Review by Alex on May 12, 2018.
On Shadow Syndicate, Skinned plays a form of brutal death metal fused with slam vocals, black metal vocals, and melodic death metal that are all used very sparingly. Speaking of black metal vocals; it also sounds like Heljarmadr of Grá is featured on the opening track “Wings of Virulence”, either that or someone in Skinned is a really awesome vocalist or vocalist/guitarist. On Shadow Syndicate they frequently jump from melodic to less groovy instrumentation with fast tremolo picking, pinch harmonics and buzzing guitars (see "Led to the Trains). One thing is definite whilst listening to the album is that Skinned seems to love using gravity blasts especially on the track “We Are the End”. They way in which Skinned structure’s the music on Shadow Syndicate is not technical; however, you can’t really predict what the next section will be when it comes to the drumming and guitars. A perfect example of this can be heard on the track “Mental Deconstruction” throughout it's 3:10 timespan. The technique is slightly familiar to that of Origin, though Origin is a very technical band, one can hear segments of Origin’s style of musical composition tiptoe into the notes.
“Black Rain” is a moderately slow groovy instrumental track; I think Skinned implemented this to give the headbanger a period of rest before the relentless display continued to damage all that stepped in its way. And in some ways, the band did this to add diversity and a deeper layer in the tone of the album. The second half of the album showed a calm approach in comparison to 1st half of Shadow Syndicate. The blasts beats are still present along with the riffing but they feel more relaxed and at times restrained in contrast to the opening moments of the album. There is also a less melodic sound to the music and more of a mid-paced and mid-tempo breakdown (not in a deathcore way). “Angel’s Haarp” embodies what the second half of Shadow Syndicate represents. It possesses tiny fragments of blast beat drumming, toned down riffing, longer segments of breakdowns and compact melodic segments.
From what I can understand lyrically, the concepts appear to examine mankind’s psyche’s many flaws/inadequacies as a result of not applying thought before his/her actions and how it ties into mental enslavement leading to an apocalyptic event soon to come. Yet another band can identify that there is truly something wrong with human beings, in my opinion not by design but by an inclination to decadence. Overall the album is definitely a team effort; at no point in time did I get the feeling of a half-assed undertaking by Skinned. The album materializes as a very good well-timed and controlled artistic crafting. The clear production helps the music to shine in certain segments that give identity its appropriate track. Shadow Syndicate is an enjoyable album from beginning to end, I’ve already had at least 3 listens since acquiring it and I've never once felt negatively overwhelmed or exhausted.
Rating: 8.4 out of 10