When you hear the name Skullcrusher, your mind immediately assumes it must be a black metal band from somewhere that’s cold who may have performed in blood at one time or another. However Skullcrusher is not only the moniker of singer songwriter Helen Ballentine, but it’s also the opposite of that sound and favors a more indie folk tone. On her self-titled debut E.P. Ballentine swoons from track to track while offering a deeply personal tone that rings true especially today.
The opening track “Places/Plans” lends itself to the soft and tender tones that fall throughout the release. The dual vocals make for a nice touch falling above the acoustic strums like a poem being read for the first time. When the piano comes in it dances like rain on marble and the vocals help lift the track to a higher plane. This is followed by the whimsical and more folk based sounds of “Trace.” While the song could stand alone as just a strong single, the vocals again are what pull you in. Beneath the vocals a banjo plucks and an acoustic strums to become the basis for the vocals to thrive. There are moments where the song embodies the past, yet Ballentine makes it her own complete with piano jabs and an orchestral tracking.
While “Two Weeks in December” is perfectly balanced, you kind of wish it had a longer run time before reminding yourself that some songs don’t have to fit into the traditional run time to be great. The closer “Day of Show” brings the EP full circle. Mixing organs and an acoustic, Ballentine’s voice holds strong between a melancholy and personal wondermint. The additional strings help lift things before the vocals belt out into the sky, showing off the emotional heft of the track. The song is the strongest of the release, blossoming in arrangements while growing with each note. There’s a subtlety in how Skullcrusher writes, though it not only stands out but also stays with you well after it plays.
Skullcrusher is available to preorder physically in multiple formats and bundles ahead of its physical release date on October 23 directly from Secretly Canadian. It’s also available to purchase in all digital outlets or to stream on all streaming sites.
Image Credits: Photo by Silken Weinberg.