NARROW MIND, Lady Moonlight (2011, demo)

The skull:
The complete and total ugliness of this cover is impossible to deny. The skull (goofy eyes and all) appears to have been drawn in MS-Paint, and the title appears to be set in Comic Sans! The logo, meanwhile, is the sort of shiny 3D junk that was very common in the early/mid 90s when consumer-level modelling software started to become available. The whole affair seems to have been calculatedly crafted to cultivate the appearance of amateurishness, perhaps in some grand ironic display. And while I’m generally of a like mind with DEP on the subject of irony and the deadness of its scene, I admit that if this were in fact the intention of Narrow Mind, I’d have to applaud their dedication to the vision. But, as even a cursory listen will demonstrate, what we have here is not irony but idiocy.

The music:
These guys placed fourth in their high school battle of the bands in Zurich, which maybe doesn’t sound so bad, until you learn that only five bands entered the contest, and the fifth was obviously some kind of joke staged by that one weird kid who plays the accordian. Narrow Mind are generic enough that the best label for them is probably just “heavy metal” but this especially reminds me of the absolute worst indie European power metal of the mid 90s, bands I’d encounter only as singleton tracks somehow tacked on to fill in the extra time at the end of a blank 90 minute cassette, by a trader who thought, “Well, if he’s interested in the German Avalanche, he might like this as well.” And then, of course, I’d quickly discover that I didn’t actually like Avalanche, let alone the shitty filler band. And that band, still, would have been better than Narrow Mind. Bad playing, bad singing, bad songs. Just, bad
— Friar Johnsen


KOZELJNIK, Wrecked in Ruins of Solitude (2007, Spiritual WarArt Productions)

The skull:
A shitty low-contrast photo of a skull, washed out in a murk of very dark aquamarine. Is this skull’s solitude ruinous? It’s hard to say. He looks a little wrecked, maybe, but I think that’s more on the hands of the designer than on the solitude. Big, dumb, and ugly.

The music:
Here at Skull HQ, Friar Wagner and I generally tackle skulls on an even/odd basis. We occasionally mix it up, but generally we’re at the mercy of a skull’s divisibility by two. By pure coincidence, most of the primitive/raw/underground black metal has landed in Friar Wagner’s queue, which has worked out well considering his greater familiarity with black metal. But, with skull113, my number is up, and I’m forced to confront a release that’s pretty far outside my wheelhouse. My interest in black metal tends toward the progressive and well produced. Darkthrone enthusiasts need not knock on the door of Friar Johnsen. So, when confronted with this sort of Eastern European, tr00, kvlt, black-as-in-darkness-and-evil kind of stuff, I’m somewhat at a loss. Listening to Kozeljnik, about all I can tell you is that they sound like a lot of other bands. Unfortunately, I can’t really tell you which bands they are. This isn’t even bad stuff (well, two of the four tracks are rehearsal recordings, and one of those is a cover, and those are at a minimum unnecessary), but fuck if I can say more than that. This isn’t Darkthrone-style primitivism — there are a lot of riffs and some interesting ones at that — but there also aren’t any surprising elements on offer. The production is buzzy and raw but not confrontationally no-fi, and while the playing is rough around the edges, it’s not amateur-level sloppy. To me, this is like hundreds of other ill-defined black metal bands, and since Wrecked… came out in 2007, it’s virtually guaranteed that none of the ideas hereby presented are even remotely original. So if you want to learn more about this band from Big Dumb Skulls, you’ll just have to keep your fingers crossed that the band releases another cover with a skull, and that it lands on the even pile. So, maybe check this space in early 2015.
— Friar Johnsen