Skinner - Sleepwalkers (Dead Inside Records)

State-of-the-art US power/thrash...
Release Date: 
6 May 2014 (All day)

Skinner: A new name on me but one I’m hoping will keep coming back to my ears a lot in the upcoming years. Named after vocalist Norman Skinner, the band offers up a very attractive brand of US power/thrash metal on this, their debut album. They mix things up nicely throughout, and though they are very much ‘of their type’ things never get so stale or formulaic that you’re looking to skip through the tracks in search of more substantial nourishment.

After the obligatory acoustic introduction, the title track erupts from the speakers at breakneck speed, all muscular riffs (the band has three guitarists!) and supremely dynamic drumming courtesy of skinsman Noe Luna. Although the band hails from the Bay Area this is no-generic thrashabout; after the excitement of the title track the band move into more ‘progressive’ territory on the excellent Orphans of Liberty. Skinner sings his arse of on this track, which has a real epic, Ripper-era Iced Earth feel to it. It’s a splendid piece of portentous, rousing metal, especially when the band ramp up the intensity at the start of the instrumental mid section of the song. 

Hell in My Hands is perhaps not quite the equal of the first two songs, but once again some spectacular musical interplay in the mid part of the song keeps the momentum going. Hats off then to guitarists Robert and Grant Kolowitz and Alfred Luis San Miguel (and lets not forget bassist Jim Pegram whilst we’re handing out gongs), all of whom put in MVP performances throughout this album.

Blind Led Blind is another power metal corker, and once again Skinner is front and centre with another commanding performance. The man sings with impressive power, handling everything from deathly drowls to stratosphere-bothering screams with grand aplomb, but it’s his powerful work in the mid ranges that really makes you stop and listen; the man is a proper, old-school metal singer of the sort you don’t really hear too much any more, and his work throughout this album is consistently a real pleasure to listen to.

Guilt Ridden is up next, and it’s easily the most commercial-sounding track on the album, almost sounding like a heavied-up Queensrÿche circa Empire. There are big names cropping up in this review I know, but Skinner never pale by comparison – there’s an undeniable whiff of greatness about some of the material on Sleepwalkers that really marks the band out as power/thrash contenders.

Breathe the Lie gives the listener a bit of a break by dropping in pace though not intensity, with Luna throwing in some excellent double kick work to keep pounding home the Skinner message – these guys mean business!

You don’t get much respite though, for next track Bound is back and blazes in with an all-out modern thrash assault that just keep daring you to keep upping the volume until it’s at the sort of level a song like this truly deserves, and then we’re heading for home in the shape of last three tracks Miss Agony, The Breathing Room and The Enemy Within all of which sound every bit as good as what’s come before - especially the mightily impressive The Breathing Room, where the band again dips into prog metal territory..

Sleepwalkers is an absolutely must-have album if you’re a fan of that uniquely American power/thrash mix, but really if you just like damn good heavy metal there’s absolutely no reason why you wouldn’t want this on your shelves. Fabulous!