SKULL419

PROPELLER, Always Say Die (1992, demo)

The skull:
Another skull on a pentagram. I’d yawn, but I am amused by this one. It looks like the skull of a marionette, Howdy Doody defleshed, with it’s squashed jaw and tiny teeth. Also, I like how the eyes are actually too big for the sockets, which is not how eyes work. Yes, when you look at a (living) person, you can’t see the entire sphere, because of the eyelids. Take away the lids, though, and the eyeball fits nicely into the socket, with no overhanging bone to obscure the top or the bottom. Consider this a humble anatomy lesson directed at all future Big Dumb Skull artists, because this eye thing is a very common mistake.

The music:
In 1992 would almost certainly have been called death metal, but in retrospect it sounds more like thrash than anything. A transitional form, basically. Think Beneath the Remains or Swallowed in Black. It’s a little more legitimately deathy than some stuff of this era, perhaps because Propeller lifts sometimes very literally from contemporary death metal bands (the bridge in “Brainsucker Spiders,” for instance, is stolen from “Immortal Rites” by Morbid Angel). Despite the drum machine, and despite coming out of Russian in 1992, this sounds fairly good, and for die-hard thrash fans, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to own, although I’m sure at this point, a download is your only option. The vocals are weak, but the riffing is good and they’ve managed to cobble together some reasonable compelling songs, if only with the help of their inspirations. After releasing this demo, the band changed names to Phantasm and released a single album, but that album also features a Big Dumb Skull, so look for it here in the (distant) future. This demo seems to be the better-sounding effort, though, and most of the songs on the LP are also here, so I guess this is the place to start.
— Friar Johnsen

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