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Morbid Visions from a Plane Crash Site - 93%

bayern, September 1st, 2020

Who would have thought that a band named Flying Skull would produce such great music? Flying Dutchman yes, Crystal Skull yes, but a Flying Skull… no friggin’ way. And yet, this is one of the finest products of the 90’s German scene, an album that slipped by/around/under the two widely spread (the prog/tech-thrash and the power/speed) waves in their homeland in the early-90's, and despite this punishable audacious behaviour they managed to survive for whole two albums.

You’ve got to love these lads under the circumstances although the debut was a mildly entertaining hard’n heavy affair with a few more boisterous speedy pieces; nothing dark about it, on the contrary, this was a fairly uplifting cheery slab. Comes the album reviewed here, though, and the setting transforms in marvellous ways, the band aiming at the progressive power/speed metal parametres, and hitting the bullseye in every respect. Again, this has nothing to do with the happy-go-lucky speedoramas of Iron Saviour, Primal Fear, or Gamma Ray. This is frequently complex, carefully-assembled music that is equal parts early Queensryche, Savatage, and Helstar. Yes, it’s a tribute to the 80’s US metal brotherhood, but one that is done with vision and ingenuity.

Gigantic, larger-than-life openers are always a debatable decision… even Helloween didn’t dare put “Halloween” up front on the first “Keeper”. However, in the case here we have “Forgotten World (Genesis)”, an absolutely smattering 10.5-min saga, a breath-taking conglomerate of dramatic accumulations, epic build-ups, fast-paced skirmishes, technical choppy breaks ala Slauter Xstroyes, bewitching melodies, all this mixed in a most flawless manner and topped by superb clean emotional mid-ranged vocals. Genesis with a capital -G- this one, a grand summative assignment that logically gives out quite a bit regarding the subsequent content of the album. Well, this doesn’t exactly diminish the pleasure from what follows as the guys dexterously mix things up with the galloping vigour of “Red Death” nicely complementing the more restrained semi-balladic developments on “1912”, with “Them” being an impossibly catchy sing-alonger, a possible leftover from the debut. Like the exquisite encyclopaedic opener wasn’t enough, but the band throw in another similarly-structured odyssey, the 9.5-min “Take My Hand”, and winning once again this time betting on more regular speedy arrangements and a surprisingly volatile bass, the final result almost as spell-binding. More immediate intensity (additional steel gallops on “Thumbs Down”, the straight-forward speed metal joy “Keep on Running”) wraps on the proceedings, also helping the guys unwind from their heavy progressive duty.

Never a dull moment on this striking aural journey, the guys possibly hitting the peak of their creative and compositional abilities as it’s really hard to see how they would have been able to top it up if having lasted longer. Although the complexity on those longer compositions easily reaches the labyrinthine parametres, there’s also this sense of air-headedness and an unimpeded free-flow of ideas and musicality, all the various motifs and nuances following each other in a strictly natural manner, the sculpting process knowing no strain, no artificiality, no pretentiousness. It’s a revelation indeed, a most venerable rendition of the old school canons, a defiant gesture to the already established numetal trends, an album full of actual music performed by actual musicians, elaborate and carefree in equal measures.

There was no way such a devoted to the retro sounds album to be noticed and praised upon release, not in those transformational times anyway. With the band name again being another impediment on the way to recognition… I mean, flying skulls, those we can only see during serious plane crashes, and we have to be at the right place, at the right time. No one was at the right place and the right time for this talented batch, sadly; from darkness to revelation they reached in the blink of an eye… there was no time whatsoever for one to notice them. But here they are, unearthed and exposed, their serious art getting another shot at the spotlight… with flying colours.