The Skull Defekts - Dances in Dreams of the Known Unknown

by Andy Brown Rating:9 Release Date:2014-04-08

It’s been a few years in the making but finally Sweden’s The Skull Defekts present their follow up to the frankly monumental Peer Amid. Joined again by ex-Lungfish vocalist Daniel Higgs, the band manages to pick up where they left us in 2011.

Dances in the Dreams of the Known Unknown shrugs off the suggestion that the band would struggle to follow on from such a strong record. This is the sound of a band at the peak of their powers, a band who sound truly inspired, and a band who care enough to give their fans what they deserve. It’s a hypnotic, engrossing and, most importantly, exciting experience. The Skull Defekts are on a trip and you’re all invited to come along.

The album opens with the post-punk clatter of ‘Pattern of Thoughts’. The track's tribal rhythms and spikey guitars almost bring to mind a more muscular, peyote-induced The Pop Group. The song acts as a shamanistic call-to-arms as Higgs sings about an ancient dance, a “sex magic ritual” which brings purpose to the idea of “just having a good time”.

The band's grooves dig deep, while Higgs’ presence brings an impressive force to each tension-racked second. Second track ‘It Started with the Light’ sounds equally thunderous, with yet more tribal percussion and distortion-drenched guitar. It’s an arresting start to the album and they’re only just warming up.

‘The Fable’ reaffirms the band's faith in the power of repetition with a relentlessly driving riff which recalls the sexy, robotic-rock Josh Homme first nailed on the QOTSA debut LP. Every good band knows that repetition is the key after all. After two minutes, the track explodes into life and Higgs tells us: "Found myself in a fable/ face down at the banquet table/ Somebody slipped me a substance/ I spoke in a tongue unknown to me”.

Higgs' cryptic wordplay adds further layers of mystic mystery to the band's ongoing psychedelic march. You find yourself wondering how so many groups get away with being so crushingly bland, depressingly obvious.

‘King of Misinformation’ is a low-swinging, noise-drenched leviathan which drags us further into the band's hypnotic world, with Higgs imploring us to, “Listen to my voice/ I speak in tongues/ It is here to guide you/ It’s here to mislead you”. Higgs is the ideal circus-master, shaman, mythic rock figure to guide us through the album's dark twists and turns. His calm but purposeful vocals act as a light in the labyrinth. ‘Awaking Dream’ serves as a brief yet intense, prayer-like meditation before the bone-rattling gallop of ‘The Known Unknown’ knocks us for six with some superbly propulsive riff-work.

‘Venom’ gives us some brilliantly discordant guitars, almost coming across as prime-time Sonic Youth in the process. Discordant but never chaotic, the band know exactly what they’re doing. ‘Little Treasure’ takes us even further out into the desert with a slow, trance-inducing crawl of tablas and heavy, reverberating riffs. If they can pull this off live then we’re in for a treat.

The album comes to a close with the hypnotic charge of ‘Cyborganization’, with Higgs endlessly repeating the track's title (Fuck knows what it means, but who cares). One last transcendental raga for the devotees before they, presumably, go for a well-earned lie down.

Dances in the Dreams of the Known Unknown reminds you that rock music should be exciting and subversive. And despite only being grooves on a piece of vinyl, shouldn’t rock music also feel that little bit dangerous? The Skull Defekts have made one hell of a record. The sound of a band gleefully dancing of the precipice and falling into the known unknown.  

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