THE MANDRAKE, The Burning Horizon at the End of Dawn (2004, Crash)

The skull:
The skull looks down in an apparently forlorn gaze, contemplating the blood-red ocean to his left and the holocaust skies on the horizon. Faintly we see a poorly Photoshopped mushroom cloud woven into the sky, and you don’t have to use much imagination to envision a skull face in that fiery cloud. Or maybe it’s a head of cauliflower.

The music:
The Mandrake are one of few bands I’ve heard from the Crash stable that are actually competent. (One of the worst labels ever, for a few different reasons.) The Colorado natives play melodic death metal before it lost the “death” and amped up the “melodic.” Think The Everdawn and Gates of Ishtar. Good. Now throw capable but generic low death metal vocals on top. It’s another of hundreds of examples of capable, even talented U.S. bands looking overseas for inspiration and coming back home with nothing but a postcard of the real scenery. Later material traded some of their semi-esoteric riffs for a bunch of chunka-chunka ones. Active since 2001, The Mandrake should be finding their own artistic voice any decade now.
— Friar Wagner