SQUEALER, End of the World  (2013, self-released)

The skull:
End of the World? More like End of Album Cover Ideas. I know, that’s not even funny, but if they’re not gonna try, why should I? This guy looks tired, or in some form of despair, and perhaps it’s because he’s just endured a trip to the optometrist, one that ended in pupil dilation, which explains the sunglasses. But then it’s all a fraud, because skulls don’t have eyeballs. Squealer just doesn’t get it, man.

The music:
Did you know there have been six metal bands to have recorded under the name Squealer? Three have been German, and the most successful of the lot is this one — and they’re still pretty weak. No doubt, they’re capable, maybe even decent at times, but they’re still no more than standard-issue German melodic speed/power metal, right off the factory assembly line. Or at least, that’s how they started out. No matter their direction, most of these tunes are about as faceless as it gets. When they’re in power metal mode, it’s somewhere between Not Fragile, Scanner and the weakest Iron Savior tunes — at the best of times. Squealer didn’t remain static in their evolution, which you have to give them credit for, but then their new frontiers weren’t all that impressive either. When they tried to change their sound, as heard on “Fade Away,” they’re a sorry excuse for modern gothic-tinged metal, like latter-day Sentenced covering Sisters of Mercy. Seems Squealer has flirted with a Moonspell-ish gothic direction more than once, too, as also heard in “To Die For (…Your Sins).” Boredom eternal. It’s difficult to determine why this self-released compilation exists, and why the Japanese wanted a piece of it. But here it is, in case you feel like you missed the train on the mighty Squealer or something. Might as well pre-order that 6xLP Chinchilla box set while you’re at it.
— Friar Wagner


TROXYGEN, Demo (2012, demo)

The skull:
This skull clealy suffers from some kind of hydroencephaly – look at how huge his dome is – and has attempted to relieve the pressure by ramming a cross into his forehead. Except, wait, is that forked tongue part of the cross? What the hell? This doesn’t make any sense. And why is he wearing mirrored glasses? Does he think some bitchin’ shades will distract the ladies from his enormous, bulbous, horned head? If so, this dude is seriously living in denial.

The music:
Troxygen describe themselves as “crudge metal,” which I assume is a portmanteau of “crust” and “sludge,” although as far as I can tell, they’re just a shitty death/thrash band (“dash metal,” to those in the know). Yes, they slow it down to almost dirgey tempos at times, but that would at best make them “croom metal,” and that’s assuming there was some actual crust in the sound, which there isn’t. “Crudge” nevertheless rings true, because that’s a descriptor that absolutely no one would associate with quality. These two songs are dreadfully dull and performed without passion. Truly unnecessary stuff.
—Friar Johnsen


VILLAINS/FINGERNAILS, Getting Crazy (2008, Nuclear War Now! Productions)

The skull:
It looks like this skull just stepped off the streets of Brooklyn, he’s so hip, with his garish colors and massive aviators. You can easily imagine Pitchfork readers identifying with him, maybe buying him a PBR. That he’s holding vinyl only seals the deal. That said, for a cover that was probably created in a matter of minutes, it’s pretty striking and, at least by BDS standards, fairly original, if only for its palette.

The music:
I love this kind of split, where each band covers the other. At least, I love it in concept. I don’t know if I’ve heard a good one yet. I don’t know anything about Fingernails, but I’ve seen Villains before, and they’re a pretty gonzo punk/metal kind of thing. They’re the sort of band that makes you wonder if you’re not, yourself, sufficiently intense. Their version of Fingernails’ “Crazy for Blowjobs” is fine, and funny, but also kind of pointless, in the way an awful lot of punk is, 35 years past its creative expiration date. The Fingernails side is even less good, although it’s hard to say if this is their fault, or Villains’ fault for writing a lesser tune. It sounds like they recorded it in their rehearsal space, too. Anyway, this is an ephemeral, for-fans-only release, lasting under 7 minutes total, and while I’ll surely forget the music (actually, I already have), at least the skull is seared into my mind.
— Friar Johnsen


BIGRIG, 10-4 Good Buddy (2009, demo)

The skull:
This one pretty much speaks for itself, no? What could I possibly add that would make this funnier? Nothing!

The music:
BigRig is a side project from Admiral Nobeard and Commodore RedRum of the second best pirate metal band of all time, Swashbuckle. As you might expect, BigRig play trucker metal, even if no one else does. The sound is basically goofy deathrock, like midperiod Entombed but better and funny on purpose. They’re a joke band, yeah, but BigRig (like Swashbuckle) are damned good at what they do, and they play this ridiculous shit like they mean it. The unexpected melody in “The Long Haul” almost approaches earnestness, even. I’m sure these guys know it’s a galactic waste of time to put any effort into a throw-away novelty band like BigRig, but they just can’t help doing it right. You have to respect that.
— Friar Johnsen