Released: 2002, Century Media
Reviewer: Michael De Los Muertos
This is one of those reviews that hurts a little to write. Not a lot--but a little. When Skinlab came out of the Bay Area thrash scene in the late ‘90s, I was pretty enthusiastic about their music. Their first album, BOUND, GAGGED AND BLINDFOLDED, while clearly rooted in the newer elements of “modern” thrash, seemed to be one of the albums that would move thrash metal from the ‘80s classics, through the “Pantera era” and on into some new incarnation. Skinlab’s second effort, DISEMBODY: THE NEW FLESH, while not as impressive, at least seemed to contain echoes of that direction. Now comes their newest album, REVOLTING ROOM, and, while it’s not particularly bad, I now maintain no illusions that Skinlab is going to move thrash metal anywhere.
REVOLTING ROOM has a lot of raw power and unbridled energy. Track after track comes at you like a ball-peen hammer to the head, which is one of the hallmarks of excellent thrash metal. And it’s undeniable that, from a technical standpoint, this is Skinlab’s finest album. I take issue (predictably) with the mallcore influences that this band has been woefully unable to resist. The rappy vocals on “Slave The Way,” the microwaved angst of “Purify,” and the unabashed mallcore style of “Take As Needed” are the prime exhibits in this criticism. I don’t pretend to be a connoisseur of mallcore, but from listening to this I don’t hear what Skinlab is contributing to music that Sepultura, Soulfly, Pissing Razors or other formerly-metal-but-now-mallcore acts haven’t already done. Granted, my brain shuts off when I hear a rappy vocal line. But, aside from the energy, technical proficiency and occasional good riffs on REVOLTING ROOM, I didn’t find much here worth the effort.
This album also has a gimmick, if one can call it that. The promotional literature makes reference to a “reVolting Hotline,” which was apparently a toll-free hotline where fans of the band could call and record any kind of message they wanted, about anything. Some choice clips from the hotline recordings follow track 10 of the album. As you’d expect, it’s mostly a lot of ranting, and much of it focuses on anger, angst and aggression. I got the distinct feeling I was supposed to glean some message from it all. Sorry to say, I didn’t. Some of the clips were quite amusing, some interesting, and some boring as hell. But what did it all mean? Well, nothing to me. Sorry--I just didn’t get it.
This album will be a big deal for young Skinlab fans who don’t have that much of a grounding in traditional metal. For the long-time, well-versed metalheads out there, I don’t think this will garner much interest.