadian speed/heavy metal band Skull Fist made an impression with their debut full length Head öf the Pack back in 2011, and now almost three years later they have returned with a new album called Chasing the Dream. While there are still plenty of blisteringly fast riffs this time around the group has slowed things down a bit more and focused on a mix of speed/heavy metal that also has some glam rock influence. Although it doesn’t quite stand out as one of the best examples of the style that I’ve heard recently, there is still plenty to like about Chasing the Dream and Skull Fist is able to capture the 80s metal vibe better than some of their peers.

The album starts off with what I think is one of its best track, the all-out rager that is “Hour to Live.” Here the instrumentalists launch right into fast paced speed metal that has some blistering guitar leads and solos that lead into a catchy chorus line. It’s the type of track that feels ripped right out of the 80s, but wraps everything in a slightly more modern recording. While Skull Fist could have easily just kept this balance of all-out speed and catchy choruses going for an entire release, where they differ from some of the other younger bands playing this style is by significantly slowing things down. Right after “Hour to Live” the instrumentals slow down to a mid-tempo heavy metal groove with “Bad For Good,” which also gives off a bit of a glam rock/metal vibe. This fast/mid-tempo transition continues for the rest of the effort and it helps significantly that the group is able to keep things feeling fresh. However, while there are some really great riffs and attention grabbing solo on display I didn’t quite find this release to be one that consistently wowed me from beginning to end. There is plenty worth returning to, but things don’t quite reach the point where I could see someone finding this to be a new classic for the genre (although Skull Fist seems capable of getting there if they continue this level of growth).

Vocalist Jackie Slaughter straddles the line between traditional heavy metal and hair metal/hard rock on Chasing the Dream, as his primary style is a high energy clean pitch that occasionally heads into falsetto territory. It’s the type of vocal range that is well suited for the type of sound that Skull Fist is going for, but the way that Slaughter was recorded on this release doesn’t quite give the level of power I was always looking for. On some of the tracks it sounds like there is just a bit too much echo to the vocals which makes them too light at times and lacks the real impact that one would hope for. This seems like more of a production quirk rather than an issue with the actual performance, as Jackie Slaughter is able to hit higher notes without going off key. But there’s just something about it that’s missing on the album, and next time around if there’s a bit more weight behind the vocals it would make the material even better.

Chasing the Dream is a noteworthy release that fans of old-school metal done right will want to check out. But Skull Fist still has a bit more room left to grow before they reach a level close to that of the groups they have been influenced by, and with a few more pushes forward and minor tweaks I could see them getting there in a few more years. In the meantime their newest full length is a sign that this generation of heavy metal bands can come pretty damn close to capturing what made the style so special decades ago.

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