Skull & Bones – The Cursed Island
Reviewed By Kevin Hathaway
Are ya ready, kids, for another nautical swashbuckling power metal adventure in search of booty?! Yeah, I wasn’t either when Skull & Bones came across my virtual desk. The “pirate metal” gimmick started wearing thin around the same time the Pirates of the Caribbean movies started to suck. See, pirates are kind of a Catch-22: if you stick with a lot of the same piratical themes, they eventually become repetitive and boring, but if one deviates from said themes and overcomplicates things (see: Pirates Of The Caribbean 2 and 3, or Alestorm travelling through time to kill Vikings), you risk alienating your audience. Enter Skull & Bones from Argentina, which plays things safe on its debut, The Cursed Island, as is apparent just from looking at the track listing. “Rum For The Crew,” “Long John Silver,” “Death & Treasure;” nothing terribly unexpected here. My hopes for this are dashed further by 5 of the 13 tracks on an already pretty short CD (only 38 minutes) being intro songs.
I tried to put all that aside, though, and eventually took this for what it is – a fairly rollicking good time in a severely limited style. The lyrics are basically taken randomly from a tricorne of pirate clichés. There’s even a “yo-ho-ho” in the chorus of the opener “The Chest Of Billy Bones” that has me hanging between cringing and a tongue-in-cheek grin. “Tried and true” is basically the only way to describe this album. Don’t expect anything to push the envelope. Just embrace your inner buccaneer and rock out.
The majority of The Cursed Island is pretty bare-bones power metal with a slight piratical tweak in the vocal delivery, but I think Skull & Bones shines when its folkier side is unleashed during the final three songs (and “Rum For The Crew,” because any metal song about drinking is automatically folk metal, according to the Unwritten Rules Of Metal). Normally I’m not too big on folk-y metal, but I appreciate it when folk influences are integrated into music well, and Skull & Bones does a really good job of this. In fact, I wish this happened more throughout the album rather than being limited to the last few songs, because it really enhances the music. Hopefully the follow-up album continues this.
As feared, the bountiful intro tracks add nothing. I never got “intro tracks.” As someone who likes to shuffle my music, why not make it a part of the song that it’s introducing? I don’t mind instrumental pickups to a song, I’ve accepted them as the norm in power metal, but FIVE intro songs? Isn’t that a bit much, especially when the songs are short as it is? Not that the lengths hinder the actual songs in any way, as it’s probably best that they don’t overstay their welcome, but the intro songs are more or less just instrumental fluff (and if you read my Melodius Deite review, you should know how sick I am of that at this point).
The performances fare well, though. Nobody is a real stand-out player, but all members work together well to get the job done. The drum production irks me, but I’m going to chalk that one up as the result of being a low-quality promo that I got. The only real drawback for the band (aside from the intro tracks) is the dubious nature of the pirate themes, mentioned earlier. I want to see them break from the tired clichés and make something a little fresher-sounding, but I don’t want them to go off the deep end either. (dare I even say… overboard? I’m here all week, folks) If they could evolve the folk elements a bit more, these landlubbin’ scallywags might really have something on their hands. As it stands though, they’re a pretty basic pirate-themed power metal band who have a load of untapped potential buried (there I go again) within them.
3.0 // 5