ALBUM REVIEW: Frayle – Skin and Sorrow


Skin & Sorrow (Aqualamb) is the second full-length release from Cleveland, Ohio’s “heavy, low and witchy” duo Frayle. The band consists of multi-instrumentalist Sean Bilovecky and singer Gwyn Strang, who between them cite the influence both doom metal (Black Sabbath, Kyuss, Sleep) and avant-garde pop (Björk, Portishead). Frayle’s stated aim is to create “music for the night sky”.

Sky aside, there is undoubtedly something of the night about Skin & Sorrow’s cover art. In fact it’s about as goth as goth can be, featuring as it does a stark painting-like image of Strang rising out of a midnight blue backdrop carrying a bouquet of yellow-white roses, her face covered with a dark veil and her head adorned by a crown of jet-black thorns. Her glamorously mournful face stares through the drapery, an embodiment of sex and death — those two ever-present themes in gothic culture.

The record itself is centred around Strang’s mysterious and incantatory voice which pierces through Bilovecky’s minimalist and austere doom metal guitar riffs. She mostly keeps to an assuredly understated tone, and most of her parts are multi-layered with different octaves and tonal inflections that combine to create one strange, beautiful and slightly frightening amalgam. Barely-breathed whispers are often the loudest iteration of her voice at any given time. Strang’s eminently catchy vocal melodies are suffused with an intensely eerie magic that is profoundly seductive. Occasionally a lone whisper-scream rises from the ether to repeat one of the key phrases such as “I sent you roses” with ominous and baleful portent.


Witchy indeed.


Bilovecky’s musical arrangements are simple, repetitive, driving and coolly forceful. The focus is usually on one one-chord drone-riffs that artfully ebb and flow with the wavelike dynamic oscillation of thunderous drums that stick steadfastly to their languid tempos. The texture shifts between contrapuntal layers of effect-laden atmospherics and leviathan monolithic sludge. It is as achingly bleak as it is stratospherically epic (I suppose that’s where the aforementioned “sky” element comes in), but the noise metal element is reined in just beneath the point of saturation so that the sound still retains a smoothness that befits the elegance of the vocals.


Skin & Sorrow doesn’t necessarily reach that elusive and near-unobtainable peak of creating something genuinely new; this kind of synthesis of the gothic rock, doom metal and art pop lexicons has been explored many times by Emma Ruth Rundle, Chelsea Wolfe and several others. However, this album is a genuinely bewitching and magnetic work of sombre dark rock that will resonate with fans of everyone from PJ Harvey to My Dying Bride.


Buy the album here:


7 / 10