VIKING SKULL
Doom, Gloom, Heartache, and Whiskey
Powerage/Classic Rock Records

From the wild, woolly back woods of Corby, Northamptonshire, UK comes the bastard sons of Motörhead, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Together they have smashed together a stunning, heavyass, brutal assault that brings the legions of hell to their knees with their mighty thundering. Or at least that’s what these five guys would have you believe. In reality, they are a pub/biker band so fucked up they actually come off legitimate. In 2002 a couple guys from Raging Speedhorn, their guitar tech and the dude who ran their merchandising got together for a drunken jam and in their intoxicated state agreed the band was worthy of a go. As a joke they opened several shows for Raging Speedhorn and were shocked when fans demanded a record. Off they went with 500 quid and cut a 6-track EP called Chapter One, which garnered huge praise and landed them a slot at the 2004 Download festival.

Attracting the attention of Jess Margera, CKY drummer and older brother to Bam Margera (MTV’s/Jackass Viva LA Bam) the band signed with Bam’s record imprint and released Born in Hell a year later. The label went south and took the record with it to the disappointment of all involved. Another blow came when a European tour with Twisted Sister was cancelled because the band couldn’t come up with the £3,000 a day TS demanded for backline hire. What pricks Twisted Sister continue to be! But the band soldiered on opening for Clutch, HIM and CKY. At this point Jess picks up the story during our recent chat. “I didn’t mean to break these guys up. I loved the band, got them to tour with us in Europe, but one night we’re all drinking – I break out the absinthe, the shit that made Vincent Van Gough hallucinate and cut his ear off – and we hit it heavy. The tour bus was going to Berlin for our next gig and I invited the guys to come along not realizing only two could fit on the tour bus and the other two would have to ride in a broken down, rusty van sucking our fumes.”

The “situation” caused a fight to break out among Viking Skull members Roddy Stone (v), Frank Regan (g), Darren Smith (g), Waldie (b) and Gordon Morrison (d). “I get back home to Philly and read on a website that the band broke up after a fight in Berlin,” says Margera. “Shit. I called up Roddy and asked if I caused it. He said, ‘We fight all the time, you just threw gas on it.” Guilt-ridden Jess volunteered his talents as a drummer if they ever got back together. “I guess Roddy locked himself away for a couple months living on toast and beans, writing every day,” continues Margera. “That kind of living pulled out some heavy shit from him.” Eventually, a new Viking Skull emerged with Waldie, Jules Cooper and Margera sitting in on drums. “They had no money, and no record label, so I paid for the recording of the second album which we cut in Philadelphia.” The disc, Chapter Two included guest appearances from Reverend Jim of Fireball Ministry, the Brandywine Eel (Rich Vose) of Gnarkill, Unkle Matt and the Shitbirdz and Chad I Ginsburg of CKY. It could also be branded, “the ode to the microphone,” as the saga of a destroyed studio microphone makes for a humorous set of snippets.

The disc was a monster and included the stand out track The Blackened Sunrise, a Priest heavy riff-fest that saluted all VK stood for. “Again, we had no money,” says Margera. “But Bam loved the song and he was taping his wedding, ‘Bam’s Unholy Union.’ He had a little money left over so we shot the video for like $200. My favorite part was the van with the spikes running down the middle.” Jess opted to self distribute the CD through the internet and Portland-based independent distributor CD Baby. “I make more money selling 2,000 copies online than 50,000 through a record label,” says Margera, “So it worked out for us.” Ten months later, in July of 2008, the band were back in the Royersford, PA recording studio cutting tracks for their third opus later titled Doom Gloom, Heartache and Whiskey. “Roddy is a writing machine,” says Margera. “He’s got enough stuff for a double album due to all the shit that’s happened to him.”

“I learned this trick I use when recording my drums,” continues Margera. “We record on 2-inch tape so I record my tracks a little faster; then slow the tape down. It makes the drums sound heavy as hell and gives the bottom-end that much more thump. Our guitar player, Julian (Cooper) quit the band after Chapter Two, so we needed another guy. Even though Roddy plays pretty good, he’d rather be the front man exclusively. I’ve known Rich Vose (The Brandywine Eel) from a band he played in 20 years ago. The guy’s like a homeless dude, living outside or wherever and playing guitar. We brought him in and he wailed on the record.” The entire recording process took the band a little over two weeks to complete. “We had a better budget because Candlelight records was now involved with us. A new record label popped up in the UK called Classic Rock records run by the same guys that run the magazine – they wanted the record for their debut launch, so we’re back with real distribution and a couple tours planned.”

Candlelight records in the US will be distributing Doom, Gloom, Heartache and Whiskey nationwide November 25th. The advance copy proves to be a hard hitter putting cracks in the ceiling as the volume goes up. Roddy’s voice is as crusty as a hundred-year old dirt road growling out belligerent pub songs about drinking, wicked women and more drinking. There is the instant classic “Start a War,” that bashes about a militant anthem pitting a surging riff against a pulsating drum beat. The title cut “Doom, Gloom, Heartache and Whiskey” lashes out a chugging soundtrack specifically written as the band’s road warrior mantra while leading single “Hair of the Dog” officially ushers in the return of metal. “Bam’s doing the video “Hair of the Dog,” says Jess. “It’s going to be insane ‘cause we got no rules - anything and everything is open.”

Both “In Hell” and “In for the Kill” are Panzer-heavy, Motörhead-inspired rumblers with a fierce baseline and Neanderthal drumming.  The machinegun guitars rip and roar with snarling intensity drenching the tracks with bloodstained sweat. Counter that with “19 Swords” which leans more toward Maiden with ringing twin guitars and lyrics that conjure up tales of lust and conquest. “Shot Down” starts out as an acoustic reprise only to turn into a real smoker as the groove bears down like an angry rhino in heat. Even the solos dart out from under the brush with lethal intensity. The core of drinking songs continues with the metallic-stoner “Double or Quits” and the quite essential closing track “Drink” – a true throwback to Specters-era BÖC. The barroom boogie piano, tambourine and slurred vocals are a clear indication the band is already there as they merrily sing, “We gotta drink, drink till we shit our pants, drinky, drinky drink…”

Website: Viking Skull, Candlelight Records