Archives 2013

Judas Priest

“British Steel”

1980

  1. Rapid Fire
  2. Metal Gods
  3. Breaking the Law
  4. Grinder
  5. United
  6. You Don’t Have to Be Old to Be Wise
  7. Living After Midnight
  8. The Rage
  9. Steeler

“British Steel” is the album that put Judas Priest on the map. Priest broke open the whole New Wave of British Heavy Metal (or NWOBHM as most call it) with earlier releases like “Sad Wings of Destiny” and “Stained Class”, both brilliant albums, but “British Steel” was much more commercial with catchy riffs and hooks that appealed to a wider scope of people. Despite the overplayed “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight” I still love this album and am putting it up in the classic section as it deserves to be. There are a lot of overlooked tracks on here like “Rapid Fire”, “You Don’t Have to Be Old to Be Wise” and “The Rage”. We’ll start out with “The Rage”, what throws most people off is the reggae-esque intro but I actually like it. It then goes into more of a bluesy sound but still holding that classic metal vibe. “Breaking the Law” is obviously one of the most well-known tracks that we’ve all heard on the radio again and again but it’s still a great classic with a catchy melody and steady rhythm section. “Metal Gods” has some awesome chugging riffs and lower vocals from Halford that are very different from his usual high pitched screams. “United” is a powerful track with a sing a long chorus that will have every headbanger out there pumping their fist in the air. “Steeler” is an excellent ending to the album packed full of aggression and speed.

A lot of people say that Judas Priest sold out with “British Steel” but I disagree. I don’t see anything wrong with evolving and growing as a band as long as long as they stay true to their sound and that’s just what they did. This is a solid album that is an essential piece of metal history and if you’re trying to build a collection of metal classics then this album definitely needs to be a part of your catalog.

-Kate Smith

 

Whitesnake

“Saints and Sinners”

1982

  1. Young Blood
  2. Rough an Ready
  3. Bloody Luxury
  4. Victim of Love
  5. Crying in the Rain
  6. Here I Go Again
  7. Love an Affection
  8. Rock an Roll Angels
  9. Dancing Girls

Before cheesing out in the late 80’s Whitesnake had put some damn good rock albums. “Lovehunter”, “Ready and Willing”, “Slide It In” and of course the album I’m reviewing for you now, “Saints and Sinners”. The man with the ever-soulful voice delivers a solid seventies-style rock and blues album with some really great tracks. Two of them on here are originals of the smash hits we heard on their self-titled album in 1987. “Crying in the Rain” is pretty similar to its predecessor but with more of a bluesy tone making it more rockin than the later version. More of Jon Lord’s playing is present as well that gives it more texture and layers. “Here I Go Again” is the one that shows a major difference, a more subdued version that again has keyboards more up front than the glam-metal version. It’s funny to hear different lyrics too, instead of hearing “Like a drifter I was born to walk alone” you hear Coverdale sing, “Like a hobo I was born to walk alone” which I actually like better.

“Young Blood” and “Rough an Ready” kick things off with that classic Whitesnake sound; David Coverdale’s voice sounds incredible with a ton off soul and passion behind it. Those two really set the tone with that hard rock feel. Some of the other tracks I really enjoy are “Bloody Luxury”, old school rock and roll with a Deep Purple/Rolling Stones vibe to it. Ian Paice sounds amazing on drums here, very jammy and fun. “Rock and Roll Angels” shows off more of Lord’s talents and gives off that Stones sound again but a lot heavier.

Early eighties Whitesnake is deeply rooted in rock and blues that’s similar to David’s work in Deep Purple. Solid instrumentation all the way through that is all perfectly blended with Coverdale’s gritty vocals. If you want to hear some excellent hard rock then check out Whitesnake’s “Saints and Sinners”.

-Kate Smith

“Welcome to Hell”

Originally Released: 1981

Reissue: 2002

  1. Son of Satan
  2. Welcome to Hell
  3. Schizo
  4. Mayhem With Mercy
  5. Poison
  6. Live Like Angel
  7. Witching Hour
  8. One Thousand Days in Sodom
  9. Angel Dust
  10. In League With Satan
  11. Red Light Fever

Bonus Tracks:

  1. Angel Dust
  2. In League With Satan (7” Version)
  3. Live Like An Angel (7” Version)
  4. Bloodlust (7” Single)
  5. In Nomine Satan (7” Single)
  6. Angel Dust (Demo)
  7. Raise the Dead (Demo)
  8. Red Light Fever (Demo)
  9. Welcome to Hell (Demo)
  10. Bitch Witch (Outtake)
  11. Snots Shit (Outtake)

Back in 1980, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was just starting to mark its territory with focus and conviction, bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest were starting to make an impact but I don’t think that anyone was quite ready for what Venom had in store. Coming out of Newcastle the trio knocked the heavy metal community on its ass with a style that held the essence of heavy metal and punk but with ferocious speed and full distortion.

Starting out in 1978 Venom didn’t get into gear until 1980 when Cronos (bass) Mantas (guitar) and Abandon (drums) were locked together in an unholy alliance. With their vocalist Clive Archer Venom recorded their first true demo on April 29, 1980 at Impulse Records, by October of that same year Archer left the group and Cronos took over on vocals. In August of 1981 Venom went back into the studio to record another set of demos which in turn became their first album “Welcome to Hell”. Once it hit the streets it blew away anything and everything in its path. Venom threw down the gauntlet and ultimately changed that whole genre of metal. When I first came across Venom I didn’t know what to think, it was like nothing I had ever heard before. Fast, dirty brutal metal but mixed with a punk rock sound. It was a little overwhelming but once I heard “Welcome to Hell” I was hooked.

Overall the bulk of the songs sound gritty, thick and intense mostly due to the lo-fi production that the trio preferred. Though it’s been cleaned up a little with the reissue it still carries that raw, guttural vibe. The riffs in songs such as “In League With Satan” and the title track are unforgettable and still make a lasting impression to this day. The drums are an intense experience that blasts away without remorse combined with punk rock rhythms and when put together it creates a fluid fast-paced explosion of organic anarchy while Cronos belts out lyrics from the depths of hell. The lyrics focus mainly on Satan, death, fire, sex and drugs with extreme detail that include drinking the blood of newborns, prostitution and anything else that would invoke some type of reaction. “Mayhem With mercy” is a great acoustic piece that serves as a fitting interlude between the carnage of “Schizo” and “Poison”.

The reissue comes with a whopping eleven bonus tracks that includes outtakes, demo versions of “Angel Dust”, “Red light Fever”, “Raise the Dead” and the title track as well as some singles. All put together in a killer package.

“Welcome to Hell” is a monumental part of the metal genre. Venom created a lasting impression among generations of metal enthusiasts, one of the dirtiest, loudest, rawest and brilliant recordings. “Welcome to Hell” will stay with those who were part of the eighties metal era and must be heard by anyone who considers themselves a fan of the metal genre.

-Kate Smith

killers

Iron Maiden

“Killers”

Label: EMI

1981

  1. The Ides of March
  2. Wrathchild
  3. Murders in the Rue Morgue
  4. Another Life
  5. Genghis Khan
  6. Innocent Exile
  7. Killers
  8. Twilight Zone
  9. Prodigal Son

 

“Powerslave” has been and always will be one of my all-time favorite Iron Maiden albums. I love everything about it, the album cover, the lyrics, the imagery it creates; it’s just perfection in my opinion. Having said that, I can’t deny that “Killers” is one hell of a great release that’s packed with a heavy dose of rock and metal along with brilliant songwriting and musicianship. I often wonder how different or what direction the band would have gone in if Paul Di’Anno had stayed. His raspy, wailing punk-like vocals gave the songs a lot of personality and earn him some major credit for their world- wide success.

By 1981 when “Killers” had come out Iron Maiden had already established themselves in the NWOBHM scene with their demo “The Soundhouse Tapes” as well as their self-titled debut. As funny as it sounds, the sophomore release is the least like by the group. It strikes me as odd anyway because the production is great and I love all the songs but whenever they tour Maiden will never play any songs from “Killers”.

The album hits the ground running with the heavy and thundering march in “Ides of March”, a great instrumental piece that leads us into one of the most well-known tracks “Wrathchild”. This track is hard-hitting with a driving bass line and some incredible rhythms from drummer Clive Burr. “Genghis Khan” is a ripping instrumental track with savage and pounding guitar rhythms.

The album as a whole is deeply atmospheric with a great deal of raw grittiness that carries a down to earth urban feel to it. The heavier guitar tone adds even more atmosphere making “Killers” sound even more menacing. Dianno’s voice just fits this. A lot of people split into two camps siding with either Dickinson or Di’Anno but I appreciate both for their unique qualities.

“Killers” is fantastic and so underrated as well as an important piece of metal history. If you want a real heavy metal album with powerful lyrics then I highly recommend you pick up this classic!

 

-Kat VonB

yourenext

You’re Next

Directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett, ‘You’re Next’ was lensed in 2011 and showed at a couple festivals before being put away. It didn’t get a theatrical release until August 2013. I don’t know what happened that caused it to be shelved for 2 years, but delays are a common occurrence. ‘House of 1000 Corpses’ and ‘Jason X’ are but a couple titles that come readily to mind which were shot years before they were released. I suppose this film was lucky to have been given a wide release at all and not put straight through to VOD or DVD as so many are today; where they languish in obscurity for the most part.

Before I saw this movie I’d heard a lot of horror fans raving about how much they loved it and how great it is. I’d heard everything from how it “revitalizes the genre” to “it’s just like a 70’s movie!” to “completely unpredictable and fresh”. ‘You’re Next’ is not a bad movie but it isn’t revitalizing anything but the producer’s bank account.

First off, the advertising sold this as a horror movie. It isn’t. If you go in wanting and expecting to be scared you are going to be very disappointed. I hate being sold one thing and given another. It seems that a lot of times studios don’t know what they have or how to deal with it; so they cannot sell it properly.

The film stars Rob Moran and Barbara Crampton as mom and dad of a well-off family. They have invited all of their adult children for a big dinner, so the asshole kids and their significant others arrive; Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glen, A.J. Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Tie West, and immediately begin bickering and jabbing at each other. It doesn’t take long before the house is under siege by 3 strange men outside wearing black with animal masks on. One by one they kill members of the group and a long battle for survival ensues.

I must say that there wasn’t much here that wasn’t predictable. It was easy to guess right toward the beginning that one of the guests is behind the attack. No surprise. Also the motivation for it all was predictable.

The single thing that really saved the film and did put a smile on my face, which was incidentally also the one thing I did not see coming, was the guest that nobody knew anything about who happened to be a survivalist and really good at killing people; in fact better than the masked killers. This clever little tricky twist was a lot of fun and led to some great action, carnage, and violent bloody kills. The movie got a lot of mileage out of this and it’s a good thing because without it there’d have been little going for it. I did really enjoy that element, but that is all I liked. There weren’t any characters I liked or anything else plot-wise going on of interest whatsoever.

-Michael Salemi

pacificrim

Pacific Rim

Written and Directed By: Guillermo del Toro

Released: July 12, 2013

 

When the summer blockbuster film, “Pacific Rim” came out every single person I knew who had gone to see it ranted and raved about how awesome and incredible this movie was. Everybody on Facebook insisted that is the “must-see movie of the summer”, fans and movie critics just went on and on about what a great movie it was. I myself was somewhat skeptical; don’t get me wrong any movie that has monsters and aliens in it I am all over. Even the ridiculous ones that you catch on the SyFy movie channel I will give it a shot, whaddya got to lose right? But for some reason Pacific Rim just did not grab my attention, I had no interest seeing it in the theater and it wasn’t until Mike Salemi got a copy of it on the cheap did it actually peak my curiosity a little bit. As long as I wasn’t paying the ridiculous movie theater price it wouldn’t do any harm to watch it. Plus I have massive resect for director Guillermo Del Toro. I loved “Pan’s Labyrinth”, “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Mama” so if he was the man behind the movie then it couldn’t be all that bad. So we popped the disc in and settled in for some action and adventure.

My question to you, oh lovers and ravers of this movie, is what is the point or rather I should say plot? No, seriously. What is this movie about? Because for the life of me I could not figure it out. I’m honestly not trying to be a smart-ass or bash it but to me there did not seem to be any type of plot or at least one that I could follow. What I did like about it were the aliens and monsters that the robots had to fight. They kept my attention and also the fact that actor Ron Pearlman was in this too was awesome to me. He is a fantastic actor and I’ve loved him in pretty much every movie I’ve seen him in. Other than that though I found it very difficult to lose myself because of the lack of direction and plot, it seems like the type of movie where you just shut down your brain and enjoy the action and battles and explosions. I don’t have a problem with that at all but I guess I was just expecting a little bit more.

