BLACKLIST, The Sign of 4  (1984, self-released)

The skull:
This is one of the earliest examples of the “worried skull,” a curious motif we see occasionally here at Big Dumb Skulls HQ. Why he worry? Perhaps because the band put four iron crosses on the cover, and the skull didn’t realize until too late that this might draw accusations of Nazism toward the band. And that casts a bad light on the skull by proxy. A skull’s got a reputation to uphold, right? And how was he ever going to land that big deal with Krokus that was all the gossip in skull circles that year? Ultimately, he didn’t get the gig — Krokus wanted an eyeless skull, and this guy wasn’t willing to have them gouged out. And his crossbones were deemed too dinky for Marc Storace and company. Or maybe the skull’s worried look (and that particularly sunken right eye) is due to the zap of highly charged static electricty we see hovering around him. Either way, none of this worry and mild shock were worth this bullshit minimum wage gig.

The music:
Yet another of those independently-released US metal records from the ’80s that goes for hundreds of dollars on eBay, mostly to Greek kids. And, as with so much of this era’s bands, it could have easily wound up on one of the early Metal Massacre compilations. They wouldn’t have been a highlight of the comp, but they wouldn’t have been the worst. The riffs here are uniformly average, the choruses typical, and the overall vibe “ho-hum.” On the plus side, there are some good guitar leads from Jon Rogue, and occasionally, as in “Steady on the Steel,” he reels off a glory-crammed thematic melody line. All of his work on “Revenge” is excellent. Vocalist Mark Holz is interesting, too. He sounds like a throatier, huskier Vince Neil on “Confrontation,” although not tone deaf and flat-out shitty (Vince Neil is the worst), while his raspy delivery on “Steady on the Steel” finds him mashing up Mark Shelton and Mark Tornillo, thought it’s not quite as weird or ridiculous as that combo seems on paper. This also gets a few extra points for the recording job, which is cleaner, brighter, heavier and much less scrappy than the typical release of this kind. So, Blacklist has a few noteworthy and even impressive elements, but it’s pointless to spread delicious icing on stale cake. This EP is worth a listen, but probably not worth $300, which I’ll bet you $300 it has sold for to some fanatic in Greece.
— Friar Wagner