VANEXA, 1979-1980  (2010, Jolly Roger Records)

The skull:
When you have an obscure band unearthing boring music from decades ago with a totally lame album title, what can you do but pair it with a simple skull cover? That’s what Vanexa did. Props to them for at least coming up with a skull that is uniquely their own, a bit more stylized than we normally see and certainly not trying to keep it real by depicting like a genuine human skull. The Vanexa skull (wonder if they called him Van? Van X-A?) hovers in the middle of a simple geometrical pattern of two squares and a circle. Cool, dude.

The music:
What are the chances I would get served two consecutive skull-laden albums compiling the early works of junky traditional heavy metal bands from Italy? This skull-digging is some dirty business sometimes. Vanexa have been around since 1979, and even though their last album, the fourth, came out in 1995, they’re apparently still together. You can see from the title that this album collects their earliest material in demo and live form. It’s mostly forgettable hard rock/heavy metal that’s typical of the day, in terms of style (ie. NWOBHM-sounding stuff) but lacking any noteworthy invention or vision. Horrible yelping vocals don’t help. Something like “Hiroshima” can be cited as proto-speed metal in the same way early Raven and Accept can, I suppose, but these guys ain’t Raven or Accept. Pass!