THANATOS, Beyond Terror (2002, Baphomet)

The skull:
Skulls gotta bathe too, and if you’re as filthy as this guy, you’re gonna need a couple dips, not to mention a stiff brush and some caustic lye soap. No need to worry about exfoliation (because you don’t have skin), or moisturizing (same), but do take care not to buff off the detail of your upside down ankh. Some kind of religious symbol on the forehead is all the decoration a lot of skulls get, so you’ll want to treat it well.

The music:
Thanatos’s Realm of Ecstasy is one of my favorite old-school death metal albums, so when the band got back together in the early 00s, I was pretty excited, but while their newer releases have all been pretty solid, none of them have come too terribly close to recapturing the special magic of Realm of Ecstasy. Part of the problem is that death metal changed a lot since 1992, but for some reason I didn’t expect Thanatos to update their sound at all. And to be fair, they didn’t update it much, which is to say they still held onto a lot of the thrash metal influences that defined early death metal. But they did update it some, and that means more blast beats, plus some regrettable high/low death metal vocal duets. If you can get past that shit, not to mention the cruddy sound, you’ll find that new Thanatos is still basically Thanatos. This is a quickie EP to follow their initial comeback, and it comes larded with some remakes and some covers (Possessed and Celtic Frost, natch), so it can’t really be called “essential,” but the originals are good (especially “Devour the Living”) and the covers are fine (if pointless, and cruddier sounding). If 1992 style death metal is your thing (and it should be) then you need to own some Thanatos. Obviously, start with Realm of Ecstasy, but if you like that, feel free to move on to their reunion stuff. You won’t be (too) disappointed.
— Friar Johnsen


HORRIFIER, Grim Fate  (2010, Witches Brew)

The skull:
I’ll let Youtuber 13MATTallica96 do the guest review of this album cover for us: “The album cover the great contract of fear and pain; the blinding hate and fire of war and the cold eery darkness of its aftermath…” That’s perhaps reading a bit much into it, but what he’s essentially saying is this: it conveys the yin yang of any fate that can be considered “grim,” that whatever awaits, you cannot escape. What I see here isn’t war, though, but a forest fire that this humongous skull got caught in, probably while hiking. To the skull’s left the scene abruptly turns to an ocean, but it looks like the skull is right near the shore, so if someone would just yell “Move to your left!! No, YOUR left!!” he might be able to swim or float to safety. Therein lies a maddening quandary, because even if he escapes the fire, skulls can’t swim. The holes formed by the curved zygomatic/temporal bones are likely the most pronounced we’ve ever seen on a skull cover, so kudos to the artist for that. Also, credit to the artist for what is a very well-executed painting. No joke, it’s better than most we see around these parts.

The music:
I think of early Metallica and Razor songs played by Acrophet when listening to Grim Fate. Of course, in 2010 that means it’s hopelessly derivative, but I suppose if this had come out in 1985, I would have bought it, listened to it a few times, kept it around and then in 1990 realized it was was never going to be listened to in favor of other, better thrash albums, and tossed it. How did I know “Exordium/From Beyond the Grave” was going to be their “(Welcome Home) Sanitarium” rip before even hearing it? Probably the slash, which makes it look all progressive and stuff. “Exordium” is actually just an intro that sounds like a rejected idea for Side 1, Song 4-era Metallica (1984, 1986, 1988), and “From Beyond the Grave” is more well-played but entirely unnecessary thrash. Sometimes Horrifier sounds like early Def Leppard, or early Jag Panzer, as on “True Metal Never Rusts!,” which shows the band into trad-metal as much as thrash. Somehow, though, the song reminds me of Krank or another such useless band from 1986. Yeah, here’s another band riding the nostalgia train without offering anything that’s actually of their own.
— Friar Wagner