Published Aug 15, 2014Skeleton Key's sophomore album, Obtanium, was first issued in 2002 on Faith No More/Mr. Bungle mastermind Mike Patton's Ipecac label — a perfect imprint for the New York trio's quirky junk-shop funk metal. At that point, Skeleton Key had attained a modicum of notability by picking up a Grammy nomination for the hole-punched packaging of their debut, Fantastic Spikes Through Balloon, and could count themselves among the post-Bungle wave of bands marrying metallic tendencies will all manner of eccentricities (see: Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Hella, any of Patton's side projects).
While Arctic Rodeo's reissue of Obtanium helps underscore the intriguing principle of Skeleton Key — using archaic gear and found objects to add textures to their avant-garde edge — it also reveals the limitations of the album. Namely, deliberately weird songwriting that's far too indebted to Faith No More (yet without the flair for melodic hooks) and an overall production that doesn't make nearly enough of the non-traditional instrumentation shine. Most of the tunes aren't very far removed from generic late-'90s alt-rock, though there are some inspired moments: the Primus-on-steroids riffage of "Dingbat Revolution" and solid loud-quiet-loud tension of "King Know It All." Skeleton Key embrace the sonic extremes more effectively on 2012's Gravity is the Enemy, so for anyone curious about the prototype for their current sensibilities, Obtanium is the place to start. (Arctic)