BLACK JACK, Five Pieces of Eight (1985, Metal For Melbourne)
This is the second skull cover I’ve seen this week that includes a hovering pistol. (And that’s a sentence I have never before typed in my life.) But everything’s levitating here: the gun, the sword, the skull itself — although skulls do lots of floating around these parts. The image is made complete by the headband, earring and eyepatch, even if the latter is functionless on a skull. The dude is clearly out for revenge, ready to kill those who glanced that cannonball off his head and took some bone off the top. And check out the extra contrivance of an ear bone, an artistic prosthesis of sorts, so the skull could sport an earring. Muhfugga’s crazy! This skull has all the goods to rape and pillage on the high seas…except a ship.
Back in 1983 when Running Wild were still singing about evil, hell, and the occult, this band from Melbourne, Australia quietly invented the genre that Running Wild gets credited with founding: pirate metal. Their ’83 demo flys the Jolly Roger right there on the tape cover and features songs like “Crusader’s Revenge” and “Spanish Lover,” back when Rock ‘n’ Rolf’s only knowledge of a “Jolly Roger” was the gay bar down the street in Hamburg. Black Jack released this EP in 1985 and continued the pirate theme. “Man at Arms” is doom-laden and dirgy, with some loping, soaring guitar leads, and the guy’s pretty good, although the song itself meanders. They pick up the pace on “Highwayman’s Inn” (clunky NWOBHM-style stuff) while “Hot Rocket” pairs terrible lyrics with even worse vocals. The playing is sufficient, and the lead guitarist better than that. The energy is high too, but the recording is downright dire. A bit of a shambles, really, and something for only the most indiscriminate lover of metal obscurities. Ultimately its 25 minutes soar by in a fog of uselessness. On a historical basis, you gotta hail Black Jack, the true founders of Pirate Metal! (Or “Damn you Black Jack!” if you think the whole pirate metal thing is totally fucking silly.)
— Friar Wagner