SKINTRADE – Scarred For Life

skintrade_scarredforlifecoverBack in the day when we wrote 1990-something in our calendars and Grunge was the new big thing, I had a bit of a problem with Skintrade. Because this Swedish five-piece – as they were back then – were in my eyes a big sell-out, a band that jumped on the Grunge bandwagon faster than you could say Nirvana. In reality, I didn’t have a clue about the band members’ taste in music. Well, their then guitarist and founder, not in the band today, George Bravo was a guy who was seen frequently out in the Swedish rock clubs then, but I didn’t know him so his taste in music wasn’t to my knowing at all. No, my biggest issues were with lead singer Matti Alfonzetti. He used to sing with, first Swedish Pop-Metal band Bam Bam Boys (what a horrible name) and after that with British blues oriented Hard Rockers Jagged Edge, a band that would later turn into Skin but with another singer. Now, both band were very melodic, great musicians and looked the 80’s part as well. But as soon as Alfonzetti had joined Skintrade, the hair was cut and he sported a new, more up to date look and the music he sang was dark, depressive and angry. To Alfonzetti’s defense, more or less every musician jumped that bandwagon then, just like everybody jumped on the Melodic Rock / AOR bandwagon in the 80’s. Skintrade recorded two records before they split-up, never to play together again – or so we might have thought. But back in 2014, Skintrade minus Bravo decided to start playing again. Needless to say, I didn’t jump for joy when the news reached me. But I must admit, I was a bit curious of how they would sound in 2014. Plus, the fact that I, just by coincidence, found a burned copy of Skintrade’s 1992 debut album and when I gave it a go again I found it much better than I remembered. It sounded more like a rock album and the Grunge influences weren’t as prominent as I remembered. And what I heard on their reunion album Refueled (reviewed here) was a very pleasant surprise. If Skintrade’s reunion would be just a one-off album or if they were back for real was pretty unsure though. But when, only after one year, it was clear that Skintrade would release another album, it really felt like the band was back for real – with no objections from this guy. The pleasant experience that was Refueled had made me a bit of a fan and I was really curious to find out if the band would be able to continue the quality success of their last effort.

The title track opens the record and if I had any worries that Skintrade might fuck things up with this record, this song blew those away. It’s a Hard Rock song, a bit darker with a heavy groove, but a killer melody makes it stick out. Also, the guitar solo is great, very melodic. “Goodbye” is a slower kind of rocker, very melodic and catchy, but there are still lots of heaviness to it. “Wide Awake”, originally recorded by Katy Perry and co-written by Katy and Max Martin among others, is a brilliant Melodic Rock song, both very catchy and an addictive groove – way to go, guys. “Lay With Me” has a dirty kind of groove and the whole song is more bluesy and rootsy, but it still holds some really memorable hooks. “Find A Way” is a magnificent ballad and in many ways it reminds me of Matti’s other band Impera – the fact is, this song would have been perfect for that band. That said, it’s really perfect for Skintrade in 2015 as well. “LoveHate” is phenomenal, a swinging and melodic rocker with some kick-ass heavy riffing and melodies to die for – thumbs up! “Leave A Scar” goes in a more alternative direction, but fear not Melodic Rock lovers, this song is much more than just Alternative. The mix of Alternative Rock and Melodic dito makes the song a winner. I’m thinking a band like Foo Fighters or Queens Of The Stone-Age mixed with some late 80’s / early 90’s Melodic Hard Rock. It’s a really good song, folks. “Broken” brings yet another twist to the sound. It’s a slower kind of rocker, a bit on the Southern Rock side with some really cool Thin Lizzy influenced twin guitars in the solo. With “Storm Will Come”, Skintrade get heavy and angry and the song is more in the vein of their mid-90’s sound. But I have no problem with that as it’s a really good song. They close the album with a killer Melodic Rock tune called “15 Minutes Gone”. It’s really a straight forward Hard Rock song with a heavy groove and a brilliant chorus. To put a great rocker like that as the last thing is, in my book, a smart thing. It makes you wanna play the album over and over again and leaves the listener on a good note.

By now you might have guessed that this album will get a pretty high rating – it will because it deserve every point. If you liked the last album, you can buy this one right of the bat without listening because it is very much a sister album to the last one. But that’s just style-wise, it’s not like the band is stealing from themselves or just keep on repeating the same melodies and riff all over again, no, this record stands safe on its own two feet. But for old fans of the band that might want a new version of their self titled debut or the follow-up Roach Powder (1995), just might be a bit disappointed. See, most of the Alternative and Grunge influences are more or less gone. Today Skintrade is a more straight forward Hard Rock band that put melodies and groove first and that suits them very well. I mean, they are even on a label called AOR Heaven. Not that Skintrade are an AOR band by any means. Still, to my ears, Skintrade in 2015 has more in common with Alfonzetti’s other projects Impera and Red, White & Blues (that’s Jagged Edge with a new name, actually) than any Grunge to be talked of. And Alfonzetti can still sing away most singers even now that he has passed his fifties (he’s actually 52). So are Skintrade relevant today then? Hell yes they are. It’s quite easy to hear that this band make music for the sheer love of Rock music and that the days of dreaming about multi-million sales are over and done, this is about the music alone. Welcome back for real guys.

8/10

Tracklist:

1. Scarred For Life
2. Goodbye
3. Wide Awake
4. Lay With Me
5. Find A Way
6. LoveHate
7. Leave A Scar
8. Broken
9. Storm Will Come
10. 15 Minutes Gone

 

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