For the second time Italian Power Metallers WHITE SKULL visit us in their post-Federica De Boni time, this time with “The XIII Skull“. The previous album “The Dark Age” I had described as a mix of Italian Power/Speed Metal and GRAVE DIGGER, where the vocals of Gustavo Adrian Gabarrò, the Argentinian successor to Signora De Boni, had fit quite well.
The a bit oddly looking space cover does not really put me off and it neither is “The Union” after the dark intro “Space Invaders”, because in the verse being mid paced and in the chorus stepping flatly on the pedal, they sound really good, well produced and all, just Gus’ vocals are the problem, had he brought us a mix of clean, classical voice and Metal screams before, now he puts a lot more emphasis on the screams, pretty rough and only relatively rarely he uses his good singing voice, which unfortunately threads through many of the songs.
And that is a real pity, because the music mostly is pretty darn powerful and good, the production of Tony Mad and Danilo Bar is clear and delivers a punch, so that the very riffy guitars and the tight rhythm work really stand out. “Last Navigator” is a very strong track with light choirs, gripping melody, driving with an even more driving chorus, here Senor Gabarrò’s voice is not that gritty either, but with enough melody to fit in nicely. Also “Missing Link” fully convinces with its very catchy chorus and the a lot better fitting vocals, same goes for “Power Of Blood”.
Before that one „Creature Of The Abyss“ surprises with an medieval start, with flute and some sort of bagpipe, then damn powerful with a big GRAVE DIGGER influence and very good chorus, sounds good to me! “Perfect Design” also has a lot of pepper up the arse, thankfully Gus is not too gritty all the time, still it drags down the good songs, as sorry as I am to have to say this.
In my review for “The Dark Age” I had already written this and it has not really changed for the better… What I am most sad about is that he does have a good voice, which he just would have to use, because the songs, even though with no originality, are not the problem, if you like the German school of GRAVE DIGGER or also some RAGE and add some Italian Power Metal.
So the voice is the element, which will make or break this album, so definitely listen in first, just to make sure… (Online July 9, 2004)