It’s difficult to imagine that for all of Tim Sköld’s musical activity since the ‘80s that Dies Irae is only his fifth solo outing. The early marketing for the album touted it to be a return to his roots in hard rock and metal, which would make sense given the propensity for artists with such a pedigree to do so. Indeed, songs like the opening “Dirty Horizon” and “This is the Way” do revel in the boisterous, powerful, and slightly campy guitar riffs that hint at Sköld’s past in Shotgun Messiah and even a bit of Marilyn Manson, both still filled with enough synth to keep things in a decidedly modern context, the first track sounding right out of his Anomie album and the latter being especially striking for the dissonant layering on the vocals, the chants of the title making for a nice heavy metal theme song for the Mandalorians in Star Wars. As well, Sköld adorns the album with scorching guitar solos the likes of which would not be out of place on the Sunset Strips and Heartbreak Boulevards of his past. But then, there are songs like “Terrified” with its percolating electronic loops and fluid bass lines, “Love is a Disease” in which the strutting bass and beat of the verse is offset by an atonal vocal that gives way to a halftime battering ram of a chorus, and the grimily artificial “Silicon Dreams,” whose bombastic guitars and subtle pads make for a darkened fanfare that seems more reminiscent of his first SKOLD album or even MDFMK. The same can be said of “As Above So Below” as its nicely rhythmic electronic distortions and despairing melody recall a song like “Save Me.” Throughout the album, the slight imperfections in Sköld’s voice reveal the unique qualities of his melodic approach – catchy without being poppy – and while it does little to dissuade this writer from the opinion that he is industrial/rock’s answer to emo, it is undeniably SKOLD. Of course, this also means there will be those contemptuous and nihilistic lines like “Every promise will end broken,” or “You wrote the script, but couldn’t see the twist,” or “If you didn’t see this coming, you’re blind.” Even the song title of “Kill Yourself” feels a touch overwrought, again evoking his tenure in Manson, although the song is actually one of the record’s more acerbically satisfying moments with its clever synths and discordant bass. There are times, like on this song or “The End is Near,” when one wishes his voice would deteriorate into a vicious scream to add a bit of fury and reach for that usual heavy metal bite… but again, this is just part of Sköld’s vocal style at this point. Less a throwback to his roots and more of an amalgam of his entire career, Dies Irae runs the gamut from power metal to noisy and industrialized rock; it’s hardly his most ambitious effort, and many of the songs do suffer from monotonous arrangements that one would wish for greater variation in chord structure. Nevertheless, the whole record clocks in at under 39 minutes and is as slickly produced as any of SKOLD’s previous efforts, so despite these minor shortcomings, Dies Irae moves at a brisk enough pace to make for a few repeat listens.