So because of the respect I have for Guillermo del Toro and some of the entertaining aspects I mentioned above I won’t give Pacific Rim a complete thumbs down. If you liked “Hellboy” then you will definitely dig this but if you’re like me and appreciated the more artsy films like “Pan’s Labyrinth” then Pacific Rim maybe one you’ll want to skip over.

-Kate Smith

hobbit2

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Peter Jackson

2013

 

Peter Jackson doesn’t waste any time getting the action and drama into high gear with the epic second chapter of the Hobbit trilogy, “Desolation of Smaug”. Starting with the arrival of Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins and the group of dwarfs’ first destination, a farm that just so happens to belong to skin-changer named Beorn who we first see in the form of a gigantic bear.

Part two is almost entirely devoted to the dangerous expedition that Bilbo and the dwarves have taken on with the intention of reinstating Thorin Oakenshield to his rightful monarch of the underground kingdom of Erebor. Danger lurks around every corner; gigantic spiders, orcs and much more but the biggest looming over all is of course Smaug the great and terrible. The gigantic dragon the lives deep in the bowels of the Lonely Mountain. They did such an incredible job with Smug, he is terrifying and ferocious with enormous claws that he says himself are spears and razor-sharp teeth that are knives. There is an intelligence and charm about him as well. Benedict Cumberbatch, who does the voice of the dragon, is absolutely fantastic.

The visual effects, as they are in the first Hobbit, are amazing. So beautifully shot with an even darker more gothic quality to it. The fight scenes between the orcs and the woodland elves are seriously cool. The appearance of Legolas may seem complicated to the devoted fan base as he does not appear in the book, not to mention the love triangle between him, Taulia a female elf and Kili one of the dwarves, but they have to concede it is logical as elves live for thousands of years and Legolas’ father does play an important role in the book.

Bilbo is one of the characters that made a major impact on me, as much fun as it was to watch him as the blubbering hobbit in the first chapter, who just wanted to stay in the shire and do his day to routine it was neat to watch him grow and become braver throughout the story. Some would even call him a hero. As he told Gandalf in one of the beginning scenes, “I found something in the goblin tunnels…my courage”. Of course there was something else he found too.

I will always love the first Hobbit but I have grown to like this one even more. Of course it leaves us with another cliffhanger at the end so we have to wait until December to see what finally happens. The action is more vivid and intense, the effects are great and the characters are really enjoyable. Oh and did I mention the dragon? Oh yes, the dragon. If you’re willing to let go, not pick apart the movie or compare it to the book you will really enjoy it as well. “Desolation of Smaug” is perfect for all ages and will take you into a world of myth, legend and fantasy. I highly recommend!

-Kat Von B.

hogmaul-banner21

Hogmaul

“The Legend of Abrams County”

Original Movie Soundtrack

2013

And Metal For All has been given the opportunity to review this soundtrack for the independent film, Hogmaul: “The Legend of Abrams County” a horror comedy that was created by a group who has a true passion for horror films and a vision to create something truly different. I myself have not seen the film but just from the descriptions because I am also a huge fan of not only horror but also horror comedies. The leaders of this crew are Nap Bishop, Brad Wanner and Katie Jones but there are many more that should be given major props for this creation.

The contributing musicians for the “Hogmaul” are Nap Bishop, Chuck Bishop, Sean Hockensmith, Lucas Colton, Brabbo Wild, Katie Jones, Dougie Wurfel and Ramblin Jack McJoe. The soundtrack definitely gives you a good idea of what this film will be like with a combination of rockabilly, blues, punk and rock. The opener “American Gothic” is a very gritty and dark tune with great acoustic guitar riffing and very catchy beat. “Ghost Town” is straight up blues tune with contagious lyrics and will have you tapping your foot right along with it.  They change it up to more of a punky sound with tracks like “Basis of Reality” and “I Wanna Kill Everything” which is a fun and footing tapping tune that lets you know that well….he just wants to kill everyone and everything. It’s actually one of my favorite tracks because it’s so goofy and fun to listen to. It goes back to the darker side with the instrumental track “Bootlegger” but I would say that “The Hunter” is the most somber track and gives the soundtrack a perfect ending for the listener.

This is a great soundtrack for a film that I am really excited to see so hopefully And Metal For All will have a chance to review that as well! 😀 If you have not gotten yourself a copy, I’ve heard they are getting snatched up pretty quick so go get yourself a copy and while you’re at it go check out their site at: http://www.hogmaulmovie.com/!

 

-Kate Smith

darkthrone

Darkthrone

“The Underground Resistance”

Peaceville Records

2/26/13

 

Darkthrone need no introduction, the Norwegian duo have made a tremendous impact on the metal scene with albums such as “Transilvanian Hunger”, “A Blaze in the Northern Sky” and “Under a Funeral Moon”. Fenriz and Nocturno pretty much do what they want without making any apologies to anyone and I love that about them. They don’t give a shit what anyone thinks about them. They’ve gone from death metal to black metal to punk and they now give us “The Underground Resistance” which is a unique blend of eighties heavy metal and punk while they still keep their early black metal form. This album will most likely surprise some of you, especially those who are more closely acquainted with their punk escapades, I know I definitely wasn’t expecting this and I was pleasantly surprised. The guitar riffs are extremely well put together and catchy. Fenriz’s great drumming compliments the music as usual.

The album is made up of six tracks with Nocturno and Fenriz alternating on vocals, “Dead Early” is the ruthless opener with Nocturno kicking it off and then handing it over to Fenriz with the second track “Valkyrie”. This is a highly enjoyable anthem that starts out with acoustic guitar and a somber black metal piece before going right into punk rock assault with melodic eighties-style singing that I would compare to early Iron Maiden. “The Ones You Left Behind” is another great eighties anthem with wailing vocals and shredding riffs. The closing track, “Leave No Cross Unturned” is probably what will turn fans heads the most. At a fourteen minutes, Darkthrone head into full on thrash metal here that are accompanied with Tom G Warrior type grunts and high pitched screams that are closest to that of King Diamond or Rob Halford.

I’ve always admired these two for doing what they do; they are uncompromising with their sound and pretty much play what they want to hear. Not the record label, not the critics, not even the fans and not many bands can achieve as high a success rate as Darkthrone does by doing that. They always continue to impress me. Some might be baffled when they hear “The Underground Resistance” but I recommend that you give this a few listens to fully appreciate it. I know for me, this is one that I will listen to again and again.

-Kate Smith

inquisition-obscure-verses-for-the-multiverse

Inquisition

“Obscure Verses for the Multiverse”

Season of Mist

2013

  1. Force of the Floating Tomb
  2. Darkness Flows Toward Unseen Horizons
  3. Obscure Verses for the Multiverse
  4. Spiritual Plasma Evocation
  5. Master of the Cosmological Black Cauldron
  6. Joined By Dark Matter Repelled By Dark Energy
  7. Arrival of Eons After
  8. Inversion of Ethereal White Stars
  9. Infinite Interstellar Genocide
  10. Where Darkness is Lord and Death the Beginning

Inquisition has been one of those bands I’ve always been curious about but never got around to listening to so when “Obscure Verses for the Multiverse” came out I decided to jump on it and take a chance. I can honestly say I was instantly impressed from the minute I pressed play, the black metal duo have released and unrelenting force of aggression that is mixed with a dark ambiance and atmosphere. Building their sound around a small selection of ironclad riffs, Inquisition has perfected a formula that allows them to be happily bass free. A smaller band’s sound would have fallen flat without any bass but Inquisition’s sound still sounds rich and full.

Vocalist Dagon sounds remarkably close to Abbath but with deeper growls that gives the album an interesting flavor. Explosive blastbeats are thrown right in your face from the beginning with the opener, “Force of the Floating Tomb” slowing down to a mid-tempo beat with the second track “Darkness Flows Toward Unseen Horizons”, joined by eerie guitar leads that drag you further into the depths of darkness. “Joined by Dark Energy Repelled by Dark Energy” is probably one of the most sophisticated songs on here with moments of insane riffs, chilling ambiance and memorable hooks. With all of this is a crisp clear production that focuses on the duo’s musical proficiency.

The sign of a really good album is when it continues to grow on the listener and “Obscure Verses for the Multiverse” has been doing just that. Inquisition has put together an impressive piece of work. Fans of old and new black metal would do well in giving this a listen.

-Kate Smith

Satyricon-album-2013

Satyricon

“Satyricon”

2013

  1. 1.       Voice of Shadows
  2. 2.       Tro og Kraft
  3. 3.       Our World, It Rumbles Tonight
  4. 4.       Nocturnal Flare
  5. 5.       Phoenix
  6. 6.       Walker Upon the Wind
  7. 7.       Nekrohaven
  8. 8.       Ageless Northern Spirit
  9. 9.       The Infinity of Time and Space
  10. 10.   Nott

 

Many Satyricon fans have been waiting in deep anticipation for some new material  since “Age of Nero” and now it has finally arrived some five years later. Not being a huge fan I still decided to check it out and see what it’s like. To be honest, I almost gave up on this album. The first few tracks are so mundane and so repetitive that I almost threw in the towel, say fuck it and just rip it apart. But that of course wouldn’t be a fair review so I decided to stick it through. It turned to out to be a good idea because from track number five on it actually turns out to be pretty decent. Not great but decent. This is what pisses me off about albums today, you may get two or three good tracks, four if you’re lucky but that’s it. Back in the seventies and eighties and even nineties there wasn’t a bad song on any album I listened to, every one of them was perfect.  I don’t know what happened over the years, if musicians got lazy or stopped caring or what but the music today I hear lacks the passion and heart that existed in the past.

 

“Phoenix” is probably the best track on Satyricon’s self-titled album, it’s haunting, catchy and melodic, I just wish they put as much effort into the whole album as they did  on this track. “The Infinity of Time and Space” is another track that I consider decent with plenty of atmosphere as well as plenty of brutal guitar riffs and blast beats. Pretty much everything from “Phoenix” on is worth giving a listen to but what disappoints me is there are no risks being taken here. It’s pretty much just a rehashed version of “Age of Nero”. If they allowed it to have a gritter texture to it and not made it so glossy it would have been a lot better. They should have brought the guitar riffs a lot more to the front also  instead  of just having them blended in with everything else. It just makes it sound so bland.

 

All in all, “Satyricon” is not a bad album, it does have some nice highlights on it. But if they had taken some risks and put some actual balls in it then it could have been something really great. No offense to Satyricon but I was less than blown away and highly doubt it’s something I’ll be listening to again in the near future.

 

-Kate Smith

teitanblood

Teitanblood

Seven Chalices

1.       Whore Mass

2.       Domains of Darkness and Ancient Evil

3.       Interlude (Arabian Title)

4.       Morbid Devil of Pestilence

5.       Interlude (Sanskrit Title)

6.       Infernal Dance of the Wicked

7.       Interlude (Cuneiform Title)

8.       Seven Chalices of Vomit and Blood

9.       Qliphotic Necromancy

10.   The Abomination of Desolation

11.   The Origin of Death

Teitanblood are a fairly intense death/black metal band with doomy overtones heavily influenced by bands like Blasphemy. I can hear a little early Morbid Angel in there as well. I’d say if you are into such bands as Blasphemy, Conqueror, or Axis of Advance, chances are you will appreciate Teitanblood.

‘Seven Chalices’ is a decent album, but I had a couple early demos that even though had bad production I liked better.

One thing that jumped out at me right away that I can say first off is I like the vocals a lot on this record. This guy represents the perfect style of vocal for this type of music: not Death Metal “Cookie Monster” and far from the high-pitched shriek of much Black Metal, but somewhere right down the middle; a raw, heavy rasp.

The drumming is impressive. He attacks aggressively and lays down an intense barrage of cannon fire blast laced with heavy crashing breaks, but the songs lose a bit of power in that the drums sound as if they are not being played together with the bass and guitar. There is a dramatic intensity and an organic energy when the rhythm section is playing together in the same room. That energy is noticeably absent here, as it sounds like the guitarist and bassist recorded to a click track and someone tried to play drums along with it after. It is at times a bit sloppy, which doesn’t necessarily bother me; I’d rather energy and passion than perfect precision in music. Unfortunately here there isn’t enough one way or the other.

