IGNIVOMOUS, Path of Attrition (2007, Nuclear War Now! Productions)
Although this cover is obscured in tarry black and sanguine rust red shades, one thing is clear: this skull is being used for some kind of nasty spell-casting. Or perhaps to help light up catacombs that reveal far grimmer things than we’re allowed to see on this cover. Or, hopefully, both. So we’ve got the book and candle, but no bell. We’ve come across this issue before, and we understand bell-makers the world over are feeling rather overlooked in the world of skull album covers, and are forming a committee to address the problem. Also, I’m pretty sure the book the skull is propped upon isn’t a first edition hardcover copy of Bridges of Madison County.
About as mired in filth, darkness and indistinct-but-probably-very-evil-things as the album cover itself, the music of Ignivomous is exactly what can be expected from various vets of the Australian death/black metal scene. Obvious inspiration comes from the rawer, earlier work of Incantation, Immolation, Rottrevore and even hints of Suffocation without the technicality. Heavy-as-fuck death metal, basically, with a decidedly dark orientation. This could have been released in 1990 on Relapse or Roadrunner and it would have fit right in. They’re very good at their chosen craft, and if you can’t get enough of this kind of thing, there are about 200 less convincing death metal revivalists making the rounds right now. Ignivomous appear to be one of the best of this breed, for what it’s worth.
— Friar Wagner
JUDECCA, Eternal Rest (1992, demo)
I don’t see a bell, but they got the book and candle part down. This demo cover is something we’re starting to notice as a fairly frequent occurrence here at BDS, taking some old master’s painting, or a detail of it, and slapping it onto your tape or album, hoping nobody notices. It’s a common Big Dumb Skull cover motif subset; welcome to the club, Judecca! (Other examples: Skull327, Skull265, Skull241) I dig how Judecca’s logo manages to be fat, blocky AND drippy. You don’t see the fat/blocky/drippy combo much.
Back in the day you couldn’t open your mail without a Judecca flyer falling out. That was mostly in the period when the band was being distributed and released by Wild Rags Records, whose mail flyering was second-to-none. I well remember Judecca’s name from those days, but apparently aggressive flyering doesn’t always work, because I still hadn’t heard them until today. Surprisingly, I wasn’t able to find their Eternal Rest demo anywhere, but maybe I didn’t scour the Internet quite hard enough. Really, though, the next year’s demo, 1993’s Scenes of an Obscure Death, can’t be THAT different from Eternal Rest, can it? Listening to Scenes…, and given its affiliation with Wild Rags, I’m not surprised this sounds like it was recorded in a damp basement with cheap knock-off equipment on a boombox. Stylistically it’s somewhere in the area of long-forgotten NYC band Sorrow, has a Six Feet Under sort of simplicity, and a whiff of early Death/Mantas too. It’s marginally interesting in spots, like the charmingly clunky break in “Unspeakable Acts,” its wailing sustained guitar note providing water in an oasis of dull riffs, dull rhythms and standard-issue death vox that are very much the epitome of second rate death metal demo vocals circa 1993. But those little moments are just the reactions of ears desperate for something along the lines of early Asphyx and not getting it (by that I mean Judecca’s component parts seem to promise that sort of sound, yet they never deliver it). The fan in me that loves Nuclear Death, Blasphemy and Hellwitch keeps hoping to uncover some obscure Wild Rags release that I can sit alongside those gems, but it isn’t gonna be Judecca.
— Friar Wagner
L’ACEPHALE, Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted (2009, Radical Matters Editions)
Similar to the Witchtrap skull (SKULL54), we have an overhead (no pun intended) view of a skull ridden with writing on its cranium. The scrawl is either Spanish or Portugese, and the book that the skull rests upon is slightly Bible-ish, but more like a hymnal or stanzas of an epic poem. Looks like a photograph, and quite a good one at that. Classy and creepy at once.
I’m suspicious of seemingly hipster-born black metal from either Portland, Oregon or San Francisco, California. Not without good reason, but some of the bands cropping up in these hotbeds of neo-black metal are actually pretty interesting. This Portland band’s name means “Headless” (totally different than “skulless,” mind you) and their metal is black and epic, having the forest-y vibe of early Ulver and early Fleurety, with some tasteful keyboards providing additional atmosphere and some pitched vocals similar to Garm’s voice in the Bergtatt era. But they do a lot more, too. This particular track was originally on their Malefeasance album, but here it is in an extended remix that’s all kinds of fucked up, although I can’t tell you how it differs from the original, sorry. I do know the original is 23 minutes, whereas this remix? A cozy 93 minutes. And fuck no I didn’t listen to the whole thing. It’s probably not the best representation of the band either, or at least it provides a good view into their more avant-garde tendencies, incorporating folk, ritualistic ambient drone, and noise. Heady stuff.– Friar Wagner