SKULL BASTARDS, Promo 2012 (2012, demo)
Although skulls with gasmasks are actually an incredibly common visual trope in heavy metal, this is only the second in the Skullection, after Def Con One, which itself didn’t show up until #538. I guess most gaskmask skulls just end up on covers with other skulls, or skeletons, or some other disqualifying element (like a Black Label Society logo). Both of the gasmaskers we’ve seen so far are simple black and white drawings, which begs the question: what band has the balls to strap a real gas mask on a real skull and photograph it (preferably in front of a live fire) for their album cover? Consider the gauntlet thrown.
Skull Bastards play fast and tight thrash that sounds like early Annihilator at their most stupid. I don’t entirely mean that as a slam, because Skull Bastards are pretty good and play with a genuine ferocity, but they’re totally lacking in nuance and their songs could use a bit more in the way of dynamics. I do appreciate the heavy NWOBHM influence (especially evident in “Evil Night,” the better of the two songs on this demo) that makes Skull Bastards sound more like a lost first-wave thrash band than a bunch of kids aping what thrash would become after even four or five years of development. The croaky vocals are a little better than you get in most rethrash bands, and the lead guitar is ripped straight from Dave Mustaine’s 1986 playbook, which is fine by me. While not original in the least, and although they could really use some more variety in their tunes, Skull Bastards are pretty damned solid, and it’s probably worth checking out their EP from 2013.
— Friar Johnsen
DEF CON ONE, Warface (2012, Scarlet)
Where have we seen this before? It’s almost guaranteed just from the artwork alone that we’re in for some shitty metal. But first, the cover: gasmask and fallout symbol. What are we supposed to feel? What is this trying to say? Why did the band think this was such a stunning piece or art that they went and reproduced it almost exactly for their next album? (The imaginatively titled II.) If I didn’t know any better I’d guess this was some not-really-supergroup formed by members of Skinlab, Sacrilege B.C. and some drummer that lasted about four minutes with Laaz Rockit.
Funny, I was just thinking how I needed more cruddy modern British metal in my life and Def-Con-One delivered!!! Def Con One (stupidest name ever) are the perfect illustration of what we’re trying to figure out here at Big Dumb Skulls, whether shitty/stupid/uncreative album covers are a reflection of the music inside. Warface seems to proudly answer that question with a resounding “you betcha!” This is music that would only sound right pumping out of the shitty earbuds of power-lifting gym-rat jarheads, lots of ranting about psychos, strength, bullets, and “not listening to a single word I say.” The double bass drumming is super-solid, but recorded way too clicky. The singer is yet another dude that looks like Phil Anselmo yelping like Phil Anselmo. And the riffs sound like ones Pro-Pain threw out for not being good enough. They make reasonable attempts to inject some melody into their aggro anthems (“Hold On”, “March of the Dead”), but even these fall flat in a post-grunge kind of heap. This band features some Venom drummer named Antton, who is technically way better than Abaddon, but still, if he’s not Abaddon, and the music is this stupid, Def Con One is a limply hanging branch of the Venom family tree, at best.
— Friar Wagner