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SKULL FIST Paid In Full

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Monday, April 25, 2022 @ 4:40 PM


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SKULL FIST
Paid In Full

Atomic Fire Records




I was expecting a bit more “fist to the skull” from Canada’s SKULL FIST. Tunes like “Crush Kill Destroy”, “Warrior Of The North” or “Heavier Than Metal” and the “big, muscley arm” – to quote the prevy old Family Guy neighbor Mr. Herbert - clutching a coil of chain on the cover conjured thoughts of MANOWAR or vintage EXODUS or EXCITER or somesuch: unbridled, pit-worthy, horn-throwing old-school metal up your ass.

But the trio offers a more refined, melodic take on ‘80s thrash/speed metal that, first impressions aside, works just fine and makes for a fairly entertaining, if a bit reserved, listen on Paid In Full. SKULL FIST’s fourth album does sound a bit like EXODUS in its riffiness, but at half the speed and with a healthy splash of early IRON MAIDEN, especially in Casey Guest’s nimble bass lines and frontman Zach Slaughter’s tangled guitar harmonies.

The pacing here is generally measured, even during the double-bassy chugs of comparatively faster tunes like “For The Last Time”, the aforementioned “Warrior Of The North” and the self-reverential “Long Live The Fist”. But that is dictated more by Slaughter’s deliberate guitaring than JJ Tartaglia’s drumming – as one gets the impression he could launch into quite a gallop if he wanted to. Slaughter seems more inclined to steer toward chunky riffs and simple, direct arrangements than the fret-burning blur of much textbook thrash/speed metal. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Indeed it makes for a perfect fit for Slaughter’s power metally vocals, which at times echo Bruce Dickinson or Micheal Kiske’s air-raid siren wail. There is no barking or growling going on here as Slaughter’s resolutely clean delivery amplifies the ample melody that already punctuates just about everything here, even in the soaring “Ma-aa-ad fucking maaan!” chorus of “Madman”.

But as alluded to earlier, Slaughter can get pretty frisky when it comes to his lead work or the bridges betwixt and between the more riff-centric sections here. His twin solos and dueling runs recall Killers-era IRON MAIDEN or THIN LIZZY in its prime – and will require a replacement for departed second guitarist Johnny Nesta for “THE FIST” to replicate on tour - and provide enough spark and spunk to make up for what Paid In Full might lack in velocity or unabashed aggressiveness. It’s something that can said to a certain extent of similarly minded retro bands like Sweden’s ENFORCER or speedier Canadian compatriots STRIKER who favor finesse over a more rough-and-tumble approach.

The eight songs here are all tight, compact – clocking in at a tidy 33-plus minutes overall - and provide money-shot choruses galore that just beg to be sung along to in a live environment, especially “Crush Kill Destroy” or the warblier “Heavier Than Metal”. They will certainly - and appropriately - get fists pumping, even if SKULL FIST’s somewhat tempered approach doesn’t quite deliver the sort of ass-whooping it implies might be on the way.

3.0 Out Of 5.0


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