WHITE SKULL, Under This Flag (2012, Dragonheart)

The skull:
If you were met on the field of battle by an army of zombies bearing a giant fucking skull flag, you’d crap your pants and die on the spot. And that’s before the skulls in berets showed up. In the end, this particular branch of special forces was disbanded because by the time they showed up, everyone was already dead. Sometimes, a skull is just too badass.

The music:
White Skull are a fairly terrible Italian power metal band who just won’t go away. They’ve got about 600 albums, and they’re all bad. The thing that sets them apart from most terrible Italian power metal bands (which are legion) is singer Federica de Boni, who is like a female Chris Boltendahl, and evidently the only thing that’s worse than Boltendahl’s voice is his womanly equivalent’s. The music is reasonably well played, I guess, but the riffing is so fucking generic and uninspired that it almost makes me long for the comparative mastery of Hammerfall. To top it all off, Under This Flag boasts the sound of a mid 90s Underground Symphony album. It’s rotten all around, and to be avoided.
— Friar Johnsen


DOKKEN, Broken Bones (2012, Frontiers)

The skull:
Well, the artist at least broke, however subtly, the crossbones. I’ll give him that, and nothing more. This is one lazy-ass cover, but perfectly in keeping with the standards typical of anything bearing the name Don Dokken. The logo is (still) cool, and the colors are pretty, but clearly now I’ve entered the realm of “if you can’t say anything nice…” and saying nice things is not really my forte, so I’ll quit while I’m ahead.

The music:
God damn, Don Dokken sucks so bad. His voice is peerlessly bland and utterly without body or soul, and while I’m not going to say there’s never been a good Dokken tune, there’s absolutely never been a good Don Dokken performance. He’s one of these mysterious, talentless fucks who is a magnet for skilled musicians. Here he’s roped in some nameless but undoubtedly talented musicians to perform (and probably write, I’m guessing) his perfectly serviceable heavy AOR, all so he could dick it up with his barely whispered mewling. This approach almost works on the fastest, most engaging tunes like the opener “Empire,” but when Don is given a crunchy, bluesy number to anchor, as he is with “Blind,” he ruins it almost completely. To be fair, this is the kind of gutless hair metal stomper that probably only David Coverdale at his peak could redeem, but that makes Don’s attempt all the sadder. The pseudo-ballad “Burning Tears,” meanwhile, might really have been an affecting tune in the hands of the right singer (Michael Eriksen of Circus Maximus, say, or even Vanden Plas’ Andy Kuntz, who is basically the answer to the question, “What would Don Dokken sound like if he didn’t utterly blow?”) but Dokken’s passionless moaning nearly kills the tune. Honestly, I’m kind of surprised at how enjoyable the songwriting is here (for the most part), but I will never get over how this no-talent sleazewad ever landed a paying gig as a singer.
— Friar Johnsen