SKULL89

SACRIFICE, Crest of Black (1986, demo)

The skull:
Even by the standards of the hand-drawn demo cover, this skull is pretty lame. Why does a skull with no eyes need an eyepatch? Why not wear two, then? The pentagram is of course always a welcome addition, and it’s nice that instead of the cliched knife in the teeth, this pirate skull is biting down on a big axe, it’s notched blade glinting in the sun. How he’s going to wield it is another question for another time.

The music:
Early Japanese thrash that’s pretty much exactly as good as you’re imagining. It’s easy to forget when you hear something this murky and terrible that in 1986, thrash was actually pretty advanced. It’s the year of Reign in Blood, Peace Sells, and Master of Puppets, but you’d think from listening to Crest of Black that Hellhammer’s first demo had just been released, that Mantas was still in Venom, and that Quorthon was still squatting over pentagrams. This demo sounds terrible, the songs are awful, and the playing and singing are atrocious. I know there’s a whole scene of people for whom this kind of “authenticity” trumps all other concerns (and it is for exactly this undiscerning crowd that this barely-a-footnote demo was bootlegged on vinyl), but I for one demand a bit more than an unusual (for metal) provenance and a yellowing photocopied tape sleeve. Don’t hear small sound indeed!
— Friar Johnsen

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