SKINNER – The Dark Design

SKINNER - The Dark Design cover art
  • 7.2/10
    SKINNER - The Dark Design - 7.2/10


Label: Dead Inside Records (Self-released)
Release date: March 31, 2023

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Bay Area veteran vocalist, Norman Skinner released his new second full-length album The Dark Design on March 31, 2023. The album was independently released on Norman Skinner’s private label Dead Inside Records via his website. The Dark Design was mixed and mastered by Zach Ohren (Castle Ultimate Productions). The album art was done by Michael Ailarov.

Norman Skinner comments on the album, “This album has been a long labor of love for me. Started initially back in 2015 I began working with various musicians to craft the 1st few songs and continued to work on the album in the background when not busy working on all the other projects. I took my sweet time, but I feel it paid off as this album is killer! I’ve already given fans a taste by releasing three singles “In Silence,” “How Many Ways I Can Die” & “Wicked Whys” this year. I will say before the album’s release date, everyone can expect 1 final single & video to be released.”

Brief Bio

The band Skinner originated back in 2010 as the defunct Power Thrash Band Imagika fell apart. The band released a five-song EP, Enemy Within in 2011 and their first full-length album in 2014 titled Sleepwalkers. In 2015, members of Skinner left the band leaving Normal Skinner to continue Skinner as a solo band. Since then, “The Metal Chamaleon” has released singles in subsequent years while also being active in his other bands, Hellscream, Niviane, and Imagika.

The Dark Design

Norman Skinner’s vision for this album mixes in his favorite elements of heavy music, melody, and the inclusion of keys to bring epic and atmospheric elements to his music. Musical styles range from Power Metal, Symphonic Metal, Heavy Metal, Prog, and Melodic Heavy Metal. The album has a runtime of sixty-four minutes across 13 songs.

“What’s Left Inside” opens The Dark Design with a melodic key intro leading straight into a Nu-Metal guitar riff (think Killswitch Engage). Norman’s vocals range from a powerful grown to a melodic yet sincere melody. “In Silence” has a similar feel to the structure of the music with the mix of heaviness and melodies yet the chorus and hook take on a ballad-like feel. Each song has its own feel with deep dynamics that do not feel repetitive or stale. Zach Ohren’s post-production is well done and balanced on this album

Lyrical themes include manipulation (“Wicked Whys”), the regret of a life wasted (“In Silence”), and the regret of an ended relationship on what could have been (“Unfinished”).

Final Thoughts

The Dark Design is an album that will grow on you over time as each listen provides the listener with new revelations within the music. As the name of the album implies, there are many deep and dark thoughts that will dig deep into one’s soul if one chooses to allow themselves to be fully immersed in the world of Skinner’s word crafting.


  1. What’s Left Inside
  2. In Silence
  3. The Haunting Hours
  4. A Sea of Melancholy
  5. The Ferryman
  6. How Many Ways Can I Die
  7. My Tribulation
  8. Among The Ashes
  9. Unfinished
  10. Cain
  11. Wicked Whys
  12. The Dark Design
  13. Seven angels (Bonus Track)

Album Lineup

Norman Skinner – Vocals
Abel III – Guitars
Jim Pegram – Bass
Aaron Robitsch – Keyboards
Joe Luna – Drums

Contributing Artists / Musicians

Aaron Robitsch (Niviane, Graveshadow)
Noe Luna (ex-Niviane),
Jim Pegram (Short Fuse, ex-Imagika)
Abel III (No Silence, ex-Lioncourt)
Jaymie Robertson (The Watchers, The Venting Machine)
Jeremy Von Epp (The Watchers, The Venting Machine)
Rick Stallkamp (ex-Niviane)


  • Mark Zagotti

    Mark is a reviewer for Metal Express Radio since 2022. He first discovered the power of Hard Rock in 1985 as a teen when he first listened to Twisted Sister's cassette Stay Hungry. In his teen years, Mark was introduced to bands such as Kiss, Metallica, and enjoying the time that Rock and Metal ruled MTV. His first Heavy Metal concert was Clash of the Titans in 1991, where he experienced the site of a SLAYER mosh pit for the first time. Ever since that moment he has been a METAL HEAD for life. Mark's musical tastes have expanded over the years enjoying music from bands ranging from Ghost, Amorphis, Paradise Lost, the Big 4, Behemoth, and just about everything in between.    

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