SKINHER – Heartstruck (2023)

SKINHER - Heartstruck (2023) - full

Certain cover art layouts give a great sense of what you’re musically in store for. This one definitely stood out with its pulp. “Heartstruck” is the debut album from SKINHER, the new side project of “Haris” (real name Kyle Skinher), keyboardist from Greek prog metal act Hail Spirit Noir.
What happens when a keyboardist sets out on their own? The masterpiece of a debut that is Heartstruck! If its any indication of the future, just, seriously man, stick with this! Forget that other band!
Taking trashy horror VHS culture of the 1980s as its primary aesthetic, that decade synth-driven rock and melding it with traditional melodic hard rock, Skinher is pure ’80s stuff taking you to the glory days of Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th and ‘that’ crazy soundtracks, catchy songs fueled with driving melodic guitars, strong vocals, compelling synths and a vintage analogue sound.
Think Paul Sabu and 1987 Alice Cooper meets Keel, Icon, King Kobra, etc.

The production quality is absolutely amazing, which is no surprise since it was mastered & mixed by Dim Douvras, and mastered in analogue by Alan Douches (Fates Warning, Motorhead). Featuring solid, soundtrack or murder chase scene-worthy riffs, and expansive vocals that command the musical direction, yet never overpower the rest, ”Heartstruck” is truly amazing.
The solos, the effects, the drums, I mean this is all one guy how?! I’ve seen others referencing the greats of the genre to describe Skinher, but I won’t even soil this review by doing the same.
You think this is comparable to all that other stuff? No, it’s better! Skinher takes modern cult worship and successfully combines it with tradition in ways we’ve never heard.

You can hear the spirit of a musician in Kyle Skinher who is clearly loving the creative process. This is especially the case with ‘Josephine’, a tune that wears its AOR/melodic rock heart proudly on its sleeve. From the opening wave of keyboards and clean guitars, its possible to hear elements of the more melodic McAuley-Schenker material crossed with something like Crimson Glory, and the arrival of a bigger riff hints at the more melodic parts of Yngwie’s ‘Odyssey’ album, albeit with a bigger harmony vocal. It’s great old school rock from the get go, and by the time the second half of the track indulges in bigger riffs, a raft of demonic voices and – best of all – several bars of twin lead guitar, you can definitely hear more of the Malmsteen influence coming through.

Equally good, ‘He Sees You’ stokes up the horror themes by including even more treated voices, guitar and keyboard riffs that tease with fairground melodies that wouldn’t be out of place in an 80s slasher flick, and powers everything through a really punchy drum part. The middle of the track delivers more full throttle 80s melodic metal with traces of Keel and King Kobra, but none of that matches the slow soaring riffs used to introduce the piece, which fall somewhere between melodic Judas Priest and Icon.

The enjoyable ‘Night Cull’ opens with a riff that would make John Carpenter blush before exploding into a world of sub Judas Priest riffs. That gives the track a powerful launching point, and it continues to be fun musically – at least in a mid 80s way.
More fun lyrics are the motto of ‘Self Eating Creatures’ presents guitar riffs that are closer to the trashy hard rock of Hell In The Club at first, combined with another theatrical hook where descending harmonies pull from a rather stagey feel, but again, most of the music is strong enough to balance out any self-indulgence. About half way through, though, the band takes everything up a notch in order for the assembled guitarists to impress with a full array of metal chops.

For those still looking for more horror thrills colliding with a retro metal base, ‘The Maniac Is Back’ opts for a more tuneful midtempo where chopping guitars underscore a hushed vocal and busy drum groove loaded with cool tom fills. It’s here, with a world of 80s synths sounds fleshing out a rocker with an old heart.
‘You’re Next!’ supplies jagged riffs intercut with shrill leads during another strong intro, before settling into something that sounds like one of Paul Sabu’s better songs allowing Skinher plenty of opportunity for chugging guitar lines overlaid with call and response vocal hooks and yet another blistering solo.

Throughout this record, Skinher parties like it’s 1987 and brings melodic rock and metal fans the horror themed album you have been missing from decades. This trashy horror VHS culture of the 1980s done with love, and it’s very, very good.
This is a brilliant piece of retro-80s culture, so those who still love big haired thrills and melodic metal riffs that celebrate Eighties moods will certainly find “Heartstruck” simply awesome. Oh yeah, it’s also available on vinyl of course.
HIGHLY Recommended


01 – You Are Next!
02 – The Maniac is Back
03 – Interstellar Love Hysteria
04 – Night Cull
05 – He Sees You
06 – Self-Eating Creatures
07 – Dance with the Dead
08 – Josephine


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