SIGN OF THE JACKAL, The Beyond (2011, Heavy Artillery)
“Limited Edition,” eh? Life is a limited edition, and this fact is underscored by the skull on the cover. No nonsense, no manipulation, no fancy stuff — just a grim reminder that this is all we’re left with at the end. But you know what they say: live well and leave a pretty skull. And this skull leaves a shinier, rounder dome than most. Call him the Kojak of skulls. The design is a deliberate attempt to look all 1983 even though it’s 2011, and I suspect that, given that clue and the fact this is on Heavy Artillery, we’re not dealing with avant-garde cutting edge metal here. I could be wrong.
I’ve been wrong on many occasions about a lot of things, but not this time. Sign Of The Jackal are indeed throwbacks to a simpler time in metal, when skulls were skulls and men wore tiger-striped spandex without any sense of irony whatsoever. Then again, it’s hardly genius-level intuition that brought me to this prediction. SotJ play straightforward, tried-and-true trad-metal…so true, in fact, that it sounds like metal forged in the days prior to thrash (think 1982). The vocals of Laura Coller are not strong, yet she still manages to impress thanks to some memorable, what we used to called “commercial” sounding harmonies (a great example being “Night of the Undead”). There’s an instrumental here called “Paganini Horror,” which sounds like a Great Kat song title, but it’s better (would be difficult not to be better than the Great Kat). A couple other originals go in one ear and out the other, although it’s hard to not enjoy them just a tiny bit as they fly by. Then there’s a cover song, “Head Over Heels.” Not the great Accept nugget, but some band called Meghan. I didn’t bother researching further, because it’s pretty weak. The originals boast lyrics that are hilariously lame — a composite of them would read thusly: “zombies awaiting your cursed metal bones tonight,” complete with some egregious grammatical errors. But they hail from Italy, and their English is certainly better than my Italian, so we’ll give them a pass. I give this band some credit and I give them some grief, but they’re better than anything I’ve heard by, say, Girlschool, which is a fair enough comparison. In fact, this sits somewhere in between “classic” Girlschool and the decidedly tougher sound of early Chastain, if we’re talking about female-fronted heavy metal. And that’s exactly what we’re talking about. But no more, because the EP is over and I probably won’t stick around for a third listen.
— Friar Wagner