Published May 15, 2015Since their debut in 2009, the Skeletones Four have approached the horror genre in a different manner than most bands that have come before. While punk and metal outfits like the Misfits and Cannibal Corpse, respectively, have chosen to shock music fans with speed, violent urgency and hellish landscapes, the Skeletones Four have taken a mellower, Ouija board-inspired route to the supernatural, unearthing inoffensive ghouls and ghosts with a classic rock pedigree. On their latest album, Petrified Forest, the Guelph natives combine Allman Brothers' dual guitars with Meddle-era Pink Floyd synths to create a sound that is at once groovy, psychedelic and characterized by unusual time signatures.
Fully instrumental versions of "Werewolves Bite" and "I Woke Into A Nightmare," which originally appeared in 8-bit form on the band's 2014 Press Play On Tape EP, appear here, and still feature charming MG-1 synth excerpts that could easily find themselves in Konami's 1986 video game classic, Castlevania. But there's charm to be found elsewhere, too: "Ghost Dude," for example, is an odd little narrative that follows a mortal who is commanded by a ghost dude to find the specter's decapitated head. Where black metal and punk alternatives would shriek and roar the tale, vocalist Andrew Collins is far more subdued, relaying the comically absurd events with eerie coolness while intermingling guitars support his voice.
Yet the album is far more than just a collection of electric crypt keeper chronicles. Alongside "Monster Mash"-type campiness and occasional synth music of the elevator variety, Petrified Forest is undeniably solid talent that underlines the whole project. The Rocky Horror Picture Show-esque soul ballad "Phantom Love" and similarly styled "Up To the Waves" are only possible because of the group's pop sensibilities and chops, without which the Skeletones Four would risk wearing out their genre with Halloween clichés. Luckily, their skilfully executed, uptempo guitar licks and rhythmic spontaneity prevails in keeping the record fresh throughout. (Squirtgun Records)