White Skull – Under This Flag
Under This Flag
Perhaps one of the more unique European power metal acts, at least in my mind, the notorious White Skull have barged right in on 2012’s lineup of power metal releases and thrown their own baudy album into the works. Under This Flag also sees a return of the band’s initial vocalist Federica de Boni- and don’t you worry, she’s as rough and raucous as ever you heard her before. While my experience with the band is somewhat limited, this new entry into the White Skull saga is a revival of the 90’s sound of the band (it sounds much more like Tales Of The North than say, The XIII Skull to my ears), and to good effect.
It’s evident right out of the gate that chorus-centric, mid-tempo heavy/power with de Boni’s unique vocal talents is the order of the day, and the band takes collectively to their work with relish. For those not familiar with Federica’s singing, I can only describe it as “meaty”. Unlike the vast majority of female vocalists, this lady truly revels in the tearing, mid-range vocals that are almost universally considered a man’s territory. At times, she twists her voice to a constricted sounding growl that adds even further to her distinction. However she sings, de Boni is quite the match for White Skull’s work, and the band is clearly benefitting from her renewed presence.
As seems to be the trend recently, the opener of Under This Flag is certainly no slouch, but is quickly overshadowed as the album unfolds. White Skull’s shtick is not inventive, but “Bottled Mind”,“Red Devil”, and the album’s title track are all hooky, punchy, chorus-driven slugs of energy that I find myself swept up in. That said, this same tendency works against the band as well, as their rather basic formula turns from a steadfast headbang to just going through the motions on a few of the less exciting songs. With little variation, this was bound to happen, but it is not as dire a blow to the work as one might think. “A.O.D” at least has the decency to start with a reasonably calm introduction, but at no point does the band ease off the gas for an entire song.
Fans of anything that White Skull has ever composed are going to enjoy this- and I give any fan of melodic heavy/power a good shot as well. Those who are interested in checking out the more aggressive style of female vocals in this genre should absolutely pay this heed as well, since White Skull is something of a unique experience. It may not be quite as impressive, ambitious, or varied as some of their older work comes off, but this is extremely solid and satisfying work from a band that is by now surely a class veteran and reliable standard in a not-so-reliable field.
Dan’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5