Now I must address the part of the CD that really annoys me, not only with this specific release, but any. I’m referring to intros, outros, interludes, instrumentals, prologues, whatever you want to call them when an artist will pepper their recording with short synth tracks, samples, sound F/X, orchestral or choral pieces, spoken word, etc. Too much of that becomes distracting, annoying filler and a waste of time. It’s boring and makes for a disjointed record. Carpathian Forest always did too much of that shit, too. There are 4 tracks on ‘Seven Chalices’ that in my opinion don’t need to be there, 5 if you count the instrumental opener, but at least that one rocks. If Teitanblood could have trimmed the fat away they’d have a decent album here. In my opinion if you’ve got an album with 11 tracks on it and 5 of them aren’t really songs, that doesn’t cut it!

The good news is there are a few worthy raw Black/Death songs to be found. The 2 best tracks on the album are ‘Infernal Dance of the Wicked’ and the 9 ½ minute closing track ‘The Origin of Death’, which is composed of a nice doom riff played at a fast pace (if you can imagine that. Not sure how else to describe it). Both of those cuts are ripping killer songs. In 2nd place behind those is ‘Seven Chalices of Vomit and Blood’. Honorable mention goes to the 12 minute epic ‘The Abomination of Desolation’ (does that title ring any bells with you?), which works well with its doom feel and great drum beat using the rack toms. It starts slow and builds up to a blasting, crushing end. It’s a great change of pace song. The slow section features a cool guitar solo. In fact most tracks have one of those Blasphemy/Revenge-type guitar solos composed of a flurry of notes sounding like an insane person set loose on a guitar. The first 2 true songs, ‘Domains of Darkness and Ancient Evil’ and ‘Morbid Devil of Pestilence’ are both forgettable. In my opinion they are interchangeable, as they sound too much like the same song. That was my initial impression. I will listen again, as I most always do (unless something is just too awful), and I could be wrong about these, but they were boring to me and went nowhere.

I really do like these guys’ style and sound. The guitar tone and vocals are excellent. This type of Death/Black Metal is my particular favorite, but I don’t recommend buying this entire CD. It would be better to download individual songs from it, as there’s too much waste here. Get tracks 6,8,10, and 11. That’s all you need and you’ll be good to go.

-Michael Salemiwatain

Watain
Rabid Death’s Curse

In the cold and dark land of Sweden the black metal group, Watain, was formed in 1998. After a few demos being released, “Rabid Death’s Curse” was delivered to us as a relentless force of pure darkness in 2000.

There is a very raw atmosphere on the album accentuated by grim vocals from Erik Danielsson, a great of blending with the thrash-like guitar guitar riffs that carry a very sinister sound to them. Their style  is reminiscent of classic Mayhem. As you hear Danielsson’s vocals you can imagine a rotting corpse, decayed, rising from the ground in search of human flesh. The bass adds a lot of depth to the tracks, really accentuating the morbid guitar riffs.

“On Horns Impaled” erupts  like demons bursting forth through The Gates of Hell to unleash pure fury and torment on the human soul. Very fast-paced with possessed vocals, blast beats and chaotic energy.
“Walls of Life Ruptured” is Watain giving a big Fuck You to the established black metal bands at that time period and harkening back to the sound of the 80’s and early 90’s.

Everything builds up to “Mortem Sibi Consciscere”, which is the highlight of the album. It is utterly dark and hideous. It will throw the listener deeper and deeper into the abyss. This track is a ritual where Watain fully embraces the darkness.

“Rabid Death’s Curse” is a passionately done album of raw black metal. They did an excellent job of meshing the various influences they had and making something coherent and memorable. I highly recommend you getting a copy if you haven’t done so already.

-Kate Smith

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VON

DARK GODS: SEVEN BILLION SLAVES

RITUAL OF THE BLACK MASS (Single)

VON RECORDS 2013

RITUAL OF THE BLACK MASS is an advance single from the upcoming 2nd part of the DARK GODS trilogy. This track begins quiet and then explodes into dark Black Sabbath flavored Doom as heavy as a lead brick. It wafts from your speakers, thick and atmospheric as fog, only to burst into a thrilling chorus riff that’s memorable and catchy. Simple and well-crafted, RITUAL OF THE BLACK MASS bears repeat listens and makes me eager for the upcoming album. I can’t stop listening to this sublime track.

1.       THEY HAVE COME

2.       ANCIENT FLESH OF THE DARK GODS

3.       HANDS OF BLACK DEATH

4.       DARK GODS

5.       MONSTER!

6.       DEVILWHORE

7.       RAWROT

8.       IAMINHUMAN

9.       BLACK EYES

The most recent full length by VON and part 1 of their trilogy, DARK GODS: SEVEN BILLION SLAVES, follows the band’s tried and true formula of simple, direct, well-written, very intense and dark music. The difference is that this modern version of the group adds a few more elements into the formula. In VON’s words: “we still play within the parameters of VON, but we move around a little more within those parameters now”. There are touches of Doom Metal, touches of Punk Rock, better musicianship, better tones, and an overall better production sound. Where the old songs would be 2 or 3 minutes long and consist of 1 or 2 riffs repeated for the duration, many of these new tracks run between 4 to 6 minutes and are more involved, with more riffs and more changes, but maintain the trance-inducing sound and evil atmospheres of old.

After an intro (THEY HAVE COME), designed to tune your brain to the proper frequency and dial you in to the VON sound, comes the epic ANCIENT FLESH OF THE DARK GODS (featuring Coffinworm). This incredible track clocks in at 10 minutes and covers everything the reformed band is about. It has a thick, dark sound and an eerie atmosphere. It goes from a slow crawl to an intense blast beat propelled ripper and back again as you find yourself drawn completely into the world of VON and your surroundings fall away. It sets you into the right frame of mind for the journey through the rest of the CD. As with a few of the cuts on this album, it is hypnotic.

Speaking of hypnotic, that brings me to another standout track: RAWROT. Toward the ending this one alternates between two unique riffs that repeat again and again, the result is a building of dramatic tension that climbs in intensity as it goes on. A great example of the use of subtle dynamics in a song.

DARK GODS is a fast and pounding feral beast of a song reminiscent of classic old VON. It has short lines of verse barked in a deep deathly growl and clocks in at 3 minutes. The bass guitar anchors the rhythm while the guitar is used mainly for eerie sound effects, atmospherics, and one or two-note fast-strummed melodies with a fair amount of reverb on it.

MONSTER! Is a heavy-as-fuck slab of Black Metal. Its sound is thick and uses huge, no bullshit power chords. There are some guitar overdubs here in the background that are interesting, mostly adding bizarre scary sound effects. This is another one that drops out slow then picks up again, then drops again, which I like as it gives the songs a lot of power as well as keeps them interesting.

This entire CD kills, as does the single. I find myself listening to them again and again. I think VON fans will definitely appreciate these releases, perhaps even more than the last one, SATANIC BLOOD, which was the official release of all those old songs that have been floating around the underground on bootleg demos forever. On DARK GODS: SEVEN BILLION SLAVES, they have put a little more into the songwriting and made the arrangements a bit more unpredictable. The playing is a bit better, as well, but I appreciate that they’ve held onto the basic style of VON pioneered in the late 1980’s. I love VON’s style, I love their sound, and their songs. I must also make mention of Venien’s terrific artwork. He is the bassist/songwriter/vocalist and does the covers and poster art. It is incredible. If you like Black Metal find this and buy it!!!

-Michael Salemi

Watain

“The Wild Hunt”

Century Media Records

08/13

  1. Night Vision
  2. De Profundis
  3. Black Flames March
  4. All That May Bleed
  5. The Child Must Die
  6. They Rode On
  7. Sleepless Evil
  8. The Wild Hunt
  9. Outlaw
  10. 10. Ignem Veni Mittere
  11. Holocaust Dawn

After fifteen years of pure black metal Watain has taken a big leap with their sound on their latest release, “The Wild Hunt”. With an eclectic spread of black, thrash, classic metal, melodic and clean vocals that are spread evenly throughout, they still hold on to that darkened grimness that they’ve always carried but pack in a ton of atmosphere as well.

The mellow, instrumental opener, “Night Vision” properly builds up just the right amount of tension until goes right into “De Profundis” which is just straight and intense black metal full of blast beats and guttural vocals. “Black Flames March” begins with thundering drums and guitar with Erik’s vocals that are thick with reverb and sound like they come from the deepest pit of hell. The track carries a marching-like rhythm and feels like a further evolution of their sound from their early days. The build never abates as we go into “All That May Bleed”, Watain’s first single. The tension keeps climbing up and up in an unsettling pattern that gives no release for the listener.

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Then just as we think we know Watain they come in with something completely different and unexpected. “They Rode On” is a darkened ballad that is warm and richly textured. Danielsson croons “Out of the dark/into the light/the dawn of terrestrial birth” with clean and emotional vocals that will give you chills up your spine. This is by far one of my favorite tracks just because there is so much depth as it questions faith and existence itself and atmosphere that it just sucks you right in and keeps you mesmerized for the full eight minutes it runs. The title track is also masterfully done with a melancholy mid-pace rhythm sung again with clean vocals in a classic metal style but also with heavily induced Pink Floyd influence. “Ignem Veti Mittere” is the second   instrumental track that starts out with acoustic guitar that leads into a very emotional and soulful guitar solo that then is taken over by a reign of thunderous drum pummels and chugging guitar riffs that makes this track go from warm and rich to dark and bleak in a matter of seconds. Closing with “Holocaust Dawn” Erik shows how his vocals have matured and will not be constrained by what is accepted by certain accepted genres these days. The track morphs into a down-tempo, waltz-like rhythm that then evaporates into Middle Eastern guitar lines with squeaks and squalls in the background which then explodes right back into abrasive black metal. The perfect ending to an amazing album.

“Rabid Death’s Curse” and “Casus” Luciferi” have been at the top of my favorites list as far as Watain albums go but I do believe after giving it several listens “The Wild Hunt” has now climbed up to number one. This album is rich and diversified and shows that Watain is able to evolve as musicians while still staying true to their black metal roots. Do yourself a favor and go buy a copy of “The Wild Hunt” now!

-Kate Smith

Dark Funeral Reissues

Century Media

2013

“Secrets of the Black Arts”

“Vobiscum Satanas”

“Diabolis Interium”

“Secrets of the Black Arts” (originally done in 1996)

  1. The Dark Age Has Arrived
  2. The Secrets of the Black Arts
  3. My Dark Desires
  4. The Dawn No More Rises
  5. When Angels Forever Die
  6. The Fire Eternal
  7. Satan’s Mayhem
  8. Shadows Over Transylvania
  9. Bloodfrozen
  10. Satanic Blood (Von cover)
  11. Dark Are the Paths to Eternity

Bonus Tracks:

  1. Shadows Over Transylvania
  2. The Dawn No more Rises
  3. The Secrets of the Black Arts
  4. Satan’s Mayhem
  5. My Dark Desires
  6. Bloodfrozen
  7. Dark Are the Paths to Eternity
  8. The Fire Eternal

(All done at Unisound Studios)

After recently signing with Century Media Records for their upcoming studio album Dark Funeral presents to all of us a rerelease of their first six albums. All remastered and extended with bonus material. For this review I am going to go through and pick the ones I consider the classics and the greats out of this series. Starting with “Secrets of the Black Arts; originally done in 1996 it is a classic and one of my personal favorites. Along with the original material Dark Funeral added in eight of the ten tracks that were recorded at the legendary Unisound Studios. They sound a lot thicker and fuller, not that there was anything wrong with the original but the atmosphere on the bonus tracks is a lot more present. You can hear the darkness creeping in with Blackmoon’s low growling vocals. Though the structure is quite simple and the riffs a tad bit repetitive it is still a great album where the group takes you down into the infernal abyss of darkness and despair. A must have!

