Austin Psych Fest Live (Sunday): Dead Skeletons

Icelandic aggression and attrition

Rolling on a river: Dead Skeleton
Rolling on a river: Dead Skeleton (by Gary Miller)

Iceland’s Dead Skeletons evolved out of an art installation. Now, this collaboration between Singapore Sling’s Henrik Bjornsson and Asteroid #4’s Ryan Van Kreidt comes to the people via the full-length Dead Magick, a forthcoming EP titled Buddha-Christ, and a set at Austin Psych Fest in front of a spotlight-enhanced Colorado River.

With a sixpiece band, the core duo lets go of the electronic creepiness on its recordings for a full-bodied rock sound that doesn’t eschew the repetition of the discs. The bag o’ bones lifted off immediately with “Kingdom of God,” a veritable anthem that illustrates how uplifting mantra rock can be when flipped from minor to major chords.

“Buddha-Christ” kept the show rolling, appropriating Pink Floyd’s “Lucifer Sam” riff to the end of a freight train rhythm. After a pair of songs that shimmered with thrills, the band hit a slump – tempos lagged, repetition numbed, and momentum crashed and burned as the group tuned its instruments endlessly between songs. Hard to blame them, though. The humidity endured when playing on a river no doubt plays havoc with intonation.

Fortunately, the Skels’ natural talents righted the ship as aggression kicked in with the gothic rocker “Kundalini Eyes” and the skronk-popping “Get On the Train.” On the latter, the band achieved peak acid grind in the manner of the Warlocks and their brethren. Climax finally (ahem) came with the final number, “Dead Mantra” working a serious groove with percolating percussion – some of it provided by Joel Gion of the Brian Jonestown Massacre – plus electronic whooshes, and an expansive arrangement that turned the tune into as close to a party anthem as dark psych is likely to get.

Alas, the war of attrition meant Dead Skeletons lost a good half of the audience to restlessness and the Black Angels, who began their set during this one. The diehards who remained at least got to see the set’s early promise fulfilled.

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