New York’s Skullshitter are as uncompromising and hostile as their name suggests. They also have a sense of humour and a mission to inject doses of psychedelia and Satan worship into their grindcore assault. They may be a three-piece, but they’re heavier than an Eyehategod hangover and noisier than a nuclear test explosion in the desert. The message is clear: you can embrace the inner savage and discover a spiritual side to your existence at the same time.
Skulshitter are clever if not predictable for including their best song as the opening track on Goat Claw. ‘Angels of Decay’ is a fervid blast of mean guitar noise and grinding death metal vocals, yet the riffs are razor sharp when Sean Walsh palm-mutes his strings and gives the drummer something to think about. The vocals are goblin-like and seem improvised until they drop into a lower semitone of guttural morbidity. This band understand the importance of tempo variation and end their opener with a homicidal slab of death-doom.
Many of the opening tracks flash by like tornado fighter jets that promise so much spectacle but overawe you with their power. This is grindcore at its purest – short, violent, demonic in its rage. ‘Mindpower’ draws from the toxic waste of Terrorizer for its purpose, while ‘Auto Cannibal Nihilistic Creep’ will remind you of Brazilian extreme metal crew, Nervochaos. The ear-twitching intensity of ‘Struggle to Die’ is one of few songs to venerate Napalm Death, but Skullshitter are at their best when they crank up the bass distortion and allow Robert Nelson to add his technical drum fills to the likes of ‘Dripping Violence’ and ‘Following’. For what use is extreme metal if it doesn’t crush you and unsettle your instincts at the same time?
Sixteen songs would invite reservations if this was not a grindcore album, but thirty-four minutes are an easy ‘uneasy’ listen in this regard. Standout moments appear like a compilation of outtakes from a live comedy show – you’ll find enough to come back for more. ‘Doing Drugs with the Devil’ is pure chaos when the hysterical vocals take over, but the guitars pulsate with a subtle complexity of hammer-on and pull-off techniques. More of these riffs would go a long way on this record, although the rough death metal of ‘Morbid Tomb’ has its charms. Here, they mix death-doom with punk rock and the noxious death metal of Father Befouled and manage to exceed the four-minute mark for the only time on the LP.
Skullshitter are proud of their noise terrorism, but their embrace of a dog-woofing backing vocal on ‘Locus of Death’ stretches the limits of silliness, to the point where you wonder what people would think if they caught you listening to this at work. Is this last song a spewing froth of audio graffiti aimed at the high brow critics who write off this music as nihilistic? If so, it will only confirm their prejudices.
Goat Claw is an enthralling sophomore effort from the New Yorkers with a few minor flaws, but it will excite the grindcore underground. And you know it will be just as devastating in a live environment.
Release Date: 06/05/2022
Record Label: Nerve Altar
Standout tracks: Angel of Decay, Ramlord, Doing Drugs with the Devil
Suggested Further Listening: Bleeding Out – Lifelong Death Fantasy (2020), VHS – Gore from Beyond the Stars (2021), Massive Charge – For Those We Hate (2021)