totem skin – weltschmerz LP
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sleeve has one lightly bent corner/dong
Over the past few years, more and more hardcore bands have started infusing black metal and sludge influences into their music. The result is a mixture of punk-inspired riffs with low end crunch and ferocious, throat-shredding vocals. 2013 saw Sweden’s Totem Skin emerge from the pack with Still Waters Run Deep, a thirty-six minute collection of bludgeoning songs with a general theme of loneliness and isolation. The album made some noise in the hardcore community and built a foundation on which the quintet could develop going forward. 2015’s Weltschmerz has seen the band take that groundwork and expand on its predecessor’s vision, delivering thirty-four minutes of some of the heaviest and most chaotic music of the year.
While their Converge influence is no doubt prevalent, Totem Skin have done their best to borrow ideas from the legendary group without sounding like a direct copy. Amidst the album’s thirty-four minutes of breakneck riffs and blistering drum fills are several areas of drawn-out buildups and clean breaks, leading to a complete listening experience. The band’s Swedish influence is also notable; many of these riffs would not sound out of place on some of melodic death metal’s most classic albums. One of the most immediate aspects of Weltschmerz is its production, which manages to sound both incredibly clean while still maintaining a sludgy undertone. The overall atmosphere of the seven tracks is enveloping and immense from start to finish, culminating in the near-nine minute finale “I De Blindas Rike Ar Den Enogde Kung” that builds up from a brooding start into an all-out bloodbath.
It will certainly be interesting to see where Totem Skin take their sound from here. Their young careers have gotten off to a tremendous start, with two excellent albums right out of the gate and very little growing pains in the way of songwriting. For a band that hasn’t had a lot of time to grow into their own sound, they are as refined and fluid as a group that has been around for years. Time will tell if they are able to continue to progress, but they are heading in a direction that will see them at the forefront of the hardcore scene sooner than later. Weltschmerz is one of the heaviest albums of the last ten months and deserves a spot on many year end lists as we head into the closing quarter of 2015.