White Skull – Metal Never Rusts (Rock of Angels Records)Friday, 21st October 2022
An appropriate album title never rang truer than this one for Italian power metal veterans White Skull. Active in the scene since the late 80’s, Metal Never Rusts is the eleventh studio platter for the sextet, and first since 2017’s Will of the Strong. Joining the robust Rock of Angels Records roster (now boasting notables like Grave Digger, Mystic Prophecy, and Steel Prophet), the band will probably receive an uplifting uptick in valuable awareness globally – so the hope is that the strength of songwriting/ performances matches the opportunity present. The pandemic allowed the group to not only work on a book with an Italian metal journalist called The Soul of the Skull, but also develop a conceptual theme that provides insight into the group’s feelings for metal as a genre played out over the course of these ten tracks.
The musical components contain plenty of power metal conventional wisdom at the helm – larger than life elevated choir-driven choruses, culturally enhanced main guitar/keyboard hooks, as well as the mixture of thunderous rhythm section activities beyond the natural epic/standard tempos that are staples of the style. It’s why the listeners will enjoy the double kick/speedier attack for “Skull in the Closet” just as much as the “Heaven and Hell”-esque atmosphere present during “Heavily Mental” – the latter containing key sound effects bells/whistles beyond the orchestration to proper up the slower, marching movements. Latest lead guitarist Valentino Francavilla showcases virtuoso chops, blazing with arpeggio/tapping techniques during his best work for “Scary Quiet” plus the enthusiastic Christmas-fueled “Jingle Hell”. The closing ballad “Weathering the Storm” features numerous male vocal parts of clean to slightly gruff variety, complimenting and contrasting the main work of Federica Sister De Boni, a mirror to the dramatic, theatrical nature of the thoughtful arrangement on hand. In general, White Skull stick to a tried-and-true European power metal base – injecting classical textures when appropriate, influences hanging hard on the main German branches (Accept, Grave Digger, Helloween) or Judas Priest/ Dio-era Rainbow/Black Sabbath when needing to reach back further.
Nothing exactly groundbreaking, Metal Never Rusts won’t tarnish the expectations for most White Skull followers. Sometimes the faithful want a healthy serving of what they’ve come to love about a genre – gritty, conventional, passionate songwriting that teeters on that edge of suspending belief in the present, yearning for that mental escape.