Vobiscum Satanas (originally done in 1998)

  1. Ravenna Strigoi Martii
  2. Enriched by Evil
  3. Thy Legions Come
  4. Evil Prevails
  5. Slava Satanas
  6. The Black Winged Horde
  7. Vobiscum Satanas
  8. Ineffable Kings of Darkness

Bonus Tracks:

  1. Enriched By Evil (Live 1998)
  2. Thy Legions Come (Live 1998)
  3. Vobiscum Satanas (Live 1998)
  4. Ineffable Kings of Darkness (Live 1998)

With the second release “Vobiscum Satanas” released in 1998 Dark Funeral ups the intensity with plenty of shredding riffs and blastbeats. The new lineup changes, including new vocalist Emperor Magus Caligula, gave a little more diversity and uniqueness to the sound. The bands musicianship has improved as well with more tempo variations that helps avoid any kind of monotony. The power comes ripping through with Lord Ahriman’s fierce guitar playing on tracks such as “Ravenna Strigoi Martii”, “Slava Satan” and the titletack. Some say the album lost some of the atmosphere that we heard on the previous album but I have to disagree. I feel that dark ambiance when I listen to “Vobiscum” and can hear it even more so on the remastered version. Along with the original tracks there are four live tracks that are added onto the album, “Enriched by Evil”, “Thy Legions Come”, “Vobiscum Satanas” and “Ineffable Kings of Darkness, recorded at a festival they did in Sweden in 1998. Another classic. If you’re a fan of “Secrets of the Black Arts” then you’ll definitely want to get “Vobiscum”!

Diabolis Interium (originally done in 2001)

  1. The Arrival of Satan’s Empire
  2. Hail Murder
  3. Goddess of Sodomy
  4. Diabolis Interium
  5. An Apprentice of Satan
  6. Thus I Have Spoken
  7. Armageddon Finally Comes
  8. Heart of Ice

Bonus Tracks:

  1. Apprentice of Satan 2000
  2. The Trial (King Diamond cover)
  3. Dead Skin Mask (Slayer cover)
  4. Remember the Fallen (Sodom cover)
  5. Pagan Fears (Mayhem cover)
  6. Hail Murder (Live in South America 2003)
  7. Thus I Have Spoken (Live in South America 203)
  8. Armageddon Finally Comes (Live in south America 2003)

Dark Funeral continues the metal onslaught with their third full length album “Diabolis Interium” released in 201. “Arrival of Satan’s Empire” is a great opener that doesn’t waste anytime going into full hyperspeed. “Goddess of Sodomy”slows things down a bit with a mid-paced tempo allowing some variety to come into the mix. This album is a little cleaner and doesn’t get my blood pumping as much but it’s still really great. What makes it really worthwhile are the bonus tracks. The first five are from an EP they did in 2000 called “Teach the Children to Worship Satan”. It includes “The Trial” by King Diamond, Slayer”s “Dead Skin Mask”, “Remember the Fallen” by Sodom and Mayhem’s “Pagan Fears”. I think my favorites out of the bunch are the King Diamond and Mayhem covers, both sound really excellent. The last three tracks are from a live show in South America from 2003 and sound great with the band putting even more energy and intensity into the original tracks.

Going further into the 2000s, I kind of lost interest in Dark Funeral. The later albums are too clean, too overproduced and don’t catch my attention all that much. Having said that I am interested in to hear what the upcoming album will sound like when it’s released. So those are the three albums I have chosen out of this collection. These are what I consider the best out of the package. I highly recommend getting these three reissues. If you haven’t heard “Secrets of the Black Arts, “Vobiscum” or “Diabolis” yet I highly recommend you do!

-Kat Von B

psychedelicfurs

BEAUTIFUL CHAOS

The Psychedelic Furs

By Dave Thompson

Helter Skelter Publishing, 2004. 222 Pages

The Psychedelic Furs were brilliant in comparison to much of what was going on around them in the alternative music world of the 1980’s. Their music was a lot more substantial, intelligent, and with greater emotional depth than your average heavy rotation MTV “new wave” band. Someone once said long ago that the Furs were the missing link between the Sex Pistols and Nirvana. That’s fairly accurate in my opinion. I believe they are that piece of the rock history puzzle, having not only blazed a sonic trail for others in the post-punk late-70’s, but blew open the door for a lot of bands coming up in regards to the importance of college radio airplay, making promo videos (the Furs made videos with respected directors before MTV came to power in 1981), and they helped acclimate European and U.S. audiences to a larger world of sound; opening people’s minds to what is acceptable in the realm of popular music. A wave of sharp dressed experimental post-punk groups flooded in in the wake of the Psychedelic Furs and the inroads they made through constant gigging and cheaply recorded singles such as ‘We Love You’, which found an early supporter in John Peel. The single is one of the best of 1980 and stands as a timeless classic today.

The Psychedelic Furs were formed by brothers Richard (vocals) and Tim (bass) Butler in 1976 just as Punk Rock was exploding across the U.K. The early Furs fell in with the scene but wanted to do something different, as they saw the punk movement as having a limited lifespan and narrow focus. By late 1978 they’d become a serious and organized band of six members, including a saxophone player (Duncan Kilburn) and two guitarists (Roger Morris and John Ashton). The band went through almost a dozen drummers before finding the right one in Vince Ely.

In those early days the band were an overwhelming experience, a wall of sound that would make your teeth rattle. They had no concept of mixing. Everybody would plug in and just go to 10. Sometimes they’d mic up appliances such as vacuum cleaners and there would be a hellish apocalyptic low-end noise that would swallow up everything. The songs were improvisational jams that would go for 15, 20 minutes. Butler would burn through all his prepared lyrics, begin making them up on the spot, then grab a newspaper and begin reading it into the mic. The band described their shows as “beautiful chaos”, an apt description from where we get the title of the book by Dave Thompson.

This book is extremely fascinating, for I’ve always loved the band but never knew too much of their story. I’ve read a lot of band bios/ autobios and this stands as one of the handful of quality reads I’ve come across for its descriptive detail in giving an overview of time and place where this band existed. The social and musical landscape of the late-70’s and 80’s is drawn vividly, providing context to better see, feel, and understand the Furs, their music, and how it was important.

This is well-written with care and dedication over a period of years by Thompson with input from the band to make sure the facts are straight. Also contained are numerous never-before published photos provided exclusively for inclusion here by the band from their personal archives.

The Psychedelic Furs were a band who climbed from nothing to the verge of international superstardom in 1986/87, took a look around from atop that mountain and didn’t like the view. So they willingly and purposefully stepped back from the spotlight and returned to making personal records, doing smaller club and theater tours, and not worrying about the pressure of “looking for the hit”. They went back underground and made personal music for themselves at the apex of their popularity, just as John Hughes put out the film based upon their song ‘Pretty in Pink’ (for which they did a rerecorded version) and quickly followed it with the ‘Midnight to Midnight’ album (which boasted a top 20 hit in ‘Heartbreak Beat’). This is a rare story. You don’t often see it. Who turns their back and goes home, integrity intact? How often can you even use the word “integrity” when talking about the music business? A vast majority of acts will do any-fucking-thing to stay in the spotlight, to stay on top, to keep the hits a-flowing and keep the fan base interested. They hold on for dear life and go out kicking and screaming, ultimately embarrassing themselves. Very few are professional enough and in tune with reality (or themselves) enough to bow out with dignity and class, self-respect and artistic integrity intact. The Furs did it, as did the Smiths, the Clash, the Beatles, the Birthday Party, and a few others. Most end up like KISS: a tribute band of their former selves, going through the motions without inspiration, motivated only by money. Sad, sad, pathetic and embarrassing. That band are the laughing stock of rock ‘n’ roll.

I’ve nothing but respect for these guys, and I should add that Richard Butler’s lyrics are brilliant. They are personal to the point of being nearly impenetrable but still somehow convey emotions and images in an almost cinematic way. They bring each song to life with the ability to connect with individual listener’s imaginations to form meaning and images relevant to each person’s feelings and lives. The band’s music is the perfect backdrop for Butler’s words and his tobacco-cured voice. I always described the Psychedelic Furs music as “painting with sound”, especially the early records and 1989’s ‘Book of Days’ (one of my personal favorites). The track ‘All of This and Nothing’ is a perfect example of the “painting with sound” concept, as a picture is drawn before your eyes of a trashed room and all of its contents. You can almost smell it, feel the loneliness in the static scene as it springs to life within your mind.

I cannot overstate how good this band were at what they did, and sadly they are not well remembered, nor is their influence recognized. Early fans included people who would go on to become Bauhaus, the Sisters of Mercy, Adam and the Ants, Duran Duran, and many others. These guys were regulars at Furs gigs, and John Ashton would even produce the early Sisters singles, teaching Andrew Eldritch production technics (only to have his name removed from the credits for some reason).

This is the kind of music book I enjoy because it is about the music. What a novelty! It’s not page after page of coke binges, orgies, car crashes, groupies, and hotel trashings leading to rehab (yawn) like 99% of rock n’ roll stories (Peter Criss). This is the true story of the records, tours, videos, all of it. Most musicians have surprisingly little to say about their art or how it was made and what it means. Those are the subjects I want to read about. Some of the wild tales can be funny but there’s usually way too much of that in these books and it is tedious (Peter Criss). This book has a few crazy anecdotes but it’s just enough to spice things up and keep it interesting.

I give this one top marks. Read it.

-Mike Falconer.

ROOM 237

I’M NOT GOING TO SAY THIS MOVIE ISN’T FASCINATING, BUT MUCH OF IT COULD BE A WHOLE BOAT LOAD OF CRAZY. I DON’T KNOW FOR CERTAIN… YES I DO. WHEW, HAHAHAHA.

THIS DOCUMENTARY DEALS WITH A HANDFUL OF THE MANY OBSESSIVES WHO HAVE DECIPHERED THEIR VERSION OF “THE TRUE MEANING” OF STANLEY KUBRICK’S ‘THE SHINING’. EACH HAS FOUND NUMEROUS HIDDEN IMAGES AND MESSAGES WITHIN THE FILM TO BACK THEIR THEORIES.

ONE FANATIC SAYS THE FILM IS ABOUT THE GENOCIDE OF THE AMERICAN INDIANS. ANOTHER SAYS IT IS ABOUT NAZI GERMANY AND THE HOLOCAUST. ANOTHER OBSESSIVE CLAIMS THAT KUBRICK SHOT THE (FAKED) MOON LANDING FOOTAGE FOR THE U.S. GOVERNMENT ON A SOUNDSTAGE IN THE MID-1960’S AND HID HIS CONFESSION OF THIS IN CLUES THROUGHOUT ‘THE SHINING’ (THIS IS JAY WEIDNER’S THEORY, AND THE MOST FASCINATING ONE BY FAR). THE BIGGEST NUTTER OF THE BUNCH HAS WATCHED THE FILM NUMEROUS TIMES FORWARD AND IN REVERSE AT THE SAME TIME WITH THE IMAGES PLAYING OVER EACH OTHER BECAUSE…BECAUSE…I HONESTLY HAVE NO IDEA WHY. IT EXPOSES NOTHING REALLY, BUT THE GUY SEEMS ENDLESSLY TICKLED BY IT.

I THINK IF KUBRICK WERE ALIVE TODAY HE’D FIND THIS FILM EITHER HILARIOUS OR HORRIFYING. I FIND IT TO BE A LITTLE OF BOTH. THESE PEOPLE MAY HAVE ENTIRELY TOO MUCH FREE TIME. I’M A BIT ENVIOUS, TRUTH BE TOLD. I ONLY WISH I HAD THE KIND OF FREE TIME TO SPEND OBSESSING OVER MY FAVORITE THINGS AND WRITING ESSAYS AND MAKING VIDEOS ABOUT THEM. ALSO, I BELIEVE SOME OF THESE PEOPLE MAY BE GENUINELY CRAZY, ESPECIALLY THE “BACKWARD/FORWARD” GUY. IN FACT, THE FINAL WORDS IN THE MOVIE ARE HIS AND THEY LEFT ME WITH NO DOUBT THAT HE IS UNSTABLE, TO SAY THE LEAST (HE SPEAKS OF LIVING IN ‘THE SHINING’, BEING LOST IN IT, HIS LIFE BEING PART OF IT; SOMETHING TO THAT EFFECT).

