SKULL BASTARDS, Promo 2012 (2012, demo)
Although skulls with gasmasks are actually an incredibly common visual trope in heavy metal, this is only the second in the Skullection, after Def Con One, which itself didn’t show up until #538. I guess most gaskmask skulls just end up on covers with other skulls, or skeletons, or some other disqualifying element (like a Black Label Society logo). Both of the gasmaskers we’ve seen so far are simple black and white drawings, which begs the question: what band has the balls to strap a real gas mask on a real skull and photograph it (preferably in front of a live fire) for their album cover? Consider the gauntlet thrown.
Skull Bastards play fast and tight thrash that sounds like early Annihilator at their most stupid. I don’t entirely mean that as a slam, because Skull Bastards are pretty good and play with a genuine ferocity, but they’re totally lacking in nuance and their songs could use a bit more in the way of dynamics. I do appreciate the heavy NWOBHM influence (especially evident in “Evil Night,” the better of the two songs on this demo) that makes Skull Bastards sound more like a lost first-wave thrash band than a bunch of kids aping what thrash would become after even four or five years of development. The croaky vocals are a little better than you get in most rethrash bands, and the lead guitar is ripped straight from Dave Mustaine’s 1986 playbook, which is fine by me. While not original in the least, and although they could really use some more variety in their tunes, Skull Bastards are pretty damned solid, and it’s probably worth checking out their EP from 2013.
— Friar Johnsen