Thanks to the recruitment of Cathedral drummer Brian Dixon and Witch Mountain guitarist Rob Wrong, The Skull’s second album The Endless Road Turns Dark feels more like a “proper” supergroup than its Trouble offshoot status. However, it is still largely cut from the same cloth as 2014’s For Those Which Are Asleep. The musicianship remains defined by polished but bone-crushing doom riffs backing vocalist Eric Wagner’s ragged melodies, and individual songs spend as much time moping around as they do rocking out.
But while the two albums’ ingredients are about the same, this effort differs in how The Skull chooses to spread them out. The Skull’s debut remains a brilliant outing, but feels somewhat stilted due to its rather segregated halves. The band seemed to notice this too, as the song styles on here intermingle much more freely in comparison. It runs the risk of sounding jumbled, but an understanding of mood fluctuations results in a smoother, multi-faceted listen.
Songs like the haunting “Breathing Underwater” and the hard rock of “The Longing” may echo shades of the debut, but other songs on The Endless Road Turns Dark prove to be fascinating wild cards. A previously unexplored blues influence makes itself known as “From Myself Depart” brings in a heavy but laid-back rhythm that resurfaces to deliver all out despair on “All That Remains (Is True).” The way that “Thy Will Be Done” closes out with a reprisal of the title track’s chorus is also a nice touch. I’m such a sucker for cyclical stuff like that.
The Skull’s second full-length album can feel like a mere companion to the debut when considering their similar styles, but this one finds its own ways to stand out. It’s easy to attribute the greater variety to a comparably shuffled song order, but there are some adventurous tracks and the atmosphere is quite haunting on its own terms. The Endless Road is not only worth the weight but is, along with its predecessor, a glowing model for how all the old guard should conduct themselves.
“The Endless Road Turns Dark”
“From Myself Depart”
“All That Remains (Is True)”