Skinlab - _Nerve Damage_
(Century Media, 2004)
by: Jackie Smit (
As one journeys through this retrospective collection of rarities, spanning Skinlab's decade-long career, one is often struck by just how underappreciated the Bay Area quartet were. You see, while most every other member of the heavy metal fraternity was sporting outlandish day-glo hairstyles and a pair of trousers that appeared to be tailor-made for a small elephant, Skinlab busied themselves keeping things brutal. Shift their career forward by a mere five years and it becomes highly likely that they would have been the toast of the metallic crop. As _Nerve Damage_ so aptly testifies, when their combination of thrash and hardcore worked, they had the ability to be utterly devastating -- and it's no surprise therefore that even in demo form songs like "When Pain Comes to the Surface" still reek of the same class as their album counterparts. However, just as evident (if not more so if you take the nature of this release into consideration), consistency was not Skinlab's forte, and the band often missed the boat completely, coming across sounding disheveled and sloppy. Thus while _Nerve Damage_ will be a delight for hardcore fans, the casual listener might be better advised to give it a wide berth. For the devotees there's tons on offer though, ranging from an amusing selection of covers (Smashing Pumpkins' "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" among others) to demo recordings taken from each of their three releases, to live songs, to some frankly ill-advised remixes. Perhaps the two most sparkling treasures on the album come in the form of "Losing All" and "Beneath the Surface" -- unreleased songs written and recorded after the band's last _reVoltingRoom_ effort -- that cast a bright ray of hope on what Skinlab may still have in store for us in the future.
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