“We’re keeping it unreal,” one of the Skull Defekts declared during the Swedish rock band’s concert Tuesday night (April 30) at the Empty Bottle. Something was a little askew about everything these Swedes said onstage — and the music was askew and unreal, too. The last time I saw Skull Defekts (2011 at the Hideout), they had their fifth quasi-member along with them: Daniel Higgs, a Baltimore singer best known as the frontman of Lungfish. The combination of Higgs’ vocals and Skull Defekts’ music was powerful.
Higgs and Skull Defekts are still working together — a press release describes him as “the group’s spiritual ringleader,” and he sings on the group’s latest album, the compelling Dances in Dreams of the Known Unknown. But he wasn’t with the band for its most recent Chicago show. Not to worry, though — even without Higgs, this was a band of phenomenal force and creativity. At times, the jagged, clanging and weirdly interlocking guitar riffs reminded me of early Sonic Youth. And with two drummers, the band had an almost tribal rhythm going through much of its set. The band seems to like playing with bright white lights shining and casting shadows, and the effect only seemed to heighten the intensity that these Swedes brought to the Empty Bottle stage.