THE THING IS YOU CAN TAKE ANY MOVIE AND DO THIS KIND OF THING WITH IT. IF YOU WATCH IT OVER AND OVER, LOOKING FOR MEANINGS AND CONNECTIONS, THEY WILL BEGIN TO APPEAR TO YOU. ONE CAN FIND WHATEVER YOU SEEK WITHIN A FILM. THERE WAS ONE COMEDIAN WHOSE NAME ESCAPES ME (SORRY MR. COMEDIAN) WHO ENGAGED IN A RELEVENT EXPERIMENT TO PROVE A POINT. HE USED THE BIBLE CODE PROGRAM TO CHART THE RISE AND FALL OF THE CAREER OF VANILLA ICE WITHIN THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT, AND THEN LOOKED WITHIN VANILLA’S 1990 HIT ‘ICE ICE BABY’ TO FIND CLUES PREDICTING THE ATTACKS OF 9/11. AGAIN: IF YOU LOOK HARD ENOUGH, YOU CAN FIND ANYTHING YOU WANT ANYWHERE YOU LOOK. THIS CAN BE DANGEROUS; FOR IT IS HOW CULTS ARE BORN, HOW MISINFORMATION IS PROMOTED, AND IT EXPLAINS HOW PEOPLE LIKE GLENN BECK BUILD A FOLLOWING AND MAKE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS.

STANLEY KUBRICK WAS A GENIUS AND MASTER FILMMAKER. HIS MOVIES ARE INTELLIGENT, VISUALLY STUNNING, OFTEN GROUNDBREAKING AND ALWAYS THOUGHT-PROVOKING. HE WAS A TRUE ARTIST AND MY LIFE IS RICHER FOR HIS HAVING EXISTED TO CREATE THAT ART. SINCE HIS DEATH THERE HAS BEEN A BLACK HOLE IN CINEMA THAT NO ONE ELSE HAS YET STEPPED IN TO FILL. I DON’T DOUBT THAT THERE ARE SUBTEXTS AND SUBTLE VISUAL CUES IN THE CORNERS AND CRACKS OF ALL KUBRICK’S FILMS, BUT I KIND OF DOUBT THAT THERE ARE ANY OF THE “MESSAGES” THESE PEOPLE HAVE FOUND. ANY WORTHY ART HAS MANY LEVELS AND INTERPRETATIONS. IT SHOULD MEAN SOMETHING PERSONAL TO EACH VIEWER, THAT’S WHAT MAKES ART INTERESTING (AS OPPOSED TO MASS MARKET, COMMERCIAL “POPCORN” MOVIES). WORKS AS VARIED, INTERESTING, AND OUTRAGEOUS AS KUBRICK’S ARE BOUND TO INSPIRE OPINIONS AND INSIGHTS JUST AS VARIED AND OUTRAGEOUS.

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN WHAT A FEW OF STANLEY KUBRICK’S MOST EXTREME FANS HAVE FOUND IN HIS FILMS, CHECK OUT ‘ROOM 237’. I AM ESPECIALLY INTERESTED IN JAY WEIDNER’S “MOON LANDING” THEORY, BUT IT IS COVERED MUCH MORE IN-DEPTH AND CONVINCINGLY IN HIS OWN FILMS (AVAILABLE ON DVD).

-MICHAEL SALEMI

goingtopiecestheriseandpr1

Going to Pieces; the Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film

Documentary, 2006.

An account of the phenomenon that swept the cinematic landscape in the early 1980’s and changed the face of horror cinema forever, recounted by those who participated both behind and in front of the camera. There are insightful interviews with John Carpenter (‘Halloween’), FX master Tom Savini, producer Sean S. Cunningham (‘Friday The 13th’), Wes Craven (‘Last House on the Left’), studio people like Jeffrey Katz and Fangoria Magazine’s Anthony Timpone, and many others, who recount the birth, rise, and death of the first wave of the slasher film from their unique points of view.

This fascinating documentary traces the sub-genre from its origins with Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ and Michael Powell’s underrated masterpiece ‘Peeping Tom’ in the early 1960’s, up through the Italian “Giallo” films of Mario and Lamberto Bava, Lucio Fulci, and Dario Argento, which are widely considered to be proto-slashers (especially Argento’s blood-spattered murderfests), and finally hitting on Bob Clark’s chilling and unforgettable ‘Black Christmas’ and Craven’s ‘Last House on the Left’ before reaching the film which is widely considered to be the true father of the modern slasher film: Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece of suspense and terror; ‘Halloween’.

‘Halloween’ was made for only $325,000 and went on to become the most successful independent film ever. It held that crown for over two decades, showing other would-be filmmakers that there were big profits to be made in low-budget horror. While the influence of Carpenter’s film cannot be denied, it was ‘Friday The 13th’ in 1980 that really sent the slasher sub-genre into high gear. Where ‘Halloween’ was done with amazing artistry closer in style to Hitchcock and boasting an expressionist style of photography, ‘Friday’ concentrated on jokes, nudity, and a lot of bloody special effects, all presented in a straight-ahead, in-your-face way. It was derivative, simple in story, and simple in presentation, but it worked. From there the floodgates were open.

1981-1984 saw the dawning of the “golden age” of the slasher film. Dozens came and went through theaters, most followed by cheaper knock-off sequels. Dozens more movies were produced for distribution in the then new and quickly growing home video market. There was a massive teenage audience for this stuff (of which I was one). Producers were making large sums of money fast, but by 1984 a backlash was growing. (So-called) Conservatives were in the White House, led by cowboy actor and hypocritical shyster Ronald Reagan. Right wing religious and “concerned parent” groups were springing up all over the country to protest what they perceived as the poisons ruining their society and their children’s minds and morals. Things such as heavy metal music and punk rock, swearing or too much skin on TV, (anything displaying rebellion or individuality was often put into the “occult” or “obscene” categories for lack of knowing what else to do with it!). ‘Silent Night Deadly Night’ became the flashpoint for this battle, and renowned critics Siskel & Ebert unwittingly became forerunners of the PMRC, which would pop up to haunt the artistic world a year later. Siskel & Ebert launched relentless attacks against any and all slasher movies, and most horror in general, even though in earlier years they had given positive reviews to ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, ‘Last House on the Left’, and were early vocal supporters of ‘Halloween’ before its mainstream success. They had, by the mid-80’s, come to believe that these movies existed for no other purpose but to show the domination and humiliation of women. In other words; they’d lost the plot and missed the point of horror in general.  On top of the double-barreled attack by critics and protest groups, the MPAA jumped into the fray, forcing directors to heavily cut their films before allowing them to receive an R rating. Filmmakers routinely ran a ridiculous gauntlet of vague complaints, sometimes submitting films up to 10 times before being accepted. It was censorship, plain and simple. Only the earliest slasher movies got through relatively intact, before public pressure created by all the controversy. As an example, watch the first ‘Friday the 13th’ compared to the mid-80’s entries in the series. Aside from one or two juicy moments, the violence and blood content of the kills is scaled way back, whereas the first movie showed everything.

It is widely believed that the final nail in the coffin of the first wave of the slasher film was 1986’s ‘April Fool’s Day’. It left fans feeling cheated. Many saw the movie as poking fun at the genre and showing contempt for horror’s loyal audience. This is debatable, as it is a somewhat clever and fun film. To me it shows no real cynicism or contempt for its audience. I find it harmless. But at the time people were quite angry at this movie.

CAUTION: SPOILER ALERT. If you have not seen ‘April Fool’s Day’ but want to or are expecting to, don’t’ read this part. The film ends with all the “victims” of the supposed killer popping back up in a sort of surprise party scenario as it turns out that the whole story was a put-on. It was all faked and nobody was killed. That’s it. That’s what pissed everybody off so bad.

From the late 1980’s and into the first half of the 1990’s the slasher film and horror in general was on a downhill slide. There were some terrific films like ‘Exorcist III’ and a few others, but mostly the genre consisted of uninspired, tired rehashes of everything we’d seen before. There were more sequels of ‘Chainsaw’, ‘Elm Street’, ‘Friday’, ‘Halloween’, etc. The huge mainstream crowds who had filled theaters from the late 1970’s and through the 1980’s had dwindled steadily.

In 1996 Wes Craven hit big with ‘Scream’. It was simultaneously a parody of the slasher movie and a fairly effective and intense slasher movie. ‘Scream’ brought big crowds back to the theaters and started a new wave of mainstream horror pictures such as ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’. Suddenly you could go to your local multiplex any week of the year and find a slick-looking whodunit starring some pretty young things on break from their popular TV show. 

‘Going to Pieces; the Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film’ is one I can recommend to both the casual fan and the hardcore follower. It is quite fascinating to relive those days and listen to the insiders tell their tales. For those of you who are too young to have lived through the 1980-86 peak of the slasher movie, this is essential viewing.

-Michael Salemi

rush-Beyond-the-Lighted-StageRush
Beyond the Lighted Stage
Directed by Sam Dunne and Scot McFadyen
“Beyond the Lighted Stage” is a recount of this brilliant trio’s extensive history through movies, live footage, interviews with the band and their family members as well as interviews with musicians who have been truly inspired by Rush’s music over the years. They start out talking of their modest childhood in Canada, feeling like they never really fit in (I can completely relate to that) to climbing their way up to being one of the world’s largest rock bands. As a huge Rush fan I have always been in awe of their amazing talent. Not only that but the fact that they refused to sell out or change their beliefs in any way. They didn’t care about what was popular at the time or what was going to sell the most records. Rush just did their own thing and stayed true to their music. Rush is the type of band you would find in their hotel room , quietly reading or writing music instead of out partying.
What I love about this film is that Sam Dunne and Scot McFadyen capture the likeability of Geddy, Alex and Neil. They are honest, down to earth, intelligent, funny and extremely interesting. You can feel the connection and brotherhood that three if them have together. Even though Neil’s still the new guy (watch the movie, you’ll get it). When they talk about Neil losing his wife and daughter and what happened after you can really tell they are more of a family than just a band. Geddy and Alex have an especially tight relationship as they grew up together, both never really fit in anywhere and found friendship through playing music.
Existing Rush fans will love this documentary, this is a celebratory look at one of rock’s biggest names and it is such a great story. If you’re not familiar with Rush going into this you will be by the end. Even if you don’t like their music too much you’ll still like the people who made it. Rush is one of those bands who have “it” and show no signs of stopping. I can’t recommend this movie enough, you need to go out and buy yourself a copy now!
-Kate Smith

Citadel

Citadel

2012

 

Inflicted with chronic agoraphobia ever since his wife was brutally attacked by a gang of twisted hooded children, Tommy Cowley finds himself trapped in a dilapidated suburbia and terrorized by that same gang who also are intent on stealing his baby daughter. With the help of a kind and understanding nurse and a vigilante priest, Tommy learns to face his fears and the demons from his past by entering the abandoned tower block, Citadel in order to get his daughter back and also learns the truth about these nightmarish children.

Written and directed by Ciaran Foy, “Citadel” was quite personal to him as he himself was attacked by a group of teenagers with a hammer at the age of eighteen. The film is a form of catharsis and psychological journey for him as he relives the attack through his lead character. Aneurin Barnard does a fantastic job as Tommy Cowley, a very talented actor who gives a solid performance. I’d like to see him in some future performances. The entire cast does a great job with the story actually and there is a very melancholic atmosphere to the movie that pulls at your emotions and completely draws you into the story. It is very dark and intense and the nature of the gang of children is very sinister. You can sense the desperation from Tommy Cowley as he tries to find his daughter and what I love is that he does overcome his fears by the end.

As twisted and disturbing as the story is, there is a very heartfelt approach towards “Citadel” which makes the entire thing very enjoyable. I definitely recommend this to those who are looking for a little different twist on horror.

Kate Smith

Detention

I must give special thanks to the guys from the SLASHERCAST (5 middle fingers on a motherfuckin’ hand)podcast for turning me on to this movie. If not for their rave review of it I would not have known of its existence.  Thanks again, guys!

I will be as brief with this as possible in order to save you time and perhaps money. You’re welcome.

Have you ever watched television? Have you ever paid attention to the commercials wedged into your favorite show? You know the ones that annoy you that you try and block out so you can get back to watching what you sat down to watch in the first place? Well, now imagine an entire movie shot, edited, and acted in the style of a TV commercial. Sound exciting? If so, see ‘Detention’ immediately. I am not joking. This movie has the depth of character and dialog of any random commercial. If you get up on a Saturday or Sunday morning and turn on Dish Network to any of the low channels; 2, 4, 5, 7, 10, and record several dozen Walmart, FedEX, Geico, Home Depot, and whichever else commercials come on, then watch them all strung together for an hour and a half, then you have an approximation of this movie in form and function.

