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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews


Skull II: Now More Than Ever

Review by Gary Hill

Perhaps Skull's biggest claim to fame is the fact that Bob Kulick was the guitarist for the band. I've reviewed another new archival release from them in this same issue. As opposed to that disc, this album was never actually released. We get the songs that were supposed to be the disc followed with a CD and a half of demos and alternate takes. I think this set in some ways is meatier and meaner. It has more of a real hard rock/metal sound and less of an 80s metal vibe. Both discs are quite cool, though. A lot of that has to do with the fact that songwriting seems to emphasize both meaty guitar and tasty hooks.

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Track by Track Review
CD 1: Skull II: Now More Than Ever
Cave of the Heart

Powering in heavy and a bit raw, this is a smoking hot metal screamer. There are some solid hooks built into this tune.

I Walk These Streets
This has more of the pop metal vibe at play than the opener did. That said, it's almost more classic rock in that regard than it is hair metal. Whatever you want to call it, though, this is a catchy cut with some great chops and hooks.
Children of Paradise
A powerhouse rocker, this has a lot of classic rock in the mix. It also has some pop metal in it. I can make out some Bon Jovi type elements at play here. This is solid AOR power metal.
I love the meaty riff driven vibe on this cut. It's perhaps more bluesy hard rock than heavy metal, but it's great either way.
Now More Than Ever
This sounds a lot like the more metallic side of Kiss. It's another solid tune that works really well.
Three Words Away
Perhaps the most pop oriented tune here, this still has some meat on its bones. It's another classy cut.
Heart of Stone
I can make out a bit of that Kiss reference point on this one, as well. That said, this tune is more tied to 80s hair metal than to anything else. It's sort of a pop metal power ballad. The sound quality on this recording suffers a bit.
All Night Long
Another pop metal tune, this again makes me think of Kiss to some degree.
A Place in the Sun
Meatier and less pop oriented, this doesn't really lose that Kiss element. It's another screaming hot tune. This thing really rocks!
At the End of the Line
Even fiercer, this has a raw edge to it. Yet, they still manage to keep it hook-laden and accessible.
Velvet Touch
This feels a lot like Living Colour to me. There are some horns in the mix. It has some killer guitar fills and catchy hooks. It's high energy and fun.
Eyes of Fire
Meaty metal with some solid hooks, this is another effective entry in the set. It has a lot of class and style.
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

When you talk about killer riffs, this song has to be on that list. It's also one of the most purely metallic cuts here. This has some great textures and energy. It's a killer cut.

The metal on this rocker is the real deal, too. I love the vocal performance on this number. It's another that has some definite hints of Kiss. This might be my favorite tune on the whole set. It's a killer that's worth the price of admission all by itself.
Bonus Tracks
Children of Paradise (Original Demo)

The first bonus track, the demo nature is obvious on the mix. The cut has a cool meaty metal vibe here, though. I think I would have preferred this to the final version if the mix had been cleaned up a bit.

Troubleshooter (Original Demo)
The sound on this one is a bit more polished than on the previous demo. Again, this meaty rocker seems stronger in this arrangement to me. I'd say that this take could have actually been slotted onto the album proper in place of the other one and worked really well.
I Walk These Streets (12 Track Demo)
This demo is quite professional in sound and works well.
Now More Than Ever (12 Track Demo)
Another classy rocker in demo form, this is solid.
Skull Radio Advert
This is just what it says it is.
CD 2: Bonus Tracks & Demos
I Walk These Streets (Instrumental 4 Track Demo)

I dig this instrumental take. The guitar sound is so meaty.

Now More Than Ever (12 Track Demo)
I think this demo works quite well, too. It really doesn't sound all that "demo-like."
Streetfight (12 Track Demo)
This is rawer (in a good way) than the final version of the cut. It's hot stuff. I like it a lot.
I Like My Music Loud (Demo)
The sound on this is very well tied to 80s metal, but in the best of ways. It's a killer tune that's among the best here. This is purely on fire.  I love the guitar solo on this thing.
Head Over Heels (Original Demo)
This demo struggles a bit with the recording quality. It's a decent song, but not all that spectacular, and the sound issues don't help.
Guitar Commandos (Alternate Demo)
This guitar based rocker works well in this demo.
Living on the Edge (Original Demo #1)
Another screaming hot stomper, this thing really rocks, demo or not.
Living on the Edge (Original Demo #2)
Here we get another of the same song.
King of the Night (Rough Mix)
Another screaming hot rocker, this thing is so cool.
Little Black Book (12 Track Demo)
With a little back and forth spoken introduction, this is a killer rocker that works really well. This reminds me quite a bit of Motley Crue's take on "Smoking in the Boy's Room."
Breaking the Chains (Live Rehearsal)
The drums bring this in with ferocity.  Speaking of the Crue, this makes me think of a cross between Crue and Van Halen.
I Walk These Streets (Rehearsal)
This rehearsal showcases a solid live sound for the band. The recording quality leaves something to be desired, but it's an intriguing recording from an archival point of view.
This Side of Paradise (Rough)
This is a good change, despite the "rough" label. It has a nice balladic approach and almost feels like a Cheap Trick balladic cut in this recording. There is definitely an 80s kind of pop metal thing on display here. This does go on a bit long.
Guitar Commandos (Original Demo)
This screaming hot rocker gets another appearance. I like this a lot. The raw metal fury just works really well here.
Head Over Heels (Alternate Demo)
This has both the metal edge and the pop metal side of the equation covered. I love the guitar soloing on this.
Streetfight (Alternate Demo)
This feels a lot more bluesy rock and roll and less metallic than the earlier versions of the cut. I don't like this as much, but it is an interesting change. The keyboards have a very dated sound to them.
Living on the Edge (Rough Mix)
With a meaty metal bite to it, this is catchy and cool.
Little Black Book (Alternate Demo)
Here we get a harder rocking version of the earlier cut. This is tasty stuff.
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