Some metal bands pride themselves on music that’s complicated, with lots of riffs, complex time signatures and so on. Then there’s Viking Skull. Born in 2002, and releasing an EP called Chapter One before releasing this album in 2005. Touring with the likes of Dio and Alice Cooper, and playing Download, almost certainly had an impact on the level of confidence that’s evident throughout this recording.
The vocals are very NWOBHM, more about attitude than any sort of great vocal ability. The riffs are bludgeoning and repetitive, although more depth is shown in moments like the breakdown in the middle of ‘Crank the Volume’. The overall feel is very 70s, like Motorhead but not as fast. If this band had existed before Motorhead, they would probably be cited as an influence on the overall approach Lemmy and co took in terms of meat and potatoes rock and roll turned up and played with attitude.
As is so often the case, this album is not a classic because of any one person’s particular abilities, but because a group of people banded together and worked to create something greater than the sum of it’s parts. The riffs are catchy, the vocals are distinctive and fun, it’s just a whole lot of fun. Everyone does their job and the end result is pure heavy metal joy. Although it’s pretty meat and potatoes, throughout there are little touches like the ‘Shoot to thrill’ style breakdown in Red Hot Woman, some harmony guitars here and there, the pure 70s pastiche of Frostbite, and the guitar interplay in the wonderfully named ‘Beer, Drugs and Bitches’ which lift individual songs and strengthen the whole album. This music could be called simple, but they do it with style. Songs like Dirty, Dirty Hole show an obvious debt to AC/DC, but not as strong as you’d get listening to Airbourne. There’s definitely a debt to Black Sabbath in there as well. Overall, Viking Skull are a joyous celebration of 70s style heavy metal, ramped up to 11, and played with pure abandon.
Things didn’t go well from here, the band still exists, but with a rotating lineup and not a lot of activity. In a lot of ways, when you release something that is obviously looking backwards, it’s hard to maintain that style and find ways to move within it. Airbourne have done it mostly on the strength of their live show and endless touring, mostly overseas. The other albums are worth checking out, but this is the diamond in the bunch. Anyone who likes heavy metal is pretty much guaranteed to love this album.