Back in the early 1990s, there were a lot of bands I wanted to check out. Due to my rather rural location and the fact that online music didn’t exist yet, I wound up missing out on a lot.
A quarter-century later, I’m finally getting the chance go back and check some of what I missed out on out, thanks mainly to YouTube and other online streaming sources.
Some albums, like Medicine’s Shot Forth Self Living, make me feel like I really missed out. Then there are others that make me feel like I didn’t miss much.
Skrew’s Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame is one of the latter.
A good year for industrial music
Released in 1992, Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame had a bit of buzz around it. Two other groundbreaking releases that year, Ministry’s Psalm 69 and Godflesh’s Pure, really elevated the rather young industrial metal genre. Psalm 69 was a commercial breakthrough and Pure showed a perfection in melding the two genres.
So, of course, many people were looking for something that continued to expand the genre.
I first heard of this album during the “Friend and Large” segment on MTV’s Headbangers Ball. The segment featured Lonn Friend, then-editor of RIP (one of the leading heavy metal magazines at the time), recommending a lot of albums that week. I’m not sure what led me to notice Skrew out the segment, but I knew I wanted to check them out.
So, 25 years later, I had that chance.
Now, Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame isn’t a terrible album. Everybody does their job just fine. If I bought it at the time, it might’ve been an album I liked.
But, when I finally gave it a listen, I felt like I had heard everything on it before.
The riffs, the production and the samples all lead to this sense of boring familiarity, much like one feels when they see a movie by The Asylum.
But, first, let’s talk about the positives.
The good, the bad
There are really only two tracks that really stand out to me, at least in the good way. Those are “Indestructible” and “Prey Flesh.”
“Indestructible” is one of the faster-paced songs on the album. The vocals are kind of your typical industrial-echo things, but Skrew really shreds it in this rather solid song.
“Prey Flesh” has an almost Sisters of Mercy-like vibe going for it. It’s almost goth, but doesn’t cross the line. The vocals work great with the synth-organ sound and slower beats. It’s not what I call catchy, but it is memorable and you will find your head bobbing along with it … slowly, of course.
But, the two good tracks don’t really overcome the issues with the rest of the album.
The problem with this album is encapsulated in its title track “Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame.” Everything about that song sounds like something you’ve heard elsewhere, except with a rather clean, almost sterile, production quality. The song even includes a grunge-style guitar solo, but even those sound clean and polished when put over the unoriginal riffs. [Note: This song sounds much better live, so I think the clean-sounding production of the album may be a big factor in what drags it down.]
And it’s like that through much of the album. You’re left saying to yourself “that sounds like … .”
There’s two names that come up when you think of who Skrew sounds like — KMFDM and Ministry.
The album low point though is its cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.”
There are two problems with Skrew’s cover of “Sympathy for the Devil.” The first is that the only element from the original song they use is the lyrics … other than that, you’d have no idea what you were listening to. In my mind, when you listen to a cover song, you should not only make the song your own by adding your own spin to it, but also leave enough in there so that it still feels like the original song. And on that, Skrew fails.
The second thing wrong with “Sympathy for the Devil” is that Skrew simply did not make an interesting song. Not only that, but I’d say they made an awful song. So awful that I have no idea why they even bothered to include it on the album or even to record it in the first place.
I think the biggest problem with this album as a whole though is that you hear several great ideas throughout, but they never really develop. Now, I haven’t heard any of Skrew’s releases after this, but considering they were rather successful, I’d assume that they improved as time went on.
Admittedly, since I am listening to this 25 years after its release, Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame may have been innovative and ground-breaking at the time, but I doubt it. But, whatever my thoughts, this album does have a number of fans and that’s nothing a single review on the Internet can take away from it.
Anyway, I can’t really recommend this album simply because I don’t think there’s any worthwhile experience to be gained from listening to it.