LATHSPELL, Reborn in Retaliation (2009, Excesor Christianorum)

The skull:
“Okay, the album we’re shooting is called Reborn in Retaliation, so gimme your most retaliatory look!” “Huh? What do you mean? Like, am I the one who is being reborn? And my rebirth is in some way a retaliation for some wrongdoing?” “Yeah, I guess!” “That doesn’t even make sense! How would that even work?” “I dunno man. They hired me to do the cover photo, and I hired you, so let’s just run with it.” “Okay, but it’s stupid. And anyway, I can’t really give you one look or another. I’m a skull. I can point myself this way or that way, and I can open and close my jaw, and that’s about it.” “Fine! Just look down, like you’re sad or something.” “Retaliating makes me sad? So sad I’m gonna… rebirth myself?” “Christ, man! You’re overthinking this! You’re a skull! A badass skull! Just fucking… do something skully! Like maybe your soul is departing to be reborn, and that kind of bums you out or whatever. This isn’t rocket science! Hell, it’s not even really art! This is for some Finnish black metal band!” “Alright. I mean, I appreciate the work and all, and I’m not trying to give you a hard time. It’s just stupid, this title. But okay, how’s this? Like, I’m thinking maybe I’m actually being reborn right now, so like my head is moving down the birth canal…” “Ugh! That’s fucking gross! Don’t you think you’ll have, you know, flesh and all that when you’re reborn?” “Well, it would sure be more retaliatory to come out just a skull, don’t you think?” “Sure, but then wouldn’t you be a baby skull? Those things look totally different from, uh, adult skulls like you.” “How do you even know how old I am? What does that have to do with anything?” “Man, nevermind. I just took a picture. It’s good e-fucking-nough. Here’s your fifty bucks. Thanks for coming in.”

The music:
The first several minutes of music on Reborn in Retaliation are rather slow and moody, and though it’s immediately recognizable as black metal, it comes loaded with atmosphere and mystery. And then the blasting starts, and for a while, it’s as generic as you expect black metal to be. Then they slow down, and things get interesting again. And then they start blasting, and all craftsmanship goes out the window. So it goes with Lathspell. They should really be a doom metal band, because they do downtempo much, much better than they do full-tilt northern aggression. In the end, there were just too many uninteresting fast sections to really hold my interest, and that’s too bad, because there’s a core of a great band here. They just need to slow the fuck down, and stay down.
— Friar Johnsen


BOARDERS, Rust of 99  (1999, self-released)

The skull:
This poor thing. Bleached white and lonely, with an elongated cranium that’s getting into John Merrick territory. He looks sad and worried. But his teeth are in great shape. Another of those last-minute, totally uncreative skull covers that seems to have absolutely no purpose other than filling up space.

The music:
Boarders also doubles as a Megadeth tribute band and they probably do okay with that in their Italian homeland. Their original material is along the lines of Megadeth’s Countdown to Extinction and Youthanasia, the clean, streamlined stuff, but this covers EP shows a slightly rawer Boarders (are they skateboarders?). You get covers of Helloween, Megadeth, Metallica (a cool choice of “Escape”), AC/DC, Iron Maiden and Testament songs. Competently performed with no big surprises, although the vocals are uniformly terrible. Oh, and there’s a drum solo tacked onto the end. You’ll do without this one just fine.
— Friar Wagner