Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New Band: Viking Skull

It's a new year and the school semester has just started. This probably means very little to you, but to me it means a return of access to the CD store on campus. And as I began back in November, with Sound And Fury, I am going to try to buy a new album once a week (my budget might not allow it but it will be at least once a month), and give it a serious listen. I like finding new music, and often times it's easier to find up-and-coming bands in small CD shops then in the big ones, or even online.

This time I found the latest album by the metal band, Viking Skull. This album, Doom, Gloom, Heartache & Whiskey, was one of the ten featured metal albums for January, at my CD store, and after giving the first few tracks a listen (I didn't want to make the same mistake as last time) I decided that I could enjoy this.
I was driving all day so I took Dream Theater's, Scenes From A Memory (see My Take), out of my CD player and slid in Viking Skull.
It's a short album, nine songs clocking in at just under 40 minutes, so it was no problem to get a full listen. I dislike overly short albums, I feel like I am getting gypped. I'm paying the same price (actually more because of the store) but getting only half of the music. In my opinion, all albums released today should at least be one full hour. We don't have the size constrictions that they had in the 60's-80's with vinyl records, so we should maximize this technology. But that's neither here nor there, just a little pet-peeve of mine.
Anyway, back to the actual album. I listened through the album once on the road, but I don't like to review off of this, because my mind tends to wander alot when I drive, and I feel that I can't give it a true listen. So I came home and listened to it again, in my home system, but I have to say, most of what I was thinking in the car has held true, throughout this second listen.
First off, this band is just straight-forward metal with a guttural-voiced lead singer. Every song has a nice groove format, and the lyrics are decent, but the vocals get lost often in the droning of the guitar. It's as if the guitar and singer are recording off the same mic, leading to the vocals getting drowned out in alot of the songs, especially in the first two. It sounds like they ran out of money or time mixing the album, or I guess it could have been on purpose, but its all very muddy, not what one would expect from a main release.
But that aside it's a pretty good album. Every song has catchy rhythm and guitars, and most songs have a nice laid-back solo within them. Not the frantic type that has had a resurgence of popularity since Rage Against The Machine. These guys are not trying to cram as many notes in a solo as possible, to show off their "mad skilz." They play what they want to play, when they want to play it.
My favorite tracks are "In Hell," "Shot Down," and "19 Swords," all of these songs have semi-clear lyrics (at least they stand out from the instruments), and a continuation of a cool grove line. "In Hell" and "19 Swords" are war anthems of sorts, with "Shot Down" being about what you'd expect, getting shot down by a woman.
My review would stop here, with a round up and stating that it is a solid album, that most metal-heads could get into, but alas it cannot be. For the final track make me rethink this whole album. First, let me say that on the plastic wrapper that was on the disc in the store, there was a sticker saying something along the lines of "For fans of Heavy Viking Metal." Now this was way off, because besides the name and the slightly harsh vocals, there is nothing Viking Metal about this album. I assumed that this was just the record company trying to tie Viking Skull into some genre, to help sales, but then the last song on the album came up. It is titled simply, "Drink," and it is what you think; a drinking song. Apparently these guys thought they were Viking Metal too and had to add a poorly conceived drinking song on the album. The song starts with piano, the kind you'd expect in a old-west bar, and just a tambourine and stomping feet to add anything else musical. Then the singer comes in, with some of the most retarded lyrics I've ever heard. "Drink/Drink 'til we shit our pants/Drinky-drink, drinky-drink lord/Drink 'til we shit our pants" over and over and over. There is an attempt at a verse in the beginning, but it is half-assed and quickly goes away, just leaving the piano, tambourine and bad chorus for the final five minutes (it's a six minute song, the longest on the entire album). Horrible, simply horrible.

So as I said, this is a solid album (until the final song), with good guitar, bass and simple drumming. If they had worked more on it in the studio, and cleaned up the crossing of the vocals and guitars, it would have come out alot better. But, as my second CD purchase in some time (with the first one being horrible), it's not a bad deal.

Track Listing

  1. Start A War
  2. Doom, Gloom, Heartache & Whiskey
  3. In Hell
  4. Hair of The Dog
  5. Shot Down
  6. Double or Quits
  7. In For The Kill
  8. 19 Swords
  9. Drink

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