XCURSION, Xcursion (1983, Rampage)

The skull:
This EP is sometimes called Skull Queen for obvious and awesome reasons. Look at this thing! Although it’s obviously a cheap, one-piece plaster replica, the crowned ladyskull with diamond eyes is nevertheless a thing of beauty and a big dumb metaphor to boot (even if it could and should have been framed larger in the shot.) The presumably sumptuous, velvet pillow is icing, but for my money, the element that MAKES this cover is the grid. In the early 80s, “GRID = THE FUTURE” for some reason. Think Tron. Nowadays, you see something like this and you wonder, “What’s the deal with the grid?” but contemporary viewers in 1983 would have accepted it as a signifier that made sense. But even they might have noticed that the grid only goes back like 2 feet and scowled, because the whole point of these things was to suggest an ordered infinity, not a just an ordered few square meters. If nothing else, this Xcursion cover reminds us of the good ol’ days when, if you wanted a skull on your cover, you were just as likely to call a photographer as a painter. Nowadays, if you wanted an infinite grid, you could have it even if you started with this selfsame photo. But back then, budgetary and technological limits were as hard as the men who put skulls on their albums. Maybe even harder.

The music:
Xcursion’s claim to fame is that it was Mark Slaughter’s first band, but don’t hold the man’s subsequent poser activities against him when considering Xcursion, who were actually a fine heavy metal band. Through they hailed from Las Vegas, XCursion remind me more of early L.A. metal bands like Lizzy Borden, 3rd Stage Alert, Malice, etc, not to mention Detroit’s Seduce, whose first album is very much of a piece with Xcursion’s output. Recall, 1983 was before hair metal as we would grow to hate it became its own thing, and back then, legit metal bands might play songs titled, “Love Is Blind,” and even heavy bands would sometimes resort to hard rock stylings. Xcursion were not exactly master musicians, but they got the job done, and while Slaughter lacked the fine control he would later develop over his reedy falsetto, his young voice is nonetheless less shrill here than on “Fly to the Angels” or any of his other execrable hits. If you like early U.S. metal, then you’ll probably get a kick out of this. It’s hardly essential, but once you’ve collected all the classics, this is well worth tracking down. Xcursion’s complete works were “reissued” on Old Metal Records, but that disc is long out of print, and I’d imagine the LPs are even more scarce, so probably blogs and YouTube are your best bet for hearing this curious but of H.M. history.
— Friar Johnsen

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