Homeskin: An Unexpected Journey

Written by Kep

Oh to be a fly on the wall of Garry Brents’ studio. At any given moment he could be wrangling guest spots for the next Gonemage album out of the Abysmal Specters and Sarah Allen Reeds of the world, crafting filthy progressive death metal masterpieces about lepidopterans from space (RIP Sallow Moth), creating a chiptune-influenced grind EP about Wario from a throwaway joke on Twitter, designing hand-drawn band logos and feline-based pixel cover art, or tracking instruments and backing vox for whatever the hell the next Cara Neir album might end up being. He might also be spending slightly more than half a day fashioning a brand new black metal project out of thin air and then dropping its debut on Bandcamp (at name-your-price, of course, which is the only way he believes in offering his music).

Speaking of building a black metal project from the ground up in approximately 13 hours, let’s talk about Homeskin. This week I’m taking a break from my usual reviews and instead I’m going to highlight the newest and perhaps most impressive of Garry Brents’ many musical endeavors. Homeskin appeared quite literally out of nowhere on the morning of November 5, 2021 and blew me away with the avant-garde blackened madness of EP Subverse Siphoning of Suburbia. Little did I know that within five short months we’d all be treated to five (5!) more solo releases and a particularly silly split. 

So take a quick journey with me through all seven Homeskin releases. I promise, there’s nothing quite like it.

All album art (and the Homeskin logo) also by Garry Brents

Subverse Siphoning of Suburbia (EP, 11-5-21)

“Good morning, I wrote a black metal EP in thirteen hours last night and it’s on Bandcamp right now.” I don’t even know where my expectations were, but what I do know is that I wasn’t even through first track “Mounds of Dead Skin” before I was thinking, “Something written overnight has no right to be this goddamn good.” It’s substantial for an EP, too, at four tracks over 25 minutes! “Mounds” is a killer opener for the concept, by the way, blasting out of the gates with icy blackened riffs that aren’t quite tuneful but move melodically all the same, and then shifting moods dramatically to a more somber place. That ability to change the color and feel of the song on a dime will be a hallmark of Homeskin’s aesthetic, and it’s fully on display already through the three main tracks, supported by lively bass and wailing DSBM-adjacent vocals. The whole thing feels like a surrealist landscape, especially in the 9-minute “Crevice in a Window to Reality”, which hints forward at later releases with its disorienting miasma of full-throated aggro and dizzying dissonant textures. The shimmering, haunting dreamworld coda of “Underside” caps things. 

 Life’s Grips to Laughter (EP, 11-11-21)

If you thought it would be a while before EP #2, you thought wrong. Less than a week later, Garry was back with more fresh ‘skin, this time in the form of two lengthy boundary-stretching tracks. Running over 20 minutes, Life’s Grips took a more expansive, exploratory tack and a more melancholy feel. The two songs fly by, mixing despondent melodies and distressed howls with headbang-worthy chug passages with throaty growls. The back end of “Wires Enrobed by Day’s End” is special, gorgeous atmoblack sections meshing seamlessly into the tortured aggression and blasting dissonance. “Spasmodic Recesses in the Guts of Time” keeps that capacious, all-in approach, long guitar lines carrying sorrowfully above and smoothing the impact of chaotic drums. There are creepy waltzes, moments of hope that are dashed by nightmarish wobbling dissonance, moments of calm reflection, and plenty of frenzied mania. Two tracks, yet a complete package.

Model: Tiffany Britton

Integument Crystallization (LP, 1-21-22)

Take everything from Subverse and Life’s Grips and then add several doses of some sort of hallucinogenic substance, and you’ll get the first Homeskin full-length. That characteristic avant-garde rawness is as present as ever, but the bewildering twists and turns are slightly lessened and instead the emotions seem heightened to an unhinged level. It’s right there from the start: the opening moments of “Between Paint Drying and the Fear of Broken Pipe Dreams” are shockingly pained, Garry’s vocals as tortured as they’ve ever been and the drums manic beneath. On the whole the guitars are more static and harder to follow, with an emphasis on spiraling turmoil and agitation, and the effect is substantial. The mood shifts are still present, and some of them are truly unique, like the lively yet unsettled melody in “Crystalline” that smacks of forced smiles and pretend happiness, and the stomping violence in moments of “Straying the Abuser, Shield in Front of the Oppressed”. It’s a painful and unfiltered ride.

Cries Methodically (LP, 2-4-22)

Oh look, Homeskin is grind now. 

What’s that you say? You weren’t expecting the second Homeskin full-length to be less than ten minutes of tumultuous blackened grind? Neither was I, but I’m not complaining because the shit rips. It’s kinda miraculous how many little melodies and psychedelic little wobbles Garry manages to fit into the nine minutes worth of music here, especially considering that this is an especially dissonance-forward approach to grind. The coolest thing, though, is that the overall surrealness of the Homeskin aesthetic is still very much present, track like “Drain With Me” and “Not at This Time” making tremendous use of little moments of drum-and-vox and swaying dreamy guitars to make the unreality feel very much alive and more threatening than ever. The riffs are wild, furious, and plentiful—check out the 24 seconds of “Cistern Moon” or the 16-second microcosm of awesome that is “Crept into Cabinets” if you doubt.

Frogskin (Split, 3-21-22)

How do you increase the weirdness level of a project that already wears its eccentricity right on its sleeve? Do a split with Frogoroth, the raw black metal outfit that uses real animals for all of its vocals (their names, which I know you were wondering: Bufonidae the frog, Baaarnabas the goat, and Petunia the pig). The two bands mesh surprisingly well, trading songs back-and-forth instead of putting their tracks in separate blocks. Homeskin’s contribution comes from the same vein as Cries Methodically, intense grinding violence with inhuman screams and strange wails. “Watching Crawl”, with its mood-shifting break of untuned weirdness, and

“Like Ants in the Baseboard”, which has a funny little middle passage that feels like indie pop filtered through DSBM on acid, are some of the best moments yet in the discography. 

Each Day Orbital (LP, 4-1-22)

With his longest-gestating Homeskin release (written in early February and not released until this month) Garry expands the music palette of the project even further and it pays dividends. Opener “Rooftop Domicile” is a stunner, with anguished chaos giving way to yearning reflection that gives way to driving determination and fear. Then “Mirror Image” starts with a goddamn funky little groove with killer bass before mixing in screamo and grinding ugliness; two tracks in and you can tell that this record is even more everything than the five earlier releases. The songs are remarkably distinct, each with their own feel and aura. “Glare in the Gloaming” uses beautiful by raw atmoblack-esque melodies to tug on the heartstrings, and then comes “Tinker Toys With the Transmission”, which I’d best describe as indie rock meets DSBM. It’s so nostalgic and sweet, a goddamn delight that brought an enormous smile to my face on the first and subsequent listens. This album is childhood and adolescence and the echo of those times in a neat little blackened bottle, and it’s amazing. 

Old Smeuse (LP, 4-1-22)

At some point in the afternoon of the day that Each Day Orbital came out I opened up my Bandcamp app to browse and see what I might want to buy, and the first thing I saw at the top of my feed was a new Homeskinrelease, but not the one I was expecting. Surprise, Garry wrote, recorded, and released another album during the day. Old Smeuse is precisely 57 unrelenting seconds of the craziest grind you’ve ever heard, including a two-second track called “Bounce” that rules. I said it back in November and I’ll say it again now: nothing written and recorded in a matter of hours has any right to be this goddamn good. But here we are, and here’s to the next seven Homeskin efforts!