GRANTIG, So Muss Es Sein (2008, Drakkar Entertainment GMBH)
We’ve seen quite a few iterations of the Human Skull + Ram Horns motif here at Big Dumb Skulls. As we near Skull #500 in the run up to 666, you can bet we’ve seen better ones than this, although this one deserves some attention thanks to its stylized take on the “concept.” I’m as tired of browns as any other metal fan long in the tooth, and this cover uses nearly every shade of it. That said, it’s a pretty okay piece of art, as these sorts of things go, but that’s a pretty low bar we’re setting. I’m sure some hanger-on Grantig fan somewhere in the depths of Bavaria has this skull tattooed on his arm, and probably carries the band’s gear into the van for them. Then they’re all like “Sorry, no room in the van, buddy, but we love your tattoo!” They speed off to a gig where three other Grantig diehards await their arrival. So it must be.
Modern metal from Germany, exactly like a synthesis of Pantera and Black Label Society but with lyrics in German. I will concede they’re no slouches at their chosen craft, even if the craft they’ve chosen (German Southern Groove Metal?) has absolutely no appeal to this friar. This is the kind of jockstrap thump-rock that impressionable under-age kids half listen to and half care about when they’re chugging ’em down at the back of the pub while the band rocks its balls off.
— Friar Wagner
VALOTON, Beastificate (2010, Hammer Of Hate)
With an, uh, octagram behind him, this skull looks kingly/goofy in all that accoutrement:
majestic and humongous ram horns, stuff that looks like black broom hairs growing off his
chin, and a vague spongy mass atop his head that’s either a hairnet or brains. He’s really
beastificating here, that’s for sure. There are enough metal skull covers featuring ram
horns fused to a human skull that the Council have considered opening up an entirely
separate branch of Big Dumb Skulls to handle all of them. This one would rank right at the
I looked at the cover, the genre, the label, and looked at Finland as the country
of origin and figured it all pointed to Horna worship, ie. black metal in its strictest,
most violent, and purest form. But no — Valoton operate in an area that’s much more
technical, melodic and well-recorded, reminding of that early ’90s Swedish melodic death
metal sound mixed with the kind of modernized approach Gorgoroth took on the Incipit Satan album, but less varied and totally Nuclear Blast-y, if you get what I mean. Far more refined than their Finnish black metal peers, don’t be surprised if someday you see Valoton rubbing shoulders at the summer festivals next to bands like Hypocrisy and Behemoth. As for individual highlights throughout the album, there aren’t any — Valoton are good at what they do, but practically every song sounds the same. This interchangability is accepted these days by a lot of people, so hey, good luck to ’em. I’m at least glad I didn’t have to sit here and listen to the umpteenth Horna wanna-be.
— Friar Wagner