BOARDERS, Rust of 99 (1999, self-released)
This poor thing. Bleached white and lonely, with an elongated cranium that’s getting into John Merrick territory. He looks sad and worried. But his teeth are in great shape. Another of those last-minute, totally uncreative skull covers that seems to have absolutely no purpose other than filling up space.
Boarders also doubles as a Megadeth tribute band and they probably do okay with that in their Italian homeland. Their original material is along the lines of Megadeth’s Countdown to Extinction and Youthanasia, the clean, streamlined stuff, but this covers EP shows a slightly rawer Boarders (are they skateboarders?). You get covers of Helloween, Megadeth, Metallica (a cool choice of “Escape”), AC/DC, Iron Maiden and Testament songs. Competently performed with no big surprises, although the vocals are uniformly terrible. Oh, and there’s a drum solo tacked onto the end. You’ll do without this one just fine.
— Friar Wagner
TASTE OF BLOOD, Skull of Vaccuum / Survive the Rain (2006, self-released)
He’s comin’ atcha, this skull, so fast that he’s starting to blur. So fast that you couldn’t snap off a pic before he’d pretty much filled the entire frame. You’re gonna taste the blood, all right, when this guy headbutts you. I guess you might taste some logo, too. Chew that gingerly – it looks sharp.
In ’99 or so, you couldn’t spit at a label roster without hitting a band like this, just a straight-up In Flames / Dark Tranquillity knockoff (for another German example, see: Night In Gales). They were everywhere, these bands, and because they were playing an inherently inoffensive and palatable style (sugary melodic death metal), none of them were really bad, but you could count on these acts going in one ear and out the other. By 2006, when this single (!) came out, pretty much all the melodic death metal bands in the traditional Gothenburg mold had vanished, supplanted by their sadder, degenerate ancestors, the Killswitch Engage clones and their mopey ‘core brethren. I’ll admit, I’d take Taste of Blood any day over that shit, but that’s really putting the “lesser” in “lesser of two evils.”
— Friar Johnsen
Krux, Krux (2002, Mascot)
Sweden’s Krux have been firmly committed to the skull, and this same image appears on their Live DVD of 2003. This skull has lost his lower jaw, and sits amongst a psychedelic wash of green with yellow edges. Comfy in its plainness, it’s just a skull. A big dumb skull.
I am a huge fan of Candlemass, but never got totally into Krux. They’re good, I like the vocals and keyboards especially, both of which set this apart a little from Leif Edling’s main band. (Although Krux does bear a lot of resemblance to Candlemass’s Dactylis Glomerata era.) Krux is built on what sound like stripped down Candlemass riffs, which are usually pretty simplistic to begin with. Minimalist doom, maybe. This is also reflected in their consistently unimaginative album titling and totally simple artwork concept (but we love it!). There’s also some Candlemass crossover here: the song “Nimis” was first recorded by Candlemass in 2001 and it appears again here. Heck, this might as well have been called Candlemass. Best thing about Krux is we get to hear Mats Leven at the mic, a guy who never got to sing on a truly classic metal album, but should have been on tons of them. An amazing set of pipes, this guy. I’ll listen to Krux just for his work alone.
— Friar Wagner