With new album Skinwalker, dark metal veterans The Eternal prove once again that they are a force to be reckoned with in their chosen realm, echoing the gothic grandeur of, most often, Paradise Lost while forging their unique path in the musical landscape.

Formed in Melbourne back in 2003, The Eternal has already grown into a formidable entity over the decades. But here , you get the feeling that the band’s evolution has reached a new zenith with Skinwalker, a record that bridges the geographic divide between Australasia and Europe, featuring an international lineup that includes founder Mark Kelson (guitar/vocals), Richie Poate (guitar) and new arrivals Niclas Etelävuori (formerly of Amorphis, bass), and Jan Rechberger (drums/percussion, also of Amorphis). This album is a testament to Kelson’s enduring creative vitality, and is further enriched by collaborations with notable artists like Tomi Joutsen and Santeri Kallio of Amorphis, Sami Yli-Sirniö of Kreator, and Tuvian throat singer Albert Kuvezin of Yat-Kha.

The opening track, Abandoned By Hope, sets a somber tone, enveloping the listener in a brooding atmosphere that is both haunting and cathartic. The echoes of Paradise Lost are unmistakable here, with Kelson’s vocals channeling a similar emotional depth as Nick Holmes. The dense, atmospheric soundscape of Deathlike Silence follows, showcasing the band’s ability to weave intricate layers of both melody and despair. As an opening statement of intent, this pair of tracks is hard to beat, with the latter perhaps the biggest pointer on the album to just how ready this band is to take it’s place in metal’s Premier League.

Under The Black continues to build on this foundation,the organ at the start of the track recalling classic Amorphis. The collaboration with Dutch cellist Elianne Anemaat on the superb When The Fire Dies adds a rich, orchestral texture, while Russian vocalist Emily Saaen‘s contributions inject a haunting beauty that elevates the song to new heights. As Rechberger aptly notes, “Mark’s vocals serve as a beacon of hope amidst the dense and atmospheric soundscape, adding layers of complexity that evoke vulnerability and introspection.”

The Iconoclast and Fall Upon The Earth are standout tracks, where the band’s progressive influences shine through. The title track, Skinwalker, is a masterclass in blending the ethereal with the heavy, featuring a slow-burning intensity that is both compelling and unsettling. The album closes with Shattered Remains, a fitting end to this journey, leaving the listener in a reflective state, pondering the themes of transformation and renewal.

Lyrically, Skinwalker is a profound exploration of loss, grief, and the quest for meaning. The thematic journey initiated with Deathlike Silence reaches its emotional zenith in When The Fire Dies, a song that confronts the raw emotions of drifting apart and the tumultuous path to acceptance and letting go. Kelson’s poetic storytelling is at its best here, supported by a band video of haunting beauty that visually complements the track’s narrative.

With Paradise Lost seemingly happy in heavier waters and My Dying Bride rent by internal strife, the time is right for The Eternal; To see then grasp their chance with such flair on Skinwalker is not only thrilling, but also a fitting tribute to Mark Kelson’s vision for the band over more than two decades.

Skinwalker releases on June 28th.