Skull Fist – Way of the Road (Napalm)

Tuesday, 6th November 2018
Rating: 8/10

Temporarily derailed as guitarist/vocalist Zach Slaughter had to have surgery on his vocal cords, Skull Fist wisely decided to take their time in releasing album three Way of the Road. Already established for their exciting brand of Canadian heavy/speed metal, it shouldn’t be surprising that these lads wish to shake things up a bit on the latest offering – because what better time to expand all parameters of what you can do than now? It’s obvious after multiple spins that the quartet reach deep into their grab bag of influences and this go around accentuate some of that party/melodic hard rock fare that made the US 80’s scene such an MTV/commercial radio staple.

It comes into play in certain simplified guitar hooks and supplementary chorus lines like “No More Running”, where you can imagine Dokken and Cinderella connecting to possibly Y&T, as Zach chooses to float into more of a mid-range comfort level while only hitting the falsettos during key segments and Casey Guest lands a sultry bass presence. Or the uplifting, sunny disposition that permeates the title cut, the guitars weave in and out a la Thin Lizzy against the California skyline, a killer rhythm groove connecting as the chorus begs for sing-a-long action. Those expecting the double bass, high octane guitar numbers where Zach sings his face off, never fear – “You Belong to Me” and “I Am a Slave” fit that bill to raise adrenaline and encourage blitzkrieg mania when performed live. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to see this younger band decelerate and develop more ‘commercial’ licks and hooks, but in a different way than fellow Canadian band Cauldron, as they feel radio-ready when you hear instantly the chorus to “Heart of Rio” or the sweet harmonies of closer “Stay True”.

What will this mean for Skull Fist followers? It could be a pleasure trip for some, or have others looking for heavier/greener pastures – depending on what you want out of this band. In the end, it’s not a bad effort by any means – you just wish there was another banger or two in the mix to keep the ratios more 50/50 rather than leaning on the melodic hard rock spectrum this go around.

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