According to their press release, Swiss hard rockers Skansis “caused a stir in the rock world” and gathered “rave reviews” with their first album, ‘Taking Your Chance’. In reality the “rock world” to which this band’s press release refers, is merely a relatively small neighbourhood’s worth of specialist melodic rock websites. And of course, those sites are well within their rights to get excited about whatever melodic rock comes their way, but from the outside looking in, the melodic rock community is incredibly insular – with many fans choosing not to listen to music from other genres. Even allowing for such musical narrow-mindedness, why those sites would get excited about Skansis remains a mystery.
98% of melodic rock is old school and retro, but that doesn’t necessarily make it bad. However, even though some rock acts can still sound great despite having no interest in keeping up with 21st Century trends (Coldspell, Terry Brock, Whitesnake etc), some just don’t hit the mark at all. Sadly, Skansis are one of those bands. Their second album, ‘Leaving You’ features a couple of solid riffs, such as the chug which drives ‘I Want You’, or the fast paced romp through the title cut. There are even a few noteworthy solos (the twin lead from ‘Carry On Better’ being a particular high point), but an album cannot hold listener interest on a handful of decent-ish guitar based moments. Naturally, there needs to be strong, memorable songs and a classy vocalist too – and Skansis boasts neither of these essential melodic rock qualities.
The songwriting just isn’t very good, even verging on clichéd desperation in places (“We will rock all night / not call it a day / and we won’t fade away” and “Next to mine / I want your body now / ‘Cause I don’t wanna be alone” being particularly noteworthy) and vocalist Reto Reist has a scratchy voice which makes Skansis hard to listen to for any great length of time. Raspy can be cool – look at John Fogerty, Jimmy Barnes, or even Spike from The Quireboys on his better days – but Reist just can’t muster that level of bluesy hard rock edginess. Harsh, maybe, but he sounds like someone with an absolute lack of training; a gravelly throated pub “singer” who can barely hit any good notes. There are times when that is softened by a few backing harmonies, but it makes little difference to the end badness; on the ballady numbers, the vocal style seems so misjudged it beggars belief.
The bulk of Skansis’s music takes the form of a very second division sounding Euro hard rock. There are some solid old school guitar riffs here, it’s true – but on the whole, ‘Leaving You’ is average to poor. It certainly doesn’t offer anything your more demanding melodic hard rock fan would listen to more than a couple of times, let alone spend good money on.