About a month before the release of Ranger’s first EP in 2013, I had a chance to listen to the release and review it. It was immediately clear to me that while I was not particularly enthralled with it, it would be a hit amongst others in the metal scene. Thus far, I’ve only seen positive reactions to the release (other than my own), but I did think there was some potential there. So it should be no surprise that when the band announced another release, I had to check it out. “Shock Skull” is the band’s second EP, and comprises of just two songs. This is definitely a better thing because putting out records less than 12 months apart can really lead to some uninspired songwriting, so it’s better to put out less material and stick with the best stuff.
For the most part, that is what “Shock Skull” does. The title track is fast and abrasive; while Ranger could definitely be called speed metal, this song straddles the line into thrash. It’s dark, raw, and very old-school sounding. The reason the band doesn’t fully cross over into thrash is because of the use of some wicked leads that are harmonized in pure Maiden fashion. Nevertheless, the drums are always pounding away, and the vocalist delivers some seriously maniacal screams. The next track is quite similar; however, much like on “Knights of Darkness”, the band’s best moment comes from when they borrow from another band. The opening riff of “Omen of Doom” is a straight-up homage to Whiplash’s “Power Thrashing Death”. It might not be the same note for note, but anyone familiar with that track will definitely hear the similarities. Despite this, the rest of the track thrashes out quite well and infuses just enough melody to keep things interesting.
I’m still not sure I buy into the hype for this band. The songwriting is relatively generic, and doesn’t always stand out, but “Shock Skull” is a marked improvement over “Knights of Darkness”. This release has far more enthusiasm and energy than the last EP, and continuing to inject some melody into their thrash roots is good for Ranger. Although it’s a little frustrating to see another borrowed riff on this release, it’s still only a total of two riffs across two releases; throw out those instances and you have an enjoyable, up and coming speed metal band.
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"Omen of Doom"
3.75/5 or 75%.
Written by Scott