09 Oct 2022 - Gene
Goth, Stoner, Doom, Heavy Metal | Aqualamb | Release date: 23 Sep 2022
Anti-love anthems for Desert-Rock Dreams
Not too difficult to see why this album is so captivating to a random 30-something (alright, 40!) who feels like his times of pubescent despair and dejection and, crucially, a chance meet with a likewise discarded copy of Bloody Kisses were as if just yesterday. Hang on! Have they managed to remix and refresh a niche nostalgia of the late 90’s for this desperate braggart and incidental music blogger? Quite so.
Trying to avoid easy comparisons to acts like Chealsea Wolfe here – another modern favorite for your humble pundit – but left, ultimately, to admit a certain artistic similarity, a spiritual kinship, at the very least. The solid sense of art direction and self-assured imagery are but the beginning. So much of the oeuvre seems so well-travelled. Had I seen them first on a Roadburn stage, I would have never guessed they hailed from Cleveland.
But there falter most comparisons in a single genre, simply because Frayle seems to arise from varying sets of influences and expressions, some even more unexpected than their imagery seems to portray. The Doom and Stoner roots shine proudly and elevate those integral harmonic themes within this highly refined esoteric dark aesthetic; an air of arcane mystery to your anti-love anthems and a desert rock swing to your doomy dirges. Themes of wilted love and loss populate every line and lick and at the smokey forefront styles a gothy Hecate of the Beth Gibbons-type to give that lovely darkness shape.
The brilliant “Bright Eyes” swiftly captures a moment in emotive space-time. Both defining and defying the modus operandi by which Frayle’s sweet lyricism slowly unfurls, structured as simply as “lullabies over chaos.” You have the title cut, to appreciate the bands’ measured approach to both storytelling: ”Poetry written/Not sent,” as well as rhythmic attack. Set morose melodrama to languid desert tones and you are somewhere between Type-O-Negative, Kyuss and Subrosa. A compelling crossroads. Don’t believe me? Take “Sacrifant” as reason enough to fawn all over this thing. That crunchy homage of a riff! “Ipecac” continues in your mid-tempo manner. The hooks concise, laser-sharp, well-appointed. “Stars” then brings in a lot of atmosphere, recalling, now and again, acts like The Gathering, in the very slightest. Then “Roses” steps in with a swinging groove to throw you off, with the bass ringing particularly sweet, the dirty guitar chords and drum all in step: ”Some love requires roses/I prefer the thorns”. Or the hypnotizing, if but tricky to phonate, “All The Things I Was”, or even the haunting, tribal vibes of “Song For The Dead,” a heavy, foreboding darkness creeping over flowers as they wilt to the touch.
Getting lost in the included book content is advised, too, which – like the book made for the first full-length record, 1692, is a veritable trove of art, fashion and Wiccan symbolism and plainly a sign of Frayle’s polymathic depth. I would have also loved to see the book in large print with the vinyl.
Is this not the Goth kid’s anti-love album of your high-school era hopeless-romantic reject dreams? The more doomy vitriol singer Gwyn Strang pours on the bouquet – out through the haunting and lovely “Perfect Wound” - the harder I fall in love with Frayle. In the few ragged moments where a scream is heard, so too there is a hint of filthier depths still. Let’s just be real here, we would all like to see them dip into the black metal register. But nevertheless, Skin & Sorrow distinguishes itself as a highly accomplished second effort exhuming another fine outlet for modern recobminant metal music which amalgamates a variety of niche wonderment and we are here for it.