Release Date: Feb 2, 2010
Record label: Neurot
Genre(s): Rock, Experimental
Don't enter Strange Keys to Untune Gods' Firmament-- a 12-track, 2xCD, two-hour-plus marathon of feedback-and-distortion charges for electric guitar and electronics from Britain's Skullflower-- casually. Sure, released by Neurot Recordings, it's one of the few titles in the band's two-decade run to have a substantial marketing push, but it's also one of the most extreme. Built on depth charges and swan dives into razing nine- and 14-minute instrumental immersions, and forgoing any pause between them, Strange Keys overpowers and exhilarates, the sort of record that rewards the commitment it demands with intensity and brutality.
Matthew Bower's continued pursuit of musical extremism on all fronts under his most well-known project name continues with what might be the ultimate Skullflower album title so far. Certainly, Strange Keys to Untune God's Firmament sums up the essential approach of Bower on guitar -- uncomfortable or unusual guitar feedback that doesn't sound so much played as willed into creation, aiming to disrupt nearly any kind of structure that might be created. Song titles like "Enochian Tapestries," "Gateway to Blasphemous Light" and, at its most darkly romantic, "Blackened Angel Wings Scythe the Billowing Void" further conjure an atmosphere of cosmic chaos -- and not for nothing is this is the first release Bower's had on the Neurot label, given label owner/musician Steve Von Till's clear appreciation for Bower's work in the past.
A lot of water has flowed under the sonic bridge in the 13 years between Skullflower records. The sustained, blistering industrial drone that kicks off “Shivering Aurora,” the opener of the 12-song, two-disc set Strange Keys to Untune God’s Firmament, reminds us that this band sat at this musical chair first, or at least close to it. This album marks Skullflower's return with style and massive gusto.
Skullflower has gone through several sonic permutations since its inception in 1982. As the only permanent member, Matthew Bower (Total, Sunroof!, Hototogisu, Mirag, Youngsbower) has shown considerable flexibility and growth: his more recent work is a far cry from his early efforts, which were fleshed out with drums and bass grinding along at mid-to-slow tempo beneath hails of noise bullets wrangled from his guitar. While no two fans may agree on the high and low points of their back catalog, the more recent Tribulation (Crucial Blast, 2006) and Taste The Blood Of The Deceiver (Not Not Fun, 2008) are certainly high water marks.
When a record opens with something that sounds not unlike a pair of jet engines warming up, afterburners throttling up and down, it’s hard not to pay attention to it. Consider that an opening salvo: explicitly directed at those who will decry Skullflower (aka Matthew Bower and friends) as wallpaper music for black metal fans. As any who have had the fortune to see Bower and co.