|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By: Bride|
|Record Label: Retroactive||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2006/2013||Artist Website: Bride|
|Tracks: 16||Rating: 90%|
|Running Time: 62:33|
When Skin For Skin, the twelfth studio album from Louisville, Kentucky based Bride, came out in the summer of 2006, it was widely overlooked. The fact is Bride potentially lost a good percentage of its fan base in the decade leading up to the albums release, forsaking the metal based leanings of its eighties material and bluesy hard rock from the early nineties for a sound more in line with the musical trends of the time. Drop (1995), for instance, found Bride mellowing with an acoustic heading rooted in the blues, alternative and straight up rock n’ roll, while The Jesus Experience (1997) and Oddities (1998) took a heavier approach with their modern hard rock aspects. Bride even went so far as to deliver the “rap metal” of Fist Full Of Bees (2001).
The group did not return to form until This Is It (2003) by taking a straightforward hard rock direction that hearkened back to its nineties prime. On Skin For Skin Bride continued the trend but heavier and more varied. Imagine the raw intensity to Snakes In The Playground (1992) and hook and groove of Scarecrow Messiah (1994) merged with periodic Live To Die (1998) metal overtones. Throw in bluesy Kinetic Faith (1991) touches, toss everything in a blender and the upshot is Skin For Skin.
With Bride delivering a genuine throwback sound, one might think long-term fans would be close to follow. Not so in that perhaps due to the disappointment of being let down so often and the musical twists and turns therein, but the groups followers have been somewhat reluctant to embrace the album. Hence, the reason for Skin For Skin going overlooked, which is disappointing in light of it bringing a quality rivaling Bride’s classic material. No, Skin For Skin might not deserve mention in the same sentence as Snakes In The Playground but in my opinion ranks at the very least within the groups top 5 (possibly top 3 depending how you look at things).
An album of such merit, obviously, should not remain out of print. Enter the fall of 2013 Retroactive Records re-issue of Skin For Skin, re-mastered (courtesy of J Powell at Steinhaus) and featuring two bonus tracks along with altered cover artwork (blue tinted as opposed to the red of the original).
The re-mastering highlights an element of refinement overall. Main benefactor is low-end, which finds drums delivering added punch and bass making its presence better felt. Guitars continue to exhibit the needed edge and bite. While keeping in mind I felt production to the original was solid, the re-issue brings a noticeable upgrade and gives the album a new set of skin in the process (no pun intended).
The already noted quality manifests itself in how Skin For Skin features some of Bride’s best material in over a decade. Starts with heavier tracks “Skin For Skin”, “Inside Ourselves” and “End Of Days”, a bruising trio that cross the threshold of metal with their fast, catchy and bone crushing proclivities (former two being upheld by double bass and latter highlighting an apocalyptic milieu). “Take The Medication” slows things exponentially in giving rise to some thrash elements (something not seen from Bride since Live To Die).
Subsequent tracks produce a hard rock sound that fans of the groups Snakes… and Scarecrow Messiah era will easily identify. “Hard To Kick”, “Bang Goodbye” and “Super Ego Star” give rise to big doses of low-end groove (and allow bassist Lawrence Bishop to showcases his abilities in no uncertain terms), while “Fuel And Fire”, “Rise Above” and “The Government” come across as dark, weighty and fiery outbursts of energy. Bride proves equally adept when approaching things from a commercial standpoint, as it does on melodic hard rocker “Breathless” and piano and acoustic ballad “Hang On”.
The two bonus tracks sound like outtakes from Bride’s first Lost Reels release, which means they uphold the quality. “I Want To Know You” brings a laid-back and heavy rock feel and “Kid” the more up-tempo sound in trending similar musical territory.
Front man Dale Thompson continues to sing with power, guts, fury and passion, although his delivery lends a slightly raspy (but not strained) feel than in the past (observation and in no way a critique). Brother Troy Thompson delivers equal goods on rhythm guitar, adding to the muscle that helps make Skin For Skin one of Bride’s heaviest releases ever. His blues drenched soloing proves every bit laudable (check out his superlative licks and chops on “Take The Medication”). Also of note is the return of lead guitarist Steve Osborne, who was with the band at the time of its first two albums, Show No Mercy (1986) and Live To Die. Osborne maintains his virtuoso abilities here and provides another dynamic to what amounts an already very good album (the shredding leads on “Hard To Kick” and gritty soloing on “Inside Ourselves” are good examples of his capabilities).
I always considered Skin For Skin one of the more underrated releases in Bride’s back catalog. The total package of heaviness and engaging songwriting - not to mention an old school return to form by the group - has drawn me to the album repeatedly over the years. Enter the re-issue, which builds upon those strengths with improved mastering and a pair of previously unreleased bonus tracks. If one of the many Bride fans that passed on Skin For Skin back in the day then I encourage you to check the re-issue out- you will not be disappointed. Likewise, those into straightforward metal and hard rock with a bluesy or groove based slant will find the album every bit rewarding.
Track By Track
The albums title track kicks in at once to a metal based guitar assault backed by double kick drum action. Maintaining the assertive edge throughout, “Skin For Skin” plows through its biting verses prior to exploding for the commanding presence that is its no-nonsense chorus. Put this on Live To Die and it would sound right at home. Lyric snippet:
Overcoming, standing, walking, living, in the victory of Him
Who is holy and Him who is true
That makes us a pillar in the temple of God
I will make you – I will make you
Who can he bind that is not already bound?
