Skeletal Spectre- Voodoo Dawn

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Friday, June 14, 2013

Voodoo Dawn is the first album I’ve heard from Skeletal Spectre, a death metal band that has two anonymous musicians from Sweden handling instrumental duties and Vanessa Nocera handling the vocals. While I may not have heard the group’s previous releases, I’m familiar with Nocera’s work in Wooden Stake and Scaremaker so I was excited to check out what this group had to offer. Voodoo Dawn maintains a nice balance between the Swedish buzzsaw guitar tone and melodic leads, and if you’re looking for another noteworthy genre act this one’s worth checking out.

Death/doom is everywhere right now, but thankfully Skeletal Spectre doesn’t just pull from the same exact formula on every song. The title track starts the album off and it makes an immediate impression, as the overall sound takes the buzzsaw guitar tone that is a hallmark of Swedish death metal and layers some melodic leads over it. It’s the longest cut on the release, and moves between a faster, direct assault and much slower doom/sludge section. From there the instrumentals go through some more changes, as “Altar of Damballah” opts for a crunchier mid-tempo groove. I actually think this might be one of my favorite songs on the entire release, as while this is probably one of the mellower numbers there’s just something about this particular guitar riff that makes me want to listen to it over and over. The rest of the songs maintain this balance of melodically driven grooves and heavy riffing, all mixed in with the occasional super slow passage. Voodoo Dawn definitely impresses, but it did seem to peak a little early as the first four tracks had the most staying power and the second half of the release wasn’t quite as distinguishable from one song to the next (with “The Flip-Side of Satan” being the exception). But even though some of the later numbers blended together a bit, the overall style that Skeletal Spectre has put together made me want to give this disc repeated spins anyway.

Vanessa Nocera’s previous vocal performances have spanned both clean and distorted ranges, and she uses the majority of this album to showcase just how intense her harsher pitches are. It’s quite impressive, as her voice hits higher shrieks one moment before going right into much lower growls without losing any energy in the process. This may be one of the most versatile performances Nocera has ever delivered, and hearing her distorted screams echo over the instrumentals adds quite a bit of intensity to these tracks. But just when you think you’ve heard everything this release has to offer, closing track “The Flip-Side of Satan” delivers one final surprise in the form of clean singing. The vocals have a more traditional heavy metal vibe, and it’s slightly different from the style that I remember on Wooden Stake’s material. Considering how many death metal albums there are that have a singer using the same pitch on every track, this type of dynamic performance that continually surprises is a welcome addition.

Some of the songs on the second half of Voodoo Dawn start to sound a bit too close to each other, but even though there are some similar patterns I still really liked this album. The grooves on the earlier numbers are catchy as hell and the vocal performance really helps this material to instantly grab you. Skeletal Spectre’s ideas recall some of the more groove-centric ideas that particular Swedish death metal acts pulled from, but they do it well and with some additional development could stand out even further and potentially deliver a new classic somewhere down the road.

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