Cosmic Rock



- Pat "Riot" Whitaker

From Beantown, USA, or the place that is one of the United States' oldest cities, one known for throwing quite the hell of a Tea Party, comes some newer music. Yes, I am talking about Boston, Massachusetts, home to an interesting musical offering, one that has seemingly flown under the radar for many folks, including myself, as I only recently discovered it. "It" in this case is both the band THE NORTHERN SKULLS, and their 4-song eponymous EP released toward the end of this past April.


The reason for my increased amount of shock about this discovery is, in no small part due to my long time as a fan of the band's vocalist, none other than Jonah Jenkins. Perhaps you know of him, or perhaps you do not, but either way, I hope to make you more aware of him, and THE NORTHERN SKULLS, before we are through. Jenkins is an underground music legend (my words), originally landing within my zone of attention via his late 80's/early 90's band, Only Living Witness. Their two Century Media Records releases, 1993's 'Prone Mortal Form' and 1996's 'Innocents', are bona-fide masterpieces as far as I am concerned, and after that band's passing, I trailed Jenkins to other acts like Miltown, Milligram, and Raw Radar War.


Hence my aforementioned surprise at discovering THE NORTHERN SKULLS with Jenkins, alongside his bandmates Johnny Mullin (guitar), Logan Tarmac (drummer), and Glen Stilphen (bass). The quartet reveal themselves to be a well-oiled, tightly knit, working man's blue collar vibed band on this EP, at least to me. This realization is a rapidly recognized reality right from the start of things here, "Eyes Are Why", a slower grooving, flowing, and moving tune of swaggering steadfastness. It has been an earworm of a track for me, burrowing its way into my brain by ear canal routing, a damned infectious cut ala melodic verses, and energized choral passages.


Those traits, but with a more aggressive fuel backing them, drive the forward advance of the second song, "Art Thief". Actually, this is the one place that I culled moments that were very much in the vein of Only Living Witness, the intensified angst-y undercurrents forcing their way to the surface. Driving with a purpose, careening on a curve or two as the pulse of this number quickens and riding high upon it, the soulfully emotive, distinct vocals of Jonah. I must also throw props to kit-man Tarmac as he provides some fantastic drumming in this tune as well.


With each new composition introduced, it feels as if THE NORTHERN SKULLS ratchet up everything a notch or two across the board and "Earth DE" is no exception. Once unfurled, chunky riffs chop and chop away while the rhythm section constructs a solid foundation for them to do so. Rapid fire spurts of machine gun-like drums "ratta-tat-tat-tat" away in their designated places, all of its components making it hard to resist.


Eighty-two seconds... is all it takes to get to "Ripping Off My Skin", the fourth song, which is really more like a salvo of sound, a sonic ordinance if you will. Incendiary, explosive, this song quickly burning away like a lit fuse as a defined aggression takes the reins. Jenkins flips a switch somewhere along the way or once his vocals do come in, they are venomous, morphed into more of a scream really. But, before you know it, that aural epidermis is fully degloved and things come to a blunt force halt.


Over and done, well, over for the moment but far from done as this self-titled outing from THE NORTHERN SKULLS warrants a replay, and then another. I am glad that fate, or chance, or pure dumb luck, whichever, decreed that the band, and this EP, had to make themselves known to me. In doing exactly that, it only seemed fitting that I then pay it forward, which I feel I have accomplished here. Now, the ball lies in your court, and yes, the rest is up to you.