I usually try to find something I like in every movie I watch. I look for the good points and I attempt to like the movies I watch, as I am a lifelong fan of film. I never go in looking to knock anybody down, as it is difficult to make a movie and nobody ever sets out to make a bad one. Even the movies that do not work I make a valiant attempt to point out anything positive that stands out and I try to give my opinion on what I thought could have made it work better (what they used to call “constructive criticism” in the days before the internet, before everybody became a HATER). But, to quote Captain Spaulding; “I calls ‘em likes I sees ‘em”. So, now I’m going to call it:

‘Detention’ is a movie for people who watch A LOT of TV, smoke A LOT of pot, play A LOT of video games, and therefore have a mind which has been retarded from development at an age of about 16 to 18. It is a movie for people with little-to-no attention span and who are obsessed with pop culture references and ‘Scream’-like inside jokes and self-referential asides that in my mind only pull one out of the film and dilute and confuse the plot (what the douchebags of today call “meta”). It is STUPID and MEANINGLESS. NOT FUN, FUNNY, OR INTERESTING IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM. By the end I was so frustrated, pissed off, disappointed, disengaged and uncaring of what was happening to whom onscreen that I vowed to punch the filmmaker. I shudder to imagine the mind of the person who wrote this and thought it was good enough to take out and raise the money to shoot it. Holy dog shit! If this movie was made by a 15-year-old, that kid is a fucking genius and I worship the ground they walk upon. He or she is going be a master filmmaker one day. However, if said filmmaker is one goddamn day over the age of 15, they are either pandering to a VERY young crowd (12-18. You are excused if you like this) or are utterly retarded to the point where they should, sadly, be put down like an old blind dog with a faulty bladder. It’d be for the best.

‘Detention’ is cynical and insulting. It throws so much flash and style in your face that it is nearly impossible to follow the half-baked and convoluted plot. This movie is torture. It is an hour and a half that feels like 3 hours! I cannot stand this movie.

Yeah, yeah, I remember 1992, 1994 and so on. I remember the songs, clothing styles, the catchphrases, and slang. I was there. So what? This movie seems to think we all are going to be entertained by the simple fact that they can make a list of these things for us to look at. It is fine to make a movie about nostalgia. I love nostalgia. BUT, it must be seamlessly weaved into the plot and vital to it. Also, you cannot stand back, pointing to it, going “look, look, remember this?! Coooool”. Watch ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ as one small recent example of how nostalgia is done right and done well without awkwardly beating you over the head with it like some TV commercial about “retro” clothing.

Note to the guy who wrote and/or directed this movie: when you put a “hip” pop culture reference in your movie, you don’t need to include an animated pop-up in the upper corner explaining it to the audience. A person either has to be cool or experienced enough to get it or otherwise the movie just isn’t for them yet, period. It’s like explaining every joke after you’ve told it. It does not work. Just thought you should know, Kubrick!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!! Tylenol!!!!!! This gave me a headache!!!!!!

Note to Slashercast: I like you guys. I like your show. But in this case the 5 middle fingers were pointed directly at me.

This one gets our vote for worst movie of 2012.

-Michael Salemi

FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY

    It is 1945. World War 2 is drawing to a close and Russian troops are sweeping through Germany, closing in on Berlin. One particular platoon is making its way stealthily through a wooded area of rural Germany, sneaking across fields and forests, sweeping through small villages. They come upon an ancient dilapidated castle where they are led inside and down to a series of catacombs underneath by a servant. There are no signs of any other people about, and eventually the troops discover the “servant” wasn’t exactly who they thought he was.

    So begins the 2013 fantasy/horror picture ‘Frankenstein’s Army’, directed by Richard Raaphorst and shot in the desolate overcast environs of Eastern Europe.

    Once inside the seemingly endless maze of corridors and chambers below the castle, the Russians soon discover that they have entered the secret laboratories of an obviously mad Nazi scientist. Before long his experiments are converging upon the troops en mass, kicking a prolonged bloody subterranean battle.

    It is a simple, straight-ahead story with an interesting idea at its core. The acting is above average. The majority of running time contains a large dose of combat and hand-to-hand fighting. It is not a terrible movie but I have one big negative and one big positive; each threatening to overtake all plot or characters. The negative is that once the action kicks in the movie unfolds like a video game, with characters running through corridors as monsters emerge from every doorway, shadow, stairwell, and corner to stalk them relentlessly with saws buzzing and drills churning and flamethrowers throwing. For much of the film it feels too much like you’re watching somebody play a video game. The positives are the fantastic creature designs. They are imaginative and spectacular human/machine hybrids; soldiers with airplane props attached to them, drills affixed to their faces, flamethrowers for arms, all manner of blades and weaponry, as well as heavy armor encasing them. Each of them is magnificent creations worthy of their own line of comics and action figures. It’s a shame the film isn’t up to par with the effects and impressive set design.

    If this movie had a stronger script it could have been dynamite, but as it stands it is one of those “close but not quite” films. Too bad.

    One thing I must make special mention of that impressed me is the fact that there is no CGI in the film (none noticeable, anyway). Most lower-budgeted genre features I see today use a lot of it, unnecessarily in my humble opinion, and it tends to pull me out of the movie. Also, most times it looks so bad and cartoonish. I often wonder why can’t the makers see how bad it looks if I can? Or maybe they just don’t care. A good example is ‘The Midnight Meat Train’. A good movie; interesting, creepy, bloody, well written and acted, then totally fucked up by lame CGI that didn’t need to be used at all! It was lazy filmmaking. So, ‘Frankenstein’s Army’ gets extra points for employing real, practical effects and resisting the urge to solve problems by pushing a button on a computer. It was so exciting when I was a kid to watch a movie and wonder “how the hell did they do that?” Movies then really gripped your imagination and opened up your sense of wonder about art, the world, and what can be done, what is “out there”. Now when you look at a movie there’s no wondering how they did it, because the answer to everything is “computers”; “Some guy programmed it”. I feel a little sad for kids growing up now because of this.

-Michael Salemi

insidious-2

Insidious Chapter 2

The second horror film from prolific director James Wan to be released in the summer of 2013, INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2 continues where the first movie left off. I don’t believe it’s necessary to have seen Part 1 in order to follow the events of 2, but I think it helps and you’ll get more out of it if you do.

The movie opened on Friday the 13th of Sept. My partner Kate and I went on that opening night and the theater was packed with rowdy teenagers. No, I didn’t get annoyed. In fact I enjoyed it, as I hadn’t been in that environment in a long time and it was a bit nostalgic. I remember back in high school there would be a new FRIDAY THE 13TH to look forward to opening on Friday the 13th of whichever month.  My group of friends and I would pile into the car and go opening night. The atmosphere would always be as it was on this night: loud and electric, with everybody having a great time.

INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2, written by Leigh Whannell from a story by James Wan, finds Josh and Renai Lambert, portrayed by Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, living with Josh’s mom, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) after the horrifying Demonic occurrences that plagued them in their home which targeted their son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins).

For a short time everyone is confident that life is back to normal, all the Demons banished. But young Dalton is first to notice that dad isn’t acting quite like himself; he is irritable and defensive, angry, he doesn’t like the things he usually does, and when he’s alone in a room he is often overheard talking to someone who isn’t there. It is as though Josh has become someone else pretending to be Josh.  It seems that when he returned from “the Further”, that mysterious place beyond our world where the dead wander back and forth between here and wherever it is they finally end up, he brought something nasty back with him. Anyone who saw the first movie knows this already, as we saw him overtaken by the spirit of the “old hag” wearing the black gown and veil who had stalked him his entire life waiting for the chance to possess him.

Soon ghosts are seen in the home and things begin moving on their own. Strange voices are heard upstairs. In a bid to get to the bottom of things once and for all, Renai and Lorraine, using Dalton’s psychic gifts, attempt to both rescue Josh and uncover the secrets of the Lambert hauntings and the Further. Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson return as Specs and Tucker, who served as psychic investigator Elise Rainier’s (the great Lin Shaye) trusted and beloved assistants in PT 1. The duo are funnier and even more charming here, providing the otherwise frightening and tense film with needed levity and warmth.

I would rather not give away any of the films surprises, but I will tell you that is does answer the questions asked in the first movie, such as who is the “hag” and from where does “she” come. I put “she” in quotes, because that’s all part of the mystery that will unfold.

I enjoyed the first movie a lot, but I think I may like this chapter slightly more. It is atmospheric, full of surprises and scares, connects the past with the present, and the physical plane with the Further in as logical and believable way as can be expected. It’s nicely written, acted, and shot. PT 1 may have been a touch scarier on first viewing, but this one is no slouch. There are a few highly effective scares and a terrifically eerie atmosphere of dread that permeates the whole thing.  There are a few absolutely chilling moments in this movie. You cannot ask for too much more.

-Michael Salemi

Lords-of-salem-movie-poster

Lords of Salem

I don’t know if it’s true, but from what I read Rob Zombie left his next project up to his fans. He gave them a choice between a remake of ‘The Blob’, which is something he’d wanted to do for a long time, and ‘Lords of Salem’, a film named after one of his songs from several years back. The fans chose ‘Lords’, which is just as well; Zombie already did his stint in remake and sequel land with the mediocre-at-best ‘Halloween’ and god-awful ‘Halloween 2’. We don’t need too many more remakes at this point, plus the 1988 version of ‘the Blob’ starring Kevin Dillon is a really good film and I don’t imagine any degree of CGI making it better.

I wish more people would have had a chance to see this film in its theatrical run, but the studio handled the release badly, in my opinion. They advertised it well, putting trailers out and internet coverage. Zombie did a lot of press and there were magazine covers such as Fangoria. There was a novel released to coincide with the opening, which I want to read but haven’t as of now. I hear it’s a good book, some say better than the film. By the time ‘Lords of Salem’ hit screens everybody knew about it or had at least heard the name. Many were anxious to see it, myself included. The poster of Sherri Moon Zombie, dreadlocked, wearing striped sweater and skull makeup, staring vacantly into the camera with a witchcraft symbol drawn on her forehead had already become an iconic image. Then the studio released it to something like 300 theaters nationwide, thereby guaranteeing that it had no chance to succeed. All these fans wanted to see it and couldn’t find it. The film could have been a much bigger success. I see lousy horror movies such as the latest ‘Texas Chainsaw’ being released wide and having big opening weekends before everybody catches on that its shite. That’s  alright, from what I understand Zombie had to cut out almost an hour of material for the theatrical cut. When this hits DVD I’m sure there will be a spectacular director’s cut and it will do much better there, as it will finally reach its fan base.

After seeing this, my initial gut reaction was “eh”. I didn’t love it or hate it. I was not overwhelmed. Then as I thought about it over the next day or two I grew to really appreciate what Zombie did here. It’s the same thing that used to happen to me after seeing Stanley Kubrick films. They’d leave me cold. I wouldn’t think much of them at the time but over days they’d get under my skin as I’d begin to reflect on them and I’d awaken to their brilliance.

‘Lords of Salem’ is a very simple tale about a coven of witches in 1696 that are put to death, but before they are executed they throw a curse upon all the women of Salem and their female descendants.  The curse goes into effect in modern times when Sherri Moon Zombie receives a mysterious record at the radio station where she is a DJ. It is addressed to her, from “the Lords”. She plays it on the air and all the women who hear it go into a trance state. Sherri begins to slip into a surreal netherworld of hellish visions that intertwine with the reality of her surroundings, causing her to slowly descend into depression and withdraw from the world. She becomes ever more frightened as her hold on reality slips. Some of the visions are incredible and striking, featuring a nude Meg Foster as the head witch who cursed the town, a huge sasquatch-like demon, and a small dwarf devil that impregnates Sherri with a baby so she can give birth to Satan’s era on Earth. As it turns out, the witches had been trying to bring the Devil’s child into the world for years, without success. They are specifically using Sherri Moon to do this in our time, as she is the direct descendent of the man who had put all the witches to death in the 1600’s. Sherri has no free will anymore. She cannot break the curse or do anything but follow the path to her fate. I believe the story is an allegory for drug addiction, and in fact her character is a recovering addict. When she begins to act strange those around her immediately think she has relapsed.

