WHITE SKULL, Under This Flag (2012, Dragonheart)
If you were met on the field of battle by an army of zombies bearing a giant fucking skull flag, you’d crap your pants and die on the spot. And that’s before the skulls in berets showed up. In the end, this particular branch of special forces was disbanded because by the time they showed up, everyone was already dead. Sometimes, a skull is just too badass.
White Skull are a fairly terrible Italian power metal band who just won’t go away. They’ve got about 600 albums, and they’re all bad. The thing that sets them apart from most terrible Italian power metal bands (which are legion) is singer Federica de Boni, who is like a female Chris Boltendahl, and evidently the only thing that’s worse than Boltendahl’s voice is his womanly equivalent’s. The music is reasonably well played, I guess, but the riffing is so fucking generic and uninspired that it almost makes me long for the comparative mastery of Hammerfall. To top it all off, Under This Flag boasts the sound of a mid 90s Underground Symphony album. It’s rotten all around, and to be avoided.
— Friar Johnsen
ILSA, The Maggots are Hungry (2009, Odium Generis Humani)
This amazing skull combines three of my favorite things: flowing tresses, berets, and potato masher grenades. The single, glaring eye is just icing on the cake. For some reason, this skull immediately made me think of Chainsaw Caine, the idiot frontman of the godawful Slave Raider, but Caine wore his eyepatch over his right eye, so this clearly couldn’t be him. Also, Caine wishes he had hair this lovely. Really, I don’t know how or why I made the connection, but it came to me instantly and powerfully, and in this line of work, one comes to trust those instincts. Call them the providence of The Skull.
I’m not a huge fan of crust (I like Amebix and Hellbastard and not much else) but Ilsa are pretty good as crust goes. While a lot of crust leans punk, this is definitely metal, and in their slower moments Ilsa could even make for a convincing doom metal band. The raspy, grindy vocals suck pretty bad, and it’s not like any of these riffs are gonna knock your socks off, but The Maggots are Hungry is slathered in grimy atmosphere and a palpable indignation, which is really the most you can ask of crust. The production is analog and murky, but it’s not anarcho-squatter lo-fi, as a lot of this sort of thing tends to be, and clocking in at under a half-hour, this at least doesn’t leave you wanting less.
— Friar Johnsen