Skull Diver, Chemical Tomb (Self-Released)

[PALLBEARER POP] There is a sinister magnitude to Skull Diver's sophomore record, Chemical Tomb. The Portland trio's fiery, distorted guitar progressions are fanned by gale-force synthesizers and the ghoulish tones of a funeral organ. If there was ever a pop-rock outfit built for a sprawling graveyard, this is it. The fearsome riffs and raw power of the first half of the album remind of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. "Bad Star" is a goth anthem the popular kids can't help but admire, packed with cinematic builds and newly acquired drummer Zanny Geffel's competent stick work. Side two slows into a foggier realm of plaintive balladry, including a chilly rendition of Nick Drake's "Parasite." Here, lead singer Aly Payne's airy vocals become more prominent, unobstructed by amplifiers and set in motion by melodic keys. Fans of Zola Jesus and Portishead will find comfort in Chemical Tomb's dark demeanor. A sense of witchiness is prevalent throughout, but it does not take away from the many sharp pop hooks and underlying approachability. It would probably be a death wish for Skull Diver to keep up with the explosive pace set by the first few tracks, but it's hard not to wonder what that might sound like.

SEE IT: Skull Diver plays the Sparkle Bitch Ball at Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., with Foxy Lemon, Rare Monk and Buckmaster, on Sunday, May 28. 8:30 pm. $10 advance, $12 day of show. 21+.