This film unfolds slowly, with creeping camera on dollies and cranes, and subtle eerie score creeping up through each scene. The old-town Salem locations are overcast, dark, and drenched in a gloomy atmosphere.  Everything is beautifully photographed and perfectly, slowly, paced. Zombie does a great job creating the world of this movie and allows his characters to fully live in it. The whole thing really draws you in. Someone once said this looks like if Ken Russell had directed ‘Rosemary’s Baby’. I can see that. It does have sort of a Ken Russell vibe and the story is similar to ‘Rosemary’s Baby’. I also picked up some Kubrick stylistic touches with a bit of influence from ‘The Shining’ in some scenes, but overall the flavor of the film is completely Zombie. Nowadays people make movies about movies. They take a character from this film, a plot from that, a sequence from here, dialog from there. It’s all cut and paste. There’s a feeling of déjà vu I get when I watch many recent movies. I like filmmakers who make films from their imagination and from their life experiences and use the people around them as inspiration for characters and dialog. Also literature and history are great sources for inspiration. It seems like there aren’t a lot of filmmakers anymore who create from their heart. Everybody has their influences, and they cannot help but come through. That’s okay, there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s also nothing wrong with taking some of your favorite things from your favorite movies that a director or an actor had done if it happens to work in your film. But today, it’s all too transparent and shallow, like watching a cover band play the songs of a really good classic band. I like ‘Lords of Salem’ because even though you can see where the influences came from it doesn’t at all look or feel like a copy or a rip-off of anybody else. It’s pure Rob Zombie, and it’s a damn good film.

-Michael Salemi

Stake Land

Don’t let the title of this small independent film from director Jim Mickle put you off, ‘Stake Land’ is one of the better horror films released in 2011. Mickle made a name for himself a few years prior with ‘Mulberry St.’, which was a fresh take on the zombie genre, if you can believe that’s even possible at this point. It concerned a viral outbreak in one New York City neighborhood that turned residents into rodent-like creatures.

‘Stake Land’ stars Nick Damici as Mister, a quiet man of action who travels a wasted post-apocalyptic United States in an old beat up sedan following a protracted war with ghoulish zombie-like vampires who have all but wiped out civilization but for small pockets of humanity gathered in crumbling wild west-type towns. One night he saves a young boy (Connor Paolo) just as his family is being wiped out. The boy’s father tells Mister to “take care of him” with his dying breath, and Mister must take it upon himself to train the youngster to do what he does: hunt and kill vampires. The boy becomes Mister’s apprentice and partner. From here on the story becomes a road movie, as the duo head for New Eden, a legendary place up north (formerly known as Canada) with plenty of food and water, a peaceful society, and no vamps. Along the way their group grows as they pick up stragglers, including a nun they save from being raped played by Kelly McGillis, and a pregnant lounge singer played by Danielle Harris. I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice to say that things go terribly wrong along the journey. It’s an incredibly bleak story, but we are not left without hope.

Imagine Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’, but besides murderers, thieves, rapists, and cannibals, there are also fanatical religious cults that control huge tracts of land and the vicious vampires they worship and feed people to.

Damici co-wrote the screenplay with Mickle, and it’s a terrific script focusing on character above plot, feeling above action. The dialog is sparse but memorable, nothing there that doesn’t need to be. When someone speaks it’s important for plot or character, but mostly the movie shows us what we need to know and resists telling. I wish more filmmakers would learn this subtle approach. The superb photography and accompanying score make the bleak and desolates landscape appear beautiful. The effects are mostly well-done. There are only a couple CG shots I picked out, including a CG blood-splatter, which is one of my big pet-peeves. I cannot stand CG blood splatters! They look so phony. Go the old-fashioned way. Just because you CAN do something doesn’t always mean that you SHOULD. But that’s a small complaint for this otherwise terrific film.

‘Stake Land’ holds up to several viewings without losing any of its potency. It fills me with disgust when I see the junk being made with huge budgets and massive ad campaigns, being released into thousands of theaters across the country, while there are truly fantastic films like this one flying under the radar and landing on DVD. In another era this would have played in theaters, no question. Today these type of movies run the risk of going lost and unnoticed. But I believe if something’s great, it will eventually find its audience, even if it takes years (John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’, as an example).

-Michael Salemi

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Texas Chainsaw 3D

    I did not see this in 3D, as I caught it on DVD. I’d boycotted the theatrical release on general principal, so I don’t know how much or little the 3D effect would enhance the viewing of this movie.

    One thing this movie did was make me want to go and watch the great original Tobe Hooper classic immediately, as the opening scenes are the climactic moments of the original.

    The new story picks up immediately where the original ends and I knew right away that this one was in trouble. A posse suddenly shows up at the Sawyer cannibal house to slaughter everybody, and there are new family members in there that have appeared from out of nowhere who were not in the original movie. Bill Moseley is there (who played “Chop Top” in Part 2), and they’ve got him dressed up like Drayton Sawyer; the chef character played by Jim Siedow in the original and Pt. 2. Gunnar Hansen is there as well. No, not as Leatherface, but as…I don’t know who! He is just standing there in the house being Gunnar Hansen, as though he accidentally wandered onto the set and nobody noticed. There is also a woman and a little baby as part of the family. Where did these people come from and who are they? If you are making a direct sequel to the original which picks up right at the ending of that film and in fact includes footage from that film, how can you justify having characters appearing out of fucking thin air? I knew at this point I was in for a long, miserable experience, but I forced myself to watch the whole thing so I could give a fair review. Besides, sometimes movies surprise you. Sometimes they look awful and start out bad but turn around at a certain point and become a good film. 2 examples that come to mind are ‘Piranha DD’ and ‘Mimesis’. I nearly turned both off but managed stick with them and ended up glad I did. The former simply kicks into gear at a point and becomes an entertaining, fun movie. The latter surprises you by flipping on its head halfway through and you suddenly realize you were watching an entirely different story from what you thought was happening. It’s a great twist and surprise and turns out to be a fine film. So I give them all a chance. I go in with open mind and I try hard not to hit that “stop” button unless I just cannot stand what I’m seeing. I must admit though, I was tempted to turn off ‘Texas Chainsaw 3D’ a couple times.

    After the posse attacks the Sawyer house in 1974 with its new family members who appeared magically, the story jumps ahead in time to…uh…I have no clue because they never fucking tell us. The baby from the first scene, now grown up and looking about early 20’s, becomes our main character. So is it supposed to be the mid-90’s? Is it supposed to be current time? If so then her age makes no sense. To confuse things further all the characters drive old cars and wear fashionable, expensive yuppie versions of 1970’s styles of clothing, the sort you find in upscale consignment shops for 4 or 5 times what they’re worth. Of course they cast a group of young actors who look like high fashion models and probably got the job because they look great in the wardrobe. I’m guessing at that last part because none of them can act very well at all.

    I’d rather not run down the plot point by point because it is boring. Let me just say that they find a way to get all these forgettable and annoying characters in a big house so Leatherface can kill them one by one.

    Then comes the twist. Oh boy. Where to begin. I guess I’ll just describe it to you exactly as it plays in the film. Our main character had inherited a mansion from her aunt. Her cousin, Leatherface, comes with the house as an added bonus, living in the basement. All she has to do is feed him. After he wipes out all her friends the posse folks we saw in the beginning decide to come after her, since she’s a Sawyer and they hate Sawyers. So she teams up with cousin Leatherface against the posse guys, giving us one of the most embarrassingly bad lines of dialog in recent memory: after tossing him his chainsaw she says “do yo thang, cuz”. Yikes!

    She and Leatherface go home to live happily ever after in their mansion, never mind that all her friends have just been brutally slaughtered in front of her and lay rotting in the basement.

    I’m sure there will be more ‘Chainsaw’ movies, but can they get any more idiotic, poorly put together, badly acted, or boring than this? I eagerly wait to find out.

    The original Tobe Hooper film is one of my favorite films of all time. I love Part 2 and have seen it more than any of the others, and 3 was solid. Not great, but good. I enjoyed it. From there on out it has been varying degrees of mediocrity, until this, ‘Texas Chainsaw 3D’, which is shit.

-Michael Salemi

VHS-2

V/H/S 2

2013. From a concept by Brad Miska. Directed by Simon Barrett, Jason Eisener, Gareth Evans, Gregg Hale, Eduardo Sanchez, Timo Tjahjanto, and Adam Wingard. Segments written by their directors.

This, the sequel to the popular cult anthology movie from 2012, utilizes the same concept, making it similar, but not exact, to the first film. However, the stories in this one I liked more. I enjoyed the first movie quite a lot, but this one is more consistently solid as a whole.

V/H/S 2 tells the story of a private investigator and his assistant sent to check on the home of a young student who has gone missing for several days. They arrive at night, assuming he must be on an alcoholic bender or something, and break in through a side window. There is no sign of the young man (At first. Eventually he comes around in one of this films many “holy shit” moments), but the home is littered with numbered VHS tapes, players, cords running everywhere to TVs and monitors, which are switched on and buzzing with static. As the PI searches the house his assistant puts a tape into a player, and we watch as she does.

As the characters watch the tapes, they read the missing kid’s journals, which explain that each tape may affect different people’s brains in different ways and cause various things to happen to them. Also, if you watch the tapes, of which I believe there are 48 (the 49th is being shot in the house with these characters as we watch!), in a certain sequence, it will do something to you as well. What these effects are is very mysterious, but never good I can assure you. At one point in the film we do get to see some of these effects upon the assistant after one of the tapes.

As they watch the tapes we get to see the footage on them, which are the segments of the anthology. The first one is called ‘Phase 1 Clinical Trial’ (the wraparound is called ‘Tape 49’). The second one is ‘A Ride in the Park’. Third is ‘Safe Haven’, and the final is ‘Slumber Party Alien Abduction’.

I do not want to get too deep into the specific plot details of each segment because I want you to go in cold and experience it for yourself. It’s better that way. I will throw in for the record that I like each segment, but my favorite is ‘Safe Haven’, which takes place in a Jim Jones/Guyana-type place and is a completely pulse-pounding, intense story that literally got my adrenaline going. ‘Slumber Party Alien Abduction’ is worth a special mention, too, however. It’s exactly what the title says it is, and it has some very creepy visuals. ‘A Ride in the Park’ is unique in cinema history because you get to see a zombie’s eye view of things, which has never been done before. It’s interesting, well done, and actually quite humorous at times.

VHS and VHS 2 would make a great double feature on Halloween. This is a great concept and I believe they will keep going with it. Everyone who knows me knows that in general I am not a big sequel or remake fan, but this is just the sort of thing I can get behind and enjoy, as it’s a great anthology in the tradition of ‘Tales From the Crypt’, ‘Vault of Horror’, ‘Dead of Night’, ‘Creepshow’ and ‘Trick ‘r Treat’.

-Michael Salemi

World_War_Z_Movie_poster_by_MikeZuniga

World War Z

If you have not read the novel World War Z by Max Brooks I recommend that you do, as it is a good read, but don’t expect it to be anything like the movie because aside from the basic plot of a man vs. zombie war they have little in common. 

The movie features Brad Pitt as an ex-employee of the United Nations who is called back into service when a zombie outbreak suddenly erupts in Taiwan and spreads worldwide in a matter of days before most people even have an idea that anything is going on. It is never completely explained what Pitt did with the U.N. It’s all left quite vague. All that’s said is that he went into a lot of very dangerous areas of the world and knew how to move around in them and stay alive. So, his job on this zombie mission will be to accompany a noted scientist into a few hotbeds of zombie activity, including ground zero, so the scientist can try to find out how it started, how it works, and begin to work on a cure or way to fight the disease.  He is to help the scientist get into where he needs to go, move about, and get out alive.

As the movie opens, Pitt and his family are trapped in Philadelphia as it’s being overrun and are lifted out by Naval helicopters as they are about to be bitten. They are taken aboard an aircraft carrier 200 miles east of New York in the Atlantic, where he is pressured into rejoining the government under threat that there isn’t room to house his wife and children on the ship and if he doesn’t they will be sent back to Philly and dumped there. His choice is clear, so off he goes, with the scientist and a group of SEALS. The scientist does not last long. He is killed almost comically early upon their arrival in the Far East. From there, Pitt takes the reigns and tries to accomplish the mission on his own using whoever and whatever resources are available in each location he visits. One of the few similarities between the book and the movie is the globetrotting aspect of the story. The book is comprised of stories from around the world chronicling the zombie war, and the movie has Pitt traveling to points around the globe while trying to accomplish his mission. Each place he goes there are huge zombie attacks, even on an airplane in mid-flight at one point. 

