IN BATTLE, In Battle (1997, Napalm)
A skull floats through a cemetery, possibly haunting the burial grounds and its groundkeepers who could not actually bury him because his entire body was so damn big. Unless this skull somehow grew to become as wildly out of proportion as pictured. The ghost-skull is so laughably big, I picture him clumsily knocking around from headstone to headstone like a pinball slamming into bumpers. “Oops, sorry!” “Excuse me!” Or maybe he’s not haunting at all, but instead trying to eat that big headstone. Why the carved sliver of bone lodged vertically through the nose and coming out the roof of the mouth? Might be a toothpick and, lacking hands or pockets, this is where he has to put it. What a totally great album cover.
On their first album, Marduk were apparently quite a big influence on these Swedes, as this 12-song album blazes by in a flurry of hyperspeed drum beats, blurry guitar hurricanes and seething vocal screeching. Prototypical pure Swedish black metal. Marduk, Setherial, Blodsrit, Dark Funeral…you know the deal. But In Battle does have some differences. A song such as “Ruler of the Northern Sphere” features an almost folk-like melody, giving the material a sliver of depth, and “Doom of the Unbeloved” revolves around slightly slower (or, less fast) and more hypnotic spaces that recall the sound of classic Norwegian black metal. Overall it’s well-played and genuine, yet despite the attempts to inject some variety, it gets pretty boring after a couple songs.
— Friar Wagner
SAINT VITUS, C.O.D. (1992, Hellhound)
A classic in terms of bigness and dumbness. Very much looks like a last-minute “Album cover? Uh…I don’t know. How about a skull?” sort of decision. We’re on a roll here with skulls missing the lower mandible: SKULLs 22, 21, 19, 17, 14, 11 and 3 are all incomplete yet are super-skully skulls. What happens to a skull’s lower jaw, anyway? Many are lacking the power to chew even the most tender of flesh, which is a damn shame. So, the C.O.D. skull looks kind of holy with that celestial light beaming from its noggin. Incidentally, this is possibly the most bucktoothed skull in the Skullection. Not that there’s anything wrong with the bucktoothed. Don’t be hatin’.
I love that this forever born-too-late band named their album after a now completely obsolete form of package delivery. Actually, it’s short for Children of Doom, and in the title track’s chorus Saint Vitus rhymes that with “give us some room.” Sure, you got it guys. This Don Dokken produced album is, unfortunately, the band’s most underwhelming album. It’s fine, it just doesn’t offer much in the way of freshness. It’s all rather redundant, despite new blood in vocalist Christian Linderson (ex-Count Raven). The extra tracks on the CD version make the album better, adding some variety to the otherwise repetitive eight main tracks on the vinyl version. It’s not a terrible album at all; Vitus have a tough time doing any real wrong, sez me…it’s just not comparable to their best stuff. Skull-worthy for so many reasons…
— Friar Wagner