KAOS, Kaos Among Us (2003, Oblivion Entertainment)
Fashioning a chaos symbol out of swords was an inspired idea, and of course cramming them through a skull was the right thing to do. I like the bonus spiky flails as well; they have no business being there, and that’s what makes them work. But I could have done without the generic background of brown and fire. The whole thing looks like an ad for a Games Workshop product, and though that was pretty cool when Bolt Thrower did it in 1989, whatever metal cred being able to field a 3000 point Chaos Space Marine army might have once established, now you just look like some video game dweeb when you lay on the grimdark too thick.
When I first started spinning this, I thought it was pretty good modern rethrash, if a bit heavy on the crossover elements. I mean, it’s not awesome, and it’s not original by any stretch, but it’s got the fire and energy of a band who at least believe they’re doing more than recreating the sound of a scene they were too young to have experienced firsthand. But then I looked up the release date and saw that this came out long, long before the current trend for mosh exhumation, and it all started to make sense. In fact, Kaos started turning out demos in 1988, making them an honest-to-god first wave thrash band, even if it took them until the year 2000 to release a proper album. Imagine if Sadus started drifting toward hardcore after Swallowed In Black, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what Kaos sounded like circa 2003. Not too shabby! Unlike 99.999% of today’s young thrashers, Kaos obviously have more inspiring source material in their record collections than Exodus, Slayer, and Ride the Lightning. The vocals are like a blown-out holler, none too pleasing, and no one is going to accuse Kaos of breaking new ground on their riffing, but this album was clearly made by lifers who knew what they were doing. As I get older and more jaded, I more on more rely on these gut-level inferences about a band’s intentions, which I know is not rational, but whatever. Kaos aren’t awesome, but better them than Toxik Holocaust.
— Friar Johnsen
HELSTAR, Glory of Chaos (2010, AFM)
2010 was an amazingly prolific year for the big dumb skull. Scan through previous BDS reviews and you’ll see what I mean. It might just have been the best-ever year for skulls and, not coincidentally, was the year this friar’s collection of skull album covers grew exponentially. What does Helstar’s glorious chaos skull offer the Skullection? Not much, although it’s slightly worthy for the ominous, fiery glow that lights that sucker up like a Christmas tree. And then there’s the eight-pointed chaos symbol, its arrow tips sporting all kinds of symbols that probably amount to a lot of mystical malarky when you get right down to it (the RX sign for prescription medicine? Huh?). Anyway, I’m not sure where the glory is, and chaos is only implied by the symbol. Just another half-assed cover idea, I say.
Whoever thinks Helstar is better as a beefier, thicker, chunkier, faster, more modernized version of its old self is certifiably insane. They’re still “true” metal, and there’s still some great stuff to get out of this album and its predecessor, The King of Hell. James Rivera remains a vocalist of power, control and personality. And Helstar remains one of the best live bands going. I’ve seen them twice and was completely speechless afterwards. But here’s my problem with their new stuff: Glory of Chaos is to old Helstar what Painkiller is to ’70s era Priest. It’s good, but they’ve traded something precious away in dialing down their youthful naivete (Burning Star) and their sense of innovation and discovery (Nosferatu). There are no high or low points on Glory of Chaos, just one sturdy red line of near-thrash metal. “Trinity of Heresy” and “Deathtrap” could have been on A Distant Thunder, but they’re too bloated with down-tuned guitars, while “Monarch of Bloodshed” sounds like old men trying to be way heavier than what comes natural for them. Think Jugulator this time. But the production is throwing me off some. Everything’s way too up front, no real dynamics. It lacks the earthiness of their early stuff…then again I’m not going to sit here and tell you the guitar sound on Burning Star was great, because it wasn’t. You could do worse than listen to this album while the first four Helstar albums are also on your shelf, but for me, I’ll always choose any of those over this. Good luck to ’em, though, because in a perfect world they’d be as popular as Amon Amarth.
— Friar Wagner
DEBRIS INC., Debris Inc. (2005, Rise Above)
A cracked skull lays in the abyss, surrounded for some unknown reason by a chaos symbol (a cluster of eight arrows pointing all directions). Why? We can have no idea. The band name, which is also the album title, gives no good indication for presenting the skull to us in this way. Maybe it’s because, you know, it’s a skullll, maaaan.
“Masterminded” by Trouble bassist Ron Holzner and Saint Vitus guitarist Dave Chandler, this might have been a good idea if the dudes stuck to doing the kind of doom they do best. But they didn’t. They decided Chandler could sing (he can’t, not even close), Ron also gets in on the act, and they thought playing “drunken doom punk” was a really good idea. It’s horrible. Every last second of this 14-song disaster is horrible. Sounds like 12-year-olds trying their hand at Eyehategod tunes. The worst record ever released on Rise Above, and the worst thing Ron and Dave have ever been involved with. A total disgrace. Zero out of 10 fucking skulls!
— Friar Wagner