LP - $9.00 | CD - $12.00
Taking Hardcore, Grind, Crust, and Metal and playing them all like they're the same thing Seattle's Skarp have crafted a a sonic suicide note that demands to be heard. Adeptly interlaced with samples that set the stage for the ensuing mayhem, Requiem is loosely conceptual, with all fourteen tracks (and an intro) touching on the topic of suicide.
Throughout the record, the band keeps the proceedings fresh and intense, as bulldozing heavy moments crush the listener under the sheer massive weight of the riffs, while haunting, multi-textural riffs complement the raw power with just enough color in the dark musical landscape. Post-nordic Black Metal-isms segue into raw speed-crust seamlessly, creating a musical balance of terror that is as intense as it is effective.
Formed in 2000 as a band heavily influenced by Choking Victim, Skarp quickly steered their ships into heavier, more turbulent waters, trading the ska elements for blast beats. Their EPs established the band's presence in the underground and heavy touring throughout the western US, as well as all over Canada followed. In 2004 the band gigged exhaustively throughout Europe for the first time as well. Skarp at last came to the attention of AT's overlord, the irrepressible Jello Biafra after they opened his shows with the Melvins on New Year's 2004/2005 in Seattle. After thoroughly devastating the audience, Biafra knew that AT would be the only logical home for such a passionate and independent act.
The band was signed and began to craft Requiem under the watchful eye of veteran producer Billy Anderson forging a fearsome aural assault. Skarp's savage brand of grinding mayhem, known as "Blackout Grind" amongst the band's true believers, will strike a chord with all fans of crust, grind, hardcore and the more virulent strains of metal.
"So when was it that Jello Biafra decided to start pumping out all this crazy blackened metal? Yowza. Meet the new Karyn Crisis. Her name is Renae Louise Betts and the band is Skarp. They go by the tag of "blackout grind" and are this crust punk/black metal/doomy metalcore amalgam. They skin people alive, figuratively and (I'm assuming) literally. The lyrics are pretty good -- very devious and poetic, socially aware and razor sharp. This band has a tendency to take black and death rffs but play them off in a punk manner all the while caking on layers of metalcore in the structure and in transitions. Not exceedingly tech but inventive and hooky with lots of changeups. There are lots of meaty Quorthon blackened thrash riffs flying around like ginsu in a Steven Seagal knife fighting picture."
- Metal Mayhem
"And here I was thinking that all of those ska bands from the late nineties jumped ship for emo. Skarp is a band who describe themselves as former Choking Victim disciples, which will be enough to put off some listeners by itself. Oddly enough, the band has apparently abandoned their upstroked guitars and chessboard-pattern guitar straps in favor of something more or less unheard of these days: a virtually untouched brand of genre hybridization. Specifically, Skarp has engineered a fusion of melodic black metal and crusty hardcore, of all things, which as far as I know is a new thing in the metal world. Even more surprisingly, the band makes the oddball combination work, and Requiem is thick with adept songwriting and high-quality riffs.
One would think that such an odd coupling of styles would make for choppy, piecemeal songwriting, but Skarp have crafted a collection of tracks that might make you consider just how much of a punk influence black metal has after all. Songs like 'Requiem' blend scathing tremolo blasts with desperately melodic, His Hero Is Gone-styled punk fairly evenly, while other parts of the album lean more heavily one way or the other. The general trend is more towards black metal early in the album, with the speed-laden 'Turn Away,' 'Industrialized,' and 'Cold Blue Serenity,' while the ear-splitting punk rock of 'One In Five' and especially 'Not A Human' dominate Requiem's later tracks. The range of moods here is surprisingly broad; from the speed and power of 'Fuck Your Bad Day' to the contemplative doom of 'Absence' to the oddball ska throwback that breaks up 'Hooks,' Skarp are versatile without bogging down in forced eclecticism. The eminent Billy Anderson's production job is clear without belying the band's underground aesthetic, while Skarp themselves are tight if unflashy musicians. It's difficult to find any real fault on this album at all; even vocalist Renae Betts' occasional melodic shouting is done tastefully.
It's easy to see why Jello Biafra considered this band worthy of his Alternative Tentacles label; despite Skarp's seemingly out-of-place metal leanings, they possess a level of inventiveness and originality that is a distinct hallmark of their labelmates. It's a shame this band will go largely unnoticed, as there are scads of metalheads who would undoubtedly love the dark melodies and blistering aggression to be had on this album. Requiem is extremely well written and, more importantly, endowed with a modicum of originality in the saturated metal scene. You?d be foolish to let this one slip by unheard."
- Metal Review
"I expected some kind of scat-loving grindcore band. Instead, I got me a black metal/grind/crust/hardcore punk band with a ferocious female vocalist. Musically, it doesn't sound too shabby, the overall speed is high, some cool riffs and a hefty hardcore touch, think a squat-version of Wals of Jericho!"
- Punk Rock Theory