VIKING SKULL HAVE PLENTY OF DOOM, GLOOM AND HEARTACHE; NEED MORE WHISKEY
If you’re not familiar with Viking Skull it’s probably because of the lack of Stateside availability of this UK band’s early material. All that’s about to change with a little help from our friends at Candlelight Records, and you stoner doom aficionados are going to eat this one up. If you take a foundation built on Black Sabbath, add the support structure of Thin Lizzy, wall it up with a thick layer of Motorhead and retrofit the whole package with the likes of Orange Goblin this is the house Viking Skull has built. Founded by vocalist Roddy Stone and Raging Speedhorn drummer Gordon Morrison five years ago, the act has put out a few well-received releases across the pond. Morrison left in 2006 and has since been replaced by CKY skinsman Jess Margera, brother of Bam of Jackass fame.
I admit I have a bias for this sort of material. I was raised on ’70s Sabbath and I never grow weary of the plodding rhythms or the sludgy riffs. High On Fireesque vocals — compromised by copious amounts of cigarettes and drenched in drams of whiskey — only sweeten the deal. Having toured extensively with Clutch, HIM and Dio, Viking Skull have strengthened their songwriting chops and seem much more focused on Doom, Gloom, Heartache and Whiskey than on past releases. Even so this isn’t a flawless release, yet when it hits the mark it’s like a round of buckshot to the backside.
The opening number, “Start A War,” doesn’t impress, but as soon as the title track begins you’ll be reminded of the feeling you got the first time you heard Kyuss’ “Green Machine.” It’s just as well considering it will take a few minutes for the buzz to kick in anyway. The chugging rhythm will inspire some chugging of your own though it may involve something more fluid than the turgid intonations of Viking Skull’s southern stomp. Yes, the band hails from England, but you’ll barely notice as the music seems rooted in the demonic,
Dixieland treading of stoner acts like Hognose. “Shot Down” seems to emanate from the swamps of the American South and “Double Or Quits” contains a familiar melody utilized by a number of Confederate Rock acts over the years. It isn’t as though Viking Skull are reinventing the wheel here, but the familiarity can seem equally uninspired and comforting depending on your level of inebriation. Regardless of the level of originality or lack thereof, the execution is admirable most of the time.
By the time closing track “Drink” comes around the set has worn a little thin and the lyrics devolve into a juvenile mess while the music reflects generic barroom inebriation. And considering the runtime extends just beyond the thirty minute mark it begs the question: “Does this band have what it takes to regularly produce quality material, and how far can you stretch the lyrical love-for-drinking shtick?” There are a number of enjoyable moments on Doom, Gloom, Heartache & Whiskey but the set peters out pretty quickly in much the same fashion as a lucky regular suffering from whiskey dick. Let’s hope the next attempt possesses even more potency in the face of heartache.