Epic Heavy Metal / USPM from Indiana
Lost in time – albums that were forgotten in the shuffle of time for one reason or another. Sometimes bands are far too late for their respective style and are dead on arrival while others are a little too early and don’t catch the tailwind that they needed to succeed. In the case of Skullview’s 1998 debut, Legends of Valor, it’s a little bit of both.
Skullview were fighting an uphill battle from their very inception. They play a style of epic heavy metal that leans heavily towards the more aggressive side of US power metal with similarities to bands like Tyrant, Manowar, and Cirith Ungol. The late 90s were an absolutely awful time to play in this style. It was the genre’s lowest point – there was almost no interest for this type of metal at the time and Skullview found themselves both a decade too late for the peak of classic metal and a decade too early for the retro-revival.
One look at this album’s cover is all you need to understand what you’re in store for with Legends of Valor. The grimdark, Frank Frazetta like artwork is a perfect portrayal of the dark and foreboding nature of this album. If bands like Eternal Champion and Heavy Load represent the brighter, uplifting side of epic metal then Skullview represents the evil, festering underbelly of the genre. “The Night of Metal Kill”, the album’s ambitious, eight minute opener, sets the tone perfectly for this excursion into the depths of epic metal.
What hits you immediately about the opener is the crushing, doom metal inspired riffs with one of the loudest, most skull-splitting bass guitars around. The monstrous bass is complimented by deep and organic drums, which are further emphasized in the mix. Tying it all together is frontman Mike “Earthquake” Quimby Lewis. With his aggressive vocal lines, high energy, and frequent use of falsetto, he certainly lives up to the nickname. At times he can overdo the highs, but overall he’s a charismatic vocalist who fits in perfectly with Skullview’s aggressive brand of epic metal.
The rest of the album varies in pace slightly compared to the opener, but generally sticks to the effective formula, leaving very little room for reprieve from the pounding metal madness. The chunky and mid-paced riffs, featuring frequent use of tremolo picking, are a departure from USPM norms. It’s a difficult comparison to make, but with its tremendous emphasis on low end and rhythm as well as its frequent use of tremolo picking, Legends of Valor reminds me of death metal legends Bolt Thrower in a USPM mold. It’s a refreshingly dark and aggressive take on epic metal that few have really attempted.
Debuting in 1998, Skullview somehow managed to simultaneously be both too late and too early for their time. Legends of Valor is a markedly unique and high quality album that got thrown to the wayside partly due to this unfortunate fact. Gloriously dark and epic, this album deserves to be celebrated rather than forgotten.
Album Rating: 90/100
Favorite Track: Watching Below from My Moonlight Throne