White Skull

White Skull

Tales from the North

Nuclear Blast

Only a cursory glance at the cover of White Skull’s Tales from the North — heavy metal-resplendent in Conan imagery, with Boris Vajello-esque art, to boot — is needed to know the album is not only a throwback to the classic metal of the ’80s (e.g., Judas Priest, Dio, Manowar), it is the quintessence of it.

Though Tales from the North is essentially a batch of Viking battle hymns, there’s no doubting that White Skull gives Manowar a run for its money in terms of sheer heavy metal pride. From the beyond-pyrotechnic guitar work of Tony Fonto and Nicola Savio to vocalist Frederica De Boni’s vaguely-Dio sing-screech to even the song titles themselves (“Fighting and Feasting,” “Asgard,” “Viking’s Tomb”), Tales works overtime to evoke visions of pure metal’s glorious past, a time when leather pants and mythology-based lyrics went hand in hand. This axis may seem a bit predictable to the casual listener, but credit the rhythm section (Alesandro Manterio, drums, and Fabio Pozzato, bass) with providing a throbbing power metal-surge that eludes the norms of “retro”-ism.

In terms of accessibility, White Skull’s brand of headbanging is sure to perk ears easier than, say, Darkthrone or any other archetypal black metal band. But that’s not to say that Tales from the North is any less alienating to those unschooled in Heavy Metal 101: In most modern cases, the album would take the cake for the embodiment of pre-schisms metal, and that’s certainly not going to win any popularity contests with people who frequent Abercrombie and Fitch. Laugh all you want about a group of Italians playing songs about Vikings – they’re better than your band ever will be.

Nuclear Blast America, P.O. Box 43618, Philadelphia, PA 19106; http://www.nuclearblast-usa.com

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