Skinlab… in 2009? Some fifteen years after the band emerged from the Bay Area thrash scene – mostly thanks to jocking from Machine Head’s Robb Flynn when both bands were Bay Area up-and-comers – Skinlab is back with The Scars Between Us… for better or worse. The band’s fourth full-length release and seventh overall (including an EP, a double-disc album containing alternate and live versions of songs, and a full-on live album), The Scars Between Us is Skinlab’s comeback album of sorts – and first for new label Stand And Deliver Records. The question is: can they resurrect a career after seemingly treading water, like Machine Head did a few years back after the one-two punch of nu-metal disasters The Burning Red and Supercharger before returning to the metal press’ pages of high praise?

Let’s explore, shall we? Okay, so starting out with gravel-throated screams and double bass is cool enough, but…Uh-oh, nu-metal riff number one pops in less than thirty seconds into album starter “Face of Aggression” (and come on – did they really just end the track with repeating ‘dunda reee, dunda ree, dunda ree’ on guitar to boot?). Yikes! We’re in for a trip on this one. Such is the case for much of the rest of The Scars Between Us, a foray into mediocrity and marginal quality.

These are the reviews that are difficult to do, though. How does one not mention what everybody else is going to write about? How can we ignore the Machine Head comparisons, the nu-metal jokes, the fact that Skinlab disappeared off the face of the earth for a few years, or how it’s a bunch of groove-oriented riffs not too dissimilar from fellow Cannabis-lovers Six Feet Under (sans the guitar solos)? Heck, even most of Skinlab’s “groove” isn’t even all that groovy. Maybe it’s not so much that The Scars Between Us is horrible as it’s just not terribly innovative, modernized, or intriguing. Metal doesn’t have to sound modern, but this mid- to late-90s funk of down-tuned guitars and tortured vocals is what ruined a lot of extreme music ten years ago. This is basically radio rock nu-metal.

While a few tracks aren’t terrible – namely “Amphetamine Gods” and the almost Crowbar-influenced sludge of “Karma Burns” – most songs here nefariously border that aforementioned nu-metal territory, while some are just ridiculous, redundant jokes in riffery. “Scream At The World” may have one of the most boring riffs ever committed to tape, and “My Vendetta” utilizes poorly-inspired guitars and monotonous sorta-sung choruses. This sort of mostly-mid-tempo drudgery just isn’t terribly amusing or interesting, and the tempo diversity drops off almost entirely after a few opening tracks. On top of that, nearly half the tracks clock in at the five-plus minute mark, giving The Scars Between Us a  fifty minute running time without much musical diversity, or much of anything to mix things up. Somebody’s probably stoked Skinlab is back, somewhere out there. But it ain’t me.

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(1 1/2 out of 5 horns)


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