Edition: 60
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Sign of the Jackal

01. Sign of the jackal
02. Fight for rock
In spite of a record industry in decline and the media still hyping one horrible music trend after another, the metal underground is thriving worldwide. This just goes to show that when the last talentless hack of a musician will have sunk without a trace, metal will still stand proud. Just look at the youngsters of Hierophant (US), Enforcer (Sweden), Tracer (Germany), Savage Blade and Striker (both from Canada), and you feel that metal is the prevailing force in rock music.
Newest recruits to the worldwide army of steel are Italy’s Sign of the Jackal. On their first two-track demo Haunted house Tapes (2009), this five-piece from Rovereto in the Trento region knows exactly where they’re going: back to the roots. Laura (vocals), Bob (guitar, vocals), Max (guitar, keys, vocals), bassist Kill (yes, you read that right) and drummer Mate are as far removed from anything hip and trendy as old school metalheads can hope for.
After the wolf has howled in the intro, ‘Sign of the Jackal’, a melodic speed track of the first order, thunders through the speakers. It’s heavy, it’s metal, it’s Sign of the Jackal! Upon the first note, the clock seems to have turned back to the mid-eighties. How could it be otherwise when the band’s inspiration comes from female-fronted underground bands like Malteze, Taist of Iron, Messiah Force, Bitch and the irrepressible Warlock. Funny thing though: the band that instantly springs to mind when you hear SotJ’s theme track is Belgium’s cult heroes Acid.
The package may seem modest, but this definitely is a highly professional debut effort: inspired songwriting with fine vocals and the powerful, organic production to match. Special mention must go to drummer Mate a.k.a. Sergio, whose playing sounds exactly like the no frills stuff from the old days: within his straight-ahead style, he manages to vary his rhythms just that necessary bit to keep it all fresh.
As second and last track, the charmingly titled ‘Fight for rock’ comes as a pounding midtempo number you can raise your beer and shout along to. Again there’s that fine melodic soloing that harks back to bands like Heavy Load, Crossfire and Martyr. Vocalist Laura has power, range and that whisky rawness in her voice, she’s exactly the right type of singer for Sign of the Jackal’s material.
This limited edition demo, issued both on tape and CD-R, has a fiery red photocopied sleeve, of which the artwork was more than a little inspired by the first two The Omen movies. Although the band does not make music in the occult-influenced heavy rock style from the late sixties and early seventies (remember groups like Coven, Pentagram, Antonius Rex, Lucifera and Black Widow?), there’s more than just a nod to horror cinema for lyrical themes. Acoustic intro and outro to ‘Sign of the Jackal’ create a haunting atmosphere, so let’s hope the lady and gentlemen from Rovereto will build on that element a bit for their next release. It certainly enriches the music. The band is already hard at work composing material for a full-length album. For Heavy metal demons, inspiration comes from Lamberto Bava’s 1985 zombiefest Demoni (the soundtrack of which, by the way, featured a few metal tunes from the likes of Accept, Pretty Maids and Saxon).
Last but not least: this may not be relevant for reviewing the music per se, but I found it highly sympathetic, even endearing, that with the promo came a handwritten note in which singer Laura excuses herself for the late delivery of the package. Bear in mind that said delivery had not even taken a week. In our business-minded day and age, it’s just great to encounter such friendliness and courtesy. This underground band clearly is old school to the core. Even if the promos may already be gone by the time you read this, you can listen to the two tracks here: www.myspace.com/signofthejackalmetal This is tailor-made time machine music that takes you back to the grand old days. So sit back and enjoy this ride.

  Rating: - /100

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