Afroskull is greasy persuasion and bad gris-gris. A New York City funk/rock collective by way of New Orleans, the ‘Skull is a sonic gumbo that is one part Funkadelic and one part Black Sabbath with generous helpings of Zappaesque runs and jazzoid horns. The interplay of their heady musicianship and fat bottomed grooves helps to keep les bon temps rouler all night long.
Born of saintly happenstance and house party jam sessions in The Big Easy, Afroskull has been intent on setting about the musical canvas with broad strokes and a menacing palette for more then a decade. Indulging in the sweet cross pollination of musical genres, they have created a hybrid sound they can call their very own. Taking their name from the perceived halo, that well worn LP fade, which framed the shrouded skull on the back cover of “Steppenwolf Live,” the band, in one word conceived a moniker that spoke to the heavy boogies they were cranking out on a regular basis.
Their early musical endeavors and growing reputation in and around New Orleans led the band; Joe Scatassa (guitar), Bill Richards (bass), Matt Barone (keyboards), Jason Isaac (drums) and a cadre of horn players, into the studio to cut their first album. Monster for the Masses, released in 2000, was received to critical praise. Although commercial success proved more elusive, the band’s stature, backed by their solid studio effort and high-powered shows, continued to grow even as they dealt with a multitude of changes.
Following band member departures, a brief hiatus, and a move back home to New York, Joe and Jason reconstituted Afroskull. With The Big Apple their backdrop and joined by Matt Iselin (keyboards), Dan Asher (bass) and Seth Moutal (percussion) the band was born anew, but with that same genre eschewing bend. Their live shows, a laboratory for their shifting provocative sound, were further enhanced by the solidification of the “Horns of Doom.”
Jeff Pierce (trumpet), Justin Flynn (tenor sax) and Rafi Malkiel (trombone) emerged from a rotating cast of horn players equipped with an individual swagger but firmly committed to the group dynamic. Tempted by their small yet loyal following and convinced by Joe’s intricate spiraling compositions Afroskull once again made for the studio.
The result, To Obscurity and Beyond, their first album in nine years, is a tempestuous marriage of rock, funk and jazz. Dripping with ecstatic elaborate arrangements, Joe Scatassa’s production and original compositions are hell bent on keeping you shaking your ass and banging your head. Joined by Ronnie Cuber (baritone sax, bass clarinet), of Mingus Big Band and Frank Zappa fame, the lush brass orchestrations compliment and combat the underlying full throttle gonzo spunk. Punctuated by two spitfire vocal tracks, the mostly instrumental offering stampedes, but never tramples. To Obscurity and Beyond further separates Afroskull from the majority of their peers as it marks the return of their uniquely fierce and unrelenting voice to the scene.