ILSA, The Maggots are Hungry (2009, Odium Generis Humani)
This amazing skull combines three of my favorite things: flowing tresses, berets, and potato masher grenades. The single, glaring eye is just icing on the cake. For some reason, this skull immediately made me think of Chainsaw Caine, the idiot frontman of the godawful Slave Raider, but Caine wore his eyepatch over his right eye, so this clearly couldn’t be him. Also, Caine wishes he had hair this lovely. Really, I don’t know how or why I made the connection, but it came to me instantly and powerfully, and in this line of work, one comes to trust those instincts. Call them the providence of The Skull.
I’m not a huge fan of crust (I like Amebix and Hellbastard and not much else) but Ilsa are pretty good as crust goes. While a lot of crust leans punk, this is definitely metal, and in their slower moments Ilsa could even make for a convincing doom metal band. The raspy, grindy vocals suck pretty bad, and it’s not like any of these riffs are gonna knock your socks off, but The Maggots are Hungry is slathered in grimy atmosphere and a palpable indignation, which is really the most you can ask of crust. The production is analog and murky, but it’s not anarcho-squatter lo-fi, as a lot of this sort of thing tends to be, and clocking in at under a half-hour, this at least doesn’t leave you wanting less.
— Friar Johnsen
VIOLENT HATE, Rising From the Past (2009, Mutilation)
This guy is all decked out in blades. Look at ’em all! So many sharp edges here, amidst an unholy red mess of creepy writhing tendrils. It’s almost enough to take attention away from the skull, who looks mighty evil with that upside-down star on his forehead. Unfortunately, all that evil is rendered inert due to the missing front tooth that makes him look like a redneck skull, a skull that took a wrong turn on his hike…and ended up playing with the powers of Hell. “I didn’t know, man, I was just waltzing along minding my own business when all these blades showed up and this pentagram came flyin’ in and stuck onto my head.” Sure, buddy. Sure.
Violent Hate’s biggest claim to fame is sharing space with Krisiun on a 1993 split. Their music recalls elements of Deicide, Vital Remains, and Vader, although it lacks a firm identity of its own (which is funny, because even Vader lacks a firm identity of their own, but that’s another story). You’re getting faceless garden variety death metal of a super-heavy inclination here. It’s been done better, it’s been done worse. If you’re actually interested, though, this collection would set you up nicely, as it gives you most of their recorded material. All except their very first demo from 1992, which means you will not get the stone cold death metal classic, “Like a Bitch in Heat.” Oh, and one of their members gives us the finger from under a brim-flipped S.T.-like ballcap. Badass, dude.
— Friar Wagner
SEVERE TORTURE, Sworn Vengeance (Earache, 2007)
There’s so little to look at here, the attention is immediately drawn to the missing front tooth. Makes this person look a lot dumber than he/she probably was while living. The eye sockets are huge, as is the nasal hole. The skull has a slightly worried or fearful look, but maybe that’s just the imagination running wild after having to contemplate such a simplistic album cover design. Yet another tossed off “uh, how about a skull” sort of cover. Big and dumb, but even we here at BDS demand a little more imagination than this.
Faster than your usual Dutch death metal (which often has a lot of love for the slower paces of doom), and very U.S. sounding, which is probably exactly what they’re going for. Some similarities to countrymen Sinister, but even more generic. Well-played, no doubt, and doing absolutely nothing that hasn’t been done to death before. This would blow your ass away if you hadn’t already heard hundreds of death metal bands and thousands of death metal albums over the years. So, one for the new kids I suppose. Zzzzzz….
Hey, any of these songs would have fit nicely on the classic Grind Crusher compilation, so at least it fits under the label’s general umbrella.
As a piece of “art,” this cover is freaking horrible. As a skull cover, we give it major props. We have a real skull grinning a stupid grin (the missing tooth indicates this skull may have belonged to a redneck), with some creature’s (or human’s) glowing orange eye hovering menacingly behind it, almost stealing the skull’s thunder. There is photoshop fire on either side of the skull’s jaw, and very unconvincing-looking fire at that. Add a really lame band logo to all this total nonsense and you’ve got an album cover that we’re happy to have in the Skullection, but also glad isn’t sitting in our personal CD libraries. Gaudy.
Workmanlike traditional heavy metal with a thick thread of hard rock embedded inside. Kinda like Michael Schenker Group meets Krokus. There’s a speedy element to it, but not anything we can call “speed metal.” They’re trying, but the songs never gel, are kinda messy in terms of arrangement, and sometimes feel downright silly in overall vibe. The strong accent of singer Vitto and the plastic-sounding drums don’t help. Nor does that album cover. Or the band name. Or song titles like “Wolf Over 3D” and “Rock is My DJ.” Or anything. There’s a lot of dreck in the Italian heavy metal scene, and this isn’t the worst of it, but there are certainly much better. Pass.
— Friar Wagner