SIGN OF THE JACKAL, The Beyond (2011, Heavy Artillery)
“Limited Edition,” eh? Life is a limited edition, and this fact is underscored by the skull on the cover. No nonsense, no manipulation, no fancy stuff — just a grim reminder that this is all we’re left with at the end. But you know what they say: live well and leave a pretty skull. And this skull leaves a shinier, rounder dome than most. Call him the Kojak of skulls. The design is a deliberate attempt to look all 1983 even though it’s 2011, and I suspect that, given that clue and the fact this is on Heavy Artillery, we’re not dealing with avant-garde cutting edge metal here. I could be wrong.
I’ve been wrong on many occasions about a lot of things, but not this time. Sign Of The Jackal are indeed throwbacks to a simpler time in metal, when skulls were skulls and men wore tiger-striped spandex without any sense of irony whatsoever. Then again, it’s hardly genius-level intuition that brought me to this prediction. SotJ play straightforward, tried-and-true trad-metal…so true, in fact, that it sounds like metal forged in the days prior to thrash (think 1982). The vocals of Laura Coller are not strong, yet she still manages to impress thanks to some memorable, what we used to called “commercial” sounding harmonies (a great example being “Night of the Undead”). There’s an instrumental here called “Paganini Horror,” which sounds like a Great Kat song title, but it’s better (would be difficult not to be better than the Great Kat). A couple other originals go in one ear and out the other, although it’s hard to not enjoy them just a tiny bit as they fly by. Then there’s a cover song, “Head Over Heels.” Not the great Accept nugget, but some band called Meghan. I didn’t bother researching further, because it’s pretty weak. The originals boast lyrics that are hilariously lame — a composite of them would read thusly: “zombies awaiting your cursed metal bones tonight,” complete with some egregious grammatical errors. But they hail from Italy, and their English is certainly better than my Italian, so we’ll give them a pass. I give this band some credit and I give them some grief, but they’re better than anything I’ve heard by, say, Girlschool, which is a fair enough comparison. In fact, this sits somewhere in between “classic” Girlschool and the decidedly tougher sound of early Chastain, if we’re talking about female-fronted heavy metal. And that’s exactly what we’re talking about. But no more, because the EP is over and I probably won’t stick around for a third listen.
— Friar Wagner
DESMADRATION, Sex, Thrash and Fucking Beers! (2010, demo)
No sex. No fucking beers. Just a blood spattered skull (and a pitifully small one at that) to signify thrash. In all things, Desmadration can be counted on to deliver at 33% of peak. At best!
If Sadus had released four demos before D.T.P., the second one might have sounded like this. Super juvenile thrash played by amateurs and recorded with a boom box. This even comes with the high whine of a poorly aligned tape head, for added authenticity, although I believe the demo was distributed as a highly untrue CDR. Obviously, this is not a band that takes itself too seriously, and I’ve heard worse sounding demos with shittier songs, but my patience for Z-grade rethrash from the warmer nations is beyond strained at this point. I’m at my breaking point, basically. Desmadration are Mexican instead of Brazilian (and if you know your shit well enough, you can already imagine the subtle differences between the respective thrash of those two nations, which are evident here) but they’re still awful and stupid. Will my suffering never end?
— Friar Johnsen
MADE OF HATE, Bullet in Your Head (2008, AFM)
Welcome, friends, to the album cover motif that never ends. Made of Hate play melodic death metal in the Children of Bodom vein, but this album cover design looks like that popularized by Hatebreed and the like. And we can go back further, sifting through the catalogs of the Victory, Equal Vision and Facebown labels to find more examples of this sort of thing. Very tattoo-y, this particular cover finds a skull comin’ out swingin’, packin’ heat where ears used to be (a bullet hole in the forehead adds insult to injury). Blood spatter forms a background, and the literal interpretation of the album title is duly noted. [Note: the band used to be known as Archeon, whose only album, End of the Weakness, features a skull on the cover that currently resides in BDS’s Honorary Mentions wing. We hail these Poles for their commitment to the skull.]
Man, from the album artwork right down to the band name itself, these guys are sending all kinds of mixed signals. As noted above, they present themselves as a straight up traditional hardcore band but sound a lot like Children of Bodom, complete with flashy lead guitar work. Were I an enthusiast of modern melodic death metal, I’d be scared away by their imagery. But what about the music itself? It’s more than competent in the area of performance, and well-written enough too. The vocals are scathing in the textbook melo-death mold, the melodies are Iron Maiden on amphetamine, the drums are robotic but with nimble fills…par for the course and as generic as most other bands of this type. They’ll be loved by fans who dig this style and don’t demand any sort of originality.
— Friar Wagner