SARCOFAGUS, Live in Studio 1979 (2010, Svart)

The skull:
This most excellent BDS can only be found on the vinyl reissue of this collection, which was released on CD a few years earlier with a really, truly unremarkable cover. It was wise of Svart to doll it up thusly, because who can resist the majesty of this crazy guy? Inside every metal lover is a death’s head, I guess is the message, and inside every death’s head are a couple of pinballs. I especially love that the skull photo is terribly out of focus, which only makes the inept Photoshop paste job that much more charming. The whole thing in a way evokes the look of an old fashioned in-camera effect, almost as if to pretend that this image is contemporary with the music it’s fronting. If that was intentional, then I say, “Huzzah!” to the fine artist who assembled this piece, but in the far more likely case that it’s just a happy accident, I must still commend him on his exceptional luck.

The music:
Sarcofagus stake their claim on being the first significant heavy metal band from Finland, and that may well be true. Who am I to say? But, I can say that they’re only metal in the way the first couple Rush albums were metal. Probably now this sort of thing would just be called “hard rock” but if they identified as heavy metal in the late 70s, then I guess that’s good enough. Certainly I’ve heard a lot of NWOBHM that’s less heavy than this, and Sarcofagus aren’t bad, even if I’m never entirely sold on the everyman vocals. They have some good riffs, and the keyboards leaven the procedings in all the right ways. If you enjoy keyboard-heavy NWOBHM like Shiva, then you’d probably dig Sarcofagus, and for that matter, they might even appeal to retrometal hipsters into bands like Witchcraft or Orchid. This particularly collection is probably not the ideal starting place, although it’s certainly not bad. It’s just that you’d probably be better off with their early singles and studio albums, which were anthologized just a couple years ago.
— Friar Johnsen