Out of the San Francisco Bay area, Skinlab has been an easily recognized name on the Metal scene for over two decades now. Sometimes flying under the radar as one of many talented bands on the Century Media Record label, they would release 1997’s Bound, Gagged and Blindfolded and 1999’s Disembody: The New Flesh prior to arguably their most commercially recognized work, 2002’s ReVoltingRoom. Then, just as the band was picking up some traction, they disbanded. Appearing to be the end of their journey, original members Steev Esquivel (vocals/bass) and Steve “Snake” Green (guitar/backing vocals) would reform the band in 2009, releasing The Scars Between Us, but sadly they would disband once more in 2011. Amidst the trials and tribulations of everything, Esquivel would bring Skinlab back to life yet again 2016, keep it afloat with various lineups, and now in 2019 they return with a new album entitled Venomous.
A pleasant surprise to many unaware fans, Venomous hit the public on Friday, October 25th via Art Is War Records. Their first studio album in a decade, the revamped lineup led by Esquivel sees the return of Snake, along with new additions Marcos Medina Rivera on guitar and Fabian Vastod on drums. Together they worked with veteran Record Producer Ulrich Wild to put their best foot forward on ten new tracks. This in mind, there are a couple of questions to ask. First, what will Skinlab sound like after all these years, and second, is there enough interest to hopefully break the jinx of another band break-up?
Two valid questions, immediately addressing the first, Skinlab retain their signature thick guitar sound, but do not rehash the past all too much. Instead of turning back the clock completely, they keep their approach fresh with crisp production, a balance of vocal styles, and speedy grooves. This is evident from the blisteringly tight opening of “The Fury Within the Fire” which flows nicely into the slightly more sludgy “Amerikill (The Trigger)” before the standout title-cut “Venomous,” which if anything is the tasteful return to classic Alternative Metal style of the early 2000s.
Which leads to “Overcoming,” one of the first taste tests Skinlab offered to listeners prior to the release of the album. A delightful balance of clean and harsh vocals, again, it is another reminder that the styles of the early 2000s can still work nearly 20 years later. This is while they showcase more diversity with with the slow, darkened trip “Demons” and closer “The Family.” Both eerie and well-paced, there is still no short of heaviness as heard on “For the Fallen,” “Far from Grace,” and “End of Silence,” with the almost Punk-like thrust of “Eyes of Your Enemy” in the middle of it all.
Overall, Venomous is a high quality album of modern Metal music that is heavy, opposing, and dark enough to make them standout from the herd. It is difficult for any band to step away from a scene for as long as Skinlab has without new material, but somehow they conjured up something that is very fresh and enjoyable to listen to. Set to go out on tour in 2020 with Bleed The Sky, Arise In Chaos, and So This Is Suffering, it would actually fit perfectly to see the 2019 edition of Skinlab on the same bill as bands like HELLYEAH at this point.
Which leads us to answering the second part of the original question – it all depends on listeners to get out there and support Skinlab and bands like them! So, breaking it all down, this is quality Metal with a pretty even split of harsh and clean vocals guaranteed to please all. That is why Cryptic Rock give Skinlab’s Venomous return 4 out of 5 stars.