Since 2004's Sweet Home Scandinavia, founder Valhalla Ice lost all his bandmates and his label. Now he goes it alone, playing virtually all the instruments on Skies as well as producing and releasing the disc himself. And it benefits from the pared-down lineup: The band's bruising black metal sounds far more developed and authentic. With its strangulated vox and heart-stopping guitars, album opener "Wrath & Steel" could pass for a B-side from German metal savages Bethlehem.
Elsewhere, the bloody, old-school rap remains proudly un-P.C. "Oh, like it don't show/I'm rapin' this track like Kobe Bryant rapes ho's," Ice growls on "Languages Demise," sounding like a chain-smoking sasquatch. At long last, heavy metal (and hip-hop) has its Monty Python.