Album Review: Skin of Earth — ‘Burn Barrel’

  • 222

With only four tracks, clocking in at 26:44, it’s likely that Skin of Earth’s Burn Barrel — released at the tail end of 2018 as an omen, a prediction, a benediction for the year to come — should rightly be called an EP. But damn, it doesn’t feel like one. It feels like it punches through a spot right beneath your ribcage, reaches back all the way to your spine and drags you forward, unrelenting, through a fog. And while you’re with it, there’s no start or finish, no deception of duration: only now.

This is what the best doom metal can do, and why I love it: It traps you in a six- or seven-minute track that’s more puzzle box than “song,” and doesn’t let you escape from fully experiencing even a second of it. Skin of Earth is doom metal at its best. But it’s also, somehow, more. About halfway through track three, “Lou Rawls,” for example, there’s a tone shift, a melodic lift that pulls you out of your complacency and demands a different sort of attention.

Like many albums released by Sump Pump, who regularly put out some of my favorites each year, Burn Barrel is a record that you don’t want to end. And it ends, as many of them do, abruptly, leaving you reeling, still in that fog.

But the final track in this case, “Jenny,” also ends with a few spoken lines from a 1972 Leonard Cohen poem, “Any system you contrive without us will be brought down.” It is engaging and conspiratorial, and it serves as a call to action. It’s an ending that doesn’t end, but propels us forward instead, into the world, to access and engage it.

If you need a reason to keep going when the world is full of chaos and feels desperate, Burn Barrel is it. We’re all in this together, and this is our soundtrack, respite and reinvigoration in one.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 263.

  • 222
Thoughts? Tips? A cute picture of a dog? Share them with LV »




Summer Programs 2020

Get 150+ local restaurants delivered to your door in the Iowa City & Cedar Rapids areas!

The Future is Unwritten

You look to Little Village for today’s stories. Your sustaining support will help us write tomorrow’s.


$10/mo or $120/year
The cost of doing this work really adds up! Your contribution at this level will cover telephone and internet expenses for one month at the LV editorial offices.


$20/mo or $240/year
$240 is enough to cover one month’s costs for sending out our weekly entertainment newsletter, The Weekender. Make a contribution at this level to put a little more oomph on your support and your weekend.


$30/mo or $360/year
(AUTO-RENEW) connects eastern Iowa culture with the world. Your contribution at this level will cover the site’s hosting costs for three months. A bold move for our boldest supporters!

All monthly and annual contributors receive:

  • Recognition on our Supporters page (aliases welcome)
  • Exclusive early access when we release new half-price gift cards
  • Access to a secret Facebook group where you can connect with other supporters and discuss the latest news and upcoming events (and maybe swap pet pics?) with the LV staff
  • Invitations to periodic publisher chats (held virtually for now) to meet with Matt and give him a piece of your mind, ask your burning questions and hear more about the future plans for Little Village, Bread & Butter Magazine, Witching Hour Festival and our other endeavors.