Only those who cast themselves down
In a religious world that pacifies
He is always there to paganize
“End Of Days” upholds the all out metal proclivity, albeit at the slightly reduced tempo. Staunch riff action prevails every bit along with a plundering bass line, the song robust in form but also engaging with its catchy mentality (periodic light and airy backing vocals help smooth things out). Again, fans of old school Bride will embrace this one.
“Take The Medication” represents the albums least accessible. An almost thrash basis will be encountered but not to the point of overriding, contrasting with periodic quieter moments in which momentum slows to a near crawl. A bludgeoning chorus picks up the tempo exponentially. Again, not the catchiest piece but listenable all the same.
Impetus picks up for the big, grooving bass line to “Inside Ourselves”. The song proves hard charging with is churning riff action, emphasizing machine gun-like double bass outbursts but also playing up an anthem-like chorus in which Dale stretches for the high notes. Osborne shreds on lead guitar. Lyric snippet:
Flowers on my grave Jesus saves that’s the bitter taste of blackness
Eyes closed tight, pitch of night, starring into the face of blindness
If I’m possessed if I confess kneeling feeling the earth beneath
Stumbling mumbling it ends at the cross,
Undistinguished words make me complete.
Gazing, Raising, instinctively up, warmth to wrap the coldness
Draining, straining, all in me waning, to muster the faith of boldness
Teaching, reaching, outward and on, to touch what lays before me
Coping hoping to find a recall
Never disappointed in what I see.
“Hard To Kick” also plays up a groove element but in more of a mid-paced hard rock direction. Storms of swirling guitars lead the way, lending to a dark and weighty environs in which a simmering low-end prevails. Some bluesy tinctures present themselves from the gritty soloing at hand.
Impetus picks up for “Fuel And Fire”. This one preserves the hard rock mentality, fiery as it gets with the relentless riff action and perseverant bass line adding to the kicked up scene at hand. Despite the angst melody is not forsaken, as can be found in the hooks to what amounts a freight train chorus. Lyric snippet:
If you feel the ground shake and see black clouds roll
I’m going to warn you I’m stirring the coals
When you see me coming it is too late
If your eyes on me then you’ve sealed your fate
I am the antiChrist I am the anguish that you wear
I am your covering a long piercing dead stare
I am your veil of flesh that blinds you from the truth
I am humanity the mortal man shall never rule
“Breathless” backs from the impassioned scene with its lighter and smoother touches. A melodic hard rock direction is taken in the process, with a gentler feel reinforced as Dale showcases a more tempered side to his vocal abilities. I particularly enjoy the classical guitar that closes things out.
“Bang Goodbye” brings a return to a more assertive heading. Opening to a throaty growl, the song takes off to a punch driven riff in yielding a swarthier environs while maintaining the melody penchant at hand. At the halfway point things temporarily lighten to a calmer direction only to return to a more raucous setting.
Full on energy all the way, “Rise Above” powers its length to tight guitar harmonies but with a bluesy essence decorating the backdrop (as can be found in the moving lead guitar work). Interestingly, a calmer passage past the halfway point includes what almost sounds like a church organ). Jolting guitars return to carry things to their close. Lyric snippet:
I’ve knelt at the cross held His burnished feet
I have embraced the body lifeless in my arms
I laid His head upon His pillow so gently
And watched the stone be rolled
I watched and I prayed and I fell asleep again
When I awoke there was no sign of Him
The Tomb it was empty no body no sign
And I fell to the earth defeated and I cried
An intense hard rock aura defines “The Government”. The song twists and snarls with its razor edged guitars (pulsating in and out of the mix) and plunging bass lines (establishing quite the harrowing low end). Chorus backs from the uneasiness at hand with its distorted vocal flavorings. This one proves heavy set but every bit engaging. Lyric snippet:
We’re the Super Power, God’s of the hour
We got God on our side, you can’t hide
Cause we got the bomb, in the Promised Land
One nation under whom? Got blood on our hands
Generals and Presidents think it’s a coincidence
You know world dominance pride and prejudice
Blow it up build it back, pat our enemies on the back
Drop our bombs roll our tanks teach our foes how to give thanks
“Super Ego Star” is up-tempo all the way, with slicing riff edges and snarling vocals adding to the discordant scene. The rumbling as it gets chorus fits right in as does Osborne’s soloing, which reflects a slight bluesy touch. Bottom heavy but with a Snakes… influenced rawness is the feel at hand.
Things close strongly to the acoustic and piano based ballad “Hang On”. With melody the focus at hand, I am reminded of past Bride ballads such as “Sweet Louise” (Kinetic Faith) and “Goodbye” (Snakes…). Lyric snippet:
Have no where to go from here
Seems like so many years
Have already came and went
So much time never spent
Wondering how to fight the pain
Dry the tears that fall like rain
Scared to death running blind
I have nothing left to hide
Here I am at my end
Don’t even know when it began
All I know is it’s through
I’m not the one you thought you knew
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “The Calm” (:56) “Skin For Skin” (3:30), “End Of Days” (4:06), “Take The Medication” (5:19), “Inside Ourselves” (4:18), “Hard To Kick” (3:32), “Fuel And Fire” (4:47), “Breathless” (4:00), “Prodigious Savant” (:32), “Bang Goodbye” (5:28), “Rise Above” (5:32), “The Government” (3:45), “Super Ego Star” (3:40), “Hang On” (4:12)
Dale Thompson - Lead Vocals
Troy Thompson - Guitars
Lawrence Bishop - Bass
Steve Osborne - Lead Guitar
Jason Lewis & Mark Gray - Drums