Review: The Skull Defekts – The Skull Defekts (Thrill Jockey, Feb 23)

This self-titled album is the Swedish band The Skull Defekts’ final release, a swan song to close out nearly fifteen years of continuous activity. According to founding member Joachim Nordwall, the group’s initial goal was to make “circular, ritualistic, monotonous rock music.” It’s pretty poetic, then, that their final album is their most fully realized success at this task yet. It’s a work of intense passion, but in an entirely singular way; every second is full of barely restrained aggression and emotion, struggling to escape but never succeeding. The grooves are nocturnal and hypnotic, Henrik Rylander’s percussive drumming almost never leaving the toms as he builds to imperceptible climaxes amidst cutting feedback, guitar interplay, and the dual vocal powerhouse of Nordwall and Mariam Wallentin. The Skull Defekts is equal parts frightening, awesome, sultry, abrasive, and ecstatic in its defiance. It’s an incredibly fitting end to the band, a monument to the members’ chemistry despite mounting tension, and a touching thank-you note to everyone that has been involved along the way.