I really enjoyed this movie. It is a large-scale epic and it is non-stop tension and action peppered with a few nice creepy moments and some good violence. I would not call this a horror movie, as it is not horrific enough, really, even though it deals with the undead. There are no flat-out scares, aside from a couple eerie sequences inside a research laboratory where the zombies are shuffling around, George Romero-style, skin rotting as they wander the darkened corridors. That segment, in the last 20-or-so minutes, is as close as the movie comes to horror. For the most part it is full-tilt suspense and action on a huge epic scale. The movie is fast paced and hardly slows down but for a few minutes here and there to add in some needed exposition. I really liked the pacing and look of this movie, and I’m speaking as somebody who generally doesn’t go for fast-moving zombies and lack of blood in favor of thrill-a-minute action when I’m going to see what I know is a movie about zombies. I grew up on Romero and Fulci films, and for me THOSE are zombies. But somehow the fast ghouls and fast pacing really work for this particular movie.

‘World War Z’ is not a classic, but it is worth seeing on the big screen and it is a lot of fun. I recommend it completely, and not only to horror fans but to fans of action movies as well. And remember to read the book; it’s a whole separate experience and great in a number of different ways from the movie.

-Michael Salemi

 

TOP 13 TALES OF VAMPIRISM

I have always loved vampires. I remember watching Bela Lugosi as ‘Dracula’ on Saturday afternoon TV when I was about 4 years old. It left a lasting impression on me. The first books I ever read for fun were my mother’s copies of Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot’ and Anne Rice’s ‘Interview with the Vampire’. Ever since, vampires have touched on a part of my imagination that no other creature of fantasy or lore could. Here is, in no particular order, my list of the best vampire films as of 2012. The word “best” encompasses classifications of both scariest and most well-made.  There are more great movies out there, but here are my favorites:

Horror of Dracula

Standing at an imposing six-three and sporting bloodshot eyes, Christopher Lee is cinemas best Dracula. He carries his slender frame with an air of regal superiority but can, and does, devolve into bestial violence without warning.

1958’s ‘Horror of Dracula’ was Lee’s first of many performances for Hammer Films as well as Hammer’s first foray into the Dracula mythos. This version deviates enough from the Stoker novel as to be surprising and original but follows the source material close enough to hit the major plot points and thus remain an honest portrayal of the story. The costumes, sets, and English locations are beautiful and the film is superbly photographed. ‘Horror of Dracula’ is a perfect example or Gothic Horror at its best. A classic.

Martin

George A. Romero sites this quiet and somber 1976 character study as his favorite of all his own films. Martin Madahas, portrayed in an understated performance by John Amplas (who would go on to work as Romero’s casting director on ‘Dawn of the Dead’), is a painfully shy, withdrawn and obviously troubled young virgin who believes he is an 84 year-old vampire. He may very well be. It is never answered for sure, and that is part of this low-key films strength. He does kill people uncontrollably, and he does drink some of their blood, but there are no fangs, capes, bats, or any other supernatural trappings here. This horror/drama is anchored in the reality of everyday life, aside from black and white flashbacks to “the old world”, which may or may not be memories from Martin’s distant past. He reaches out to a local radio station to tell stories of what it’s like to be a vampire and becomes known as “the Count” to listeners. Meanwhile, he lives with his abusive older cousin who wants to “save his soul, and then destroy him”.  Is it a downbeat journey of an emotionally disturbed lost soul, or the tale of an ancient vampire whose time on this world is winding down? It could be either or it could be both.

Romero had a ridiculously small budget on this, and he did an incredible job of making the most of it, thanks to his intelligent script and tight direction, uniformly strong performances from the cast (including Tom Savini and Romero himself), and a serious, mature approach to the material. The effects are done by Tom Savini before he became a famous name in the horror genre.  ‘Martin’ is one of the most underrated films of Romero’s career and of the 1970’s. It originally had a 3-hour running length, but was stolen from him and recut to 95 minutes. The 3-hour version has never been seen and the footage has most likely been destroyed or lost. But as it is, the 95 minute final cut is a fantastic and completely original look at the vampire.

Cronos

Guillermo Del Toro’s 1994 debut film, ‘Cronos’, gives a glimpse of the genius this amazing filmmaker would go on to become. It is one of the strongest horror debuts since Romero floored us with ‘Night of the Living Dead’ in 1968. This movie came out of nowhere and did not get near the attention it deserved, as it’s a wholly original, unusual, and unsettling view of addiction, vampirism, family relations, and the universal wish for immortality.

Alchemist Oganelli, who was official watchmaker to the Viceroy during the Inquisition in 1536, was obsessed with eternal life. He built a sort of watch/scarab-like mechanism called the Cronos Device. This strange metal object was found hidden in the statue of an archangel in 1937 after the mansion which housed the statue was purchased in an auction. The statue ends up with Angel de la Guardia, played by Ron Perlman, a collector who is searching the world for the device. But the device has already been found by Jesus Gris (Federico Luppi), an old man who lives with his wife and mute granddaughter. The device comes to life, opening like some sort of insect, and attaches to Jesus with metal spikes. He tears it off and needs stitches. From there strange things begin to happen to Jesus’ body. The Cronos seems to be both killing him and keeping him alive at the same time. He must keep attaching it to himself. It is an addiction. It begins to give him a constant craving for blood. This is immortality at a price.  A movie about pain; emotional and physical.

Rabid

‘Rabid’ (1977) is David Cronenberg’s second feature film and stars former porn actress Marilyn Chambers, who gives a fine performance as a woman who is severely injured in a motorcycle accident. After surgeries and skin grafts around her abdomen and side, she becomes ill and develops infections on her torso.  Suddenly a strange hole appears in her armpit from which protrudes a long sharp talon-like appendage. She soon begins to thirst for human blood and is carrying a form of rabies. As she attacks several people and drinks their blood through her underarm “fang”, they are infected with the rabies virus and turn into raving, foaming-at-the-mouth, murderous psychopaths. These rabid, in turn, begin attacking others, and before long a full-on epidemic erupts. Even though Chambers carries the virus, she herself is not rabid, and never loses her humanity. She never becomes a monster, even though her behavior is monstrous. She takes blood because she has to, and she feels guilty for it. This gives the film an unexpected depth amidst the carnage and gore.

This film is one of the most unusual and creatively original takes on vampirism ever put on film. Cronenberg is a master of “body horror”, and this early example is quite unsettling and grotesque. Even in his low-budget beginnings, Cronenberg’s movies were intelligent, original, and scary.  He is one of the great filmmakers, and ‘Rabid’ is one of the great vampire films; so different, so unexpected, that it isn’t even remembered as a vampire film.

Near Dark

Kathryn Bigelow’s 1987 ‘Near Dark’ plays as equal parts surreal fantasy and action thriller framed in a modern western. She took half of her (then) husband James Cameron’s cast from ‘Aliens’ (Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Bill Paxton), put them in a motorhome, and set them on the open road across the plains of the South West as a vampire clan. The lovely Jenny Wright and young Joshua Miller are also on board to fill out the traveling family of night stalkers.  They look cool in a rough and worn-out way, each representing the time period in which they were transformed into bloodsuckers. Henriksen’s Jesse Hooker, for example, fought for the south in the Civil War. They spout great memorable, hard-edged dialog, fight, and intimidate each other as well as the unfortunate humans they run across.

Bigelow’s raw and realistic approach is offset by stretches of dreamy slow motion photography punctuated by a dark atmospheric synth score courtesy of Tangerine Dream. The consistent juxtaposition of these two approaches creates a dissociative, fever-dream feel to the film.

This film makes you want to join the vampires, running off into the night and away from all the boring and restrictive laws of society. They are rebellion and chaos personified.  The bar scene, set to the music of The Cramps, is a classic, and Bill Paxton’s performance in it is priceless. Henriksen is intense and charismatic throughout. A one of a kind movie, ‘Near Dark’ makes the vampires cool without being cheesy (there’s realistically cool and then there’s “movie cool” like ‘Lost Boys’, if you see the difference) and integrates a love story without becoming a melodramatic soap opera. A high recommendation.

Let the Right One In

This 2008 Swedish film adaptation of John Ajvide Lindquist’s novel is not only one of the best vampire films ever, not only one of the best horror films ever, but on the list of best films, period. I don’t think I’m overstating that. It really is that great and it only becomes richer, deeper, more moving and powerful with repeated viewings.  The script, acting, and direction are pitch-perfect, as are the frozen and desolate Nordic environments.

It is a simple story about a lonely boy living in an isolated world, neglected and abused, who befriends a girl living in his apartment building. She is much like him, and so they are drawn to each other and become close friends. But she is more than human and not quite human; something “other”. In fact, she may not actually be a “she”.  There are many things about this being which are different. She is never seen at school or in daytime. She lives with an old man whom is neither her father nor any relative. Everything around her is strange, a mystery. But this boy accepts her and loves her just as she is, for who she is, without questions. In turn, she helps him to have courage, self-respect, and to defend himself against a group of relentless bullies.

I should not say much more about this incredible film, other than to say see it. See it now.

Nosferatu, Phantom der Nacht

Werner Herzog’s 1979 film featuring Klaus Kinski, Bruno Ganz, and Isabelle Adjani. (See review above)

One of the greatest films about the idea of the vampire that I have ever seen, as well as one of the greatest performances from Kinski that exists on film anywhere.

30 Days of Night

Aside from stopping briefly to acknowledge what a good idea the story is, most people simply ignored this 2007 movie or brushed it off, calling it everything from “just okay” to “garbage”. I always have and continue to defend this underrated and most unappreciated horror gem.  I maintain that it is much better than most gave it credit for and that it deserves a second look.

After a small Alaskan town is plunged into its annual 30-day cycle of darkness, it is suddenly attacked by a group of vampires. Josh Hartnett and Melissa George play an estrange couple who must band together to save their own lives as well as the lives of as many townsfolk as possible. An unrecognizable Danny Huston is Marlow, leader of the feral, animalistic vampire horde. The always interesting Ben Foster is on hand in a small role as The Stranger, a sort of Renfield-like character who precedes the attack, wandering into town from an old rusted-out freighter run aground on the coast. Cell Phones are destroyed, helicopters are disabled, and dogs are killed. The Stranger is arrested for causing trouble in a café, and once locked in jail proceeds to warn Hartnett’s sheriff of all their impending doom. As the sun sets on its final day, the vampires emerge from their grounded ship and non-stop carnage ensues. These vampires are merciless and brutal yet smart, even using humans as bait to locate and trap other hiding pockets of townspeople. One interesting small touch I really liked was the vampire’s behavior. They have their own language, as well as their own culture and social codes of conduct. All of their dialog is subtitled, and when one of their kind is too injured to function at full capacity they are immediately put to death by another member of the group in an almost ritualized mercy killing.

This movie avoids clichés and formulaic plot points all the way through and does not end the way you might guess. It is action-packed and original enough to make my list of the best. See this one.

Blood Creek

“In the early ’30s, Adolf Hitler and his inner circle became obsessed with the occult, believing that the black arts were key to their plan for world domination. Nazi agents travelled the globe in search of ancient Nordic relics known as rune stones. They believed if they harnessed the power of these stones, nothing could stop the march of the Master Race. The symbols inscribed in these stones were said to describe the path… to immortality.”  So begins the opening narration of Joel Schumacher’s 2009 movie ‘Blood Creek’. Schumacher has come a long way from his terrible ‘Batman’ movies of the 1990’s to this grim, violent and blood-soaked vampiric occult revenge thriller.

The story begins as one of these Nazi agents, Richard Wirth (the terrific Michael Fassbender) arrives at the small mid-western American farm owned by an immigrant German family, under which lies one of the coveted rune stones. He immediately sets about his nefarious occult work, which involves the use of human blood; lots of it, which he must drink. Years pass, and it becomes obvious that Wirth has come a long way in his quest for immortality, as the entire family has not aged a day since 1940 and neither has he. But the family has become his victims and his prisoners, trapped in time and on their farmland, made to acquire random victims for his blood rituals. One of these victims, an ex-Marine and combat vet named Victor Marshall (Dominic Purcel), manages to escape and comes back along with his paramedic brother, Evan (Henry Cavill), to exact revenge against the family and the mad black magician Nazi vampire. First they attack the family, then, after gradually realizing they’ve made a terrible mistake and they are just as much victims as Victor, if not more so, they all band together to attempt to unlock the secrets of Nazi magic and destroy the seemingly immortal Wirth.

Not many people saw this movie, and even less saw it as a vampire film. It is. And it’s a damn good one. It maintains a deadly serious tone throughout, with nary a hint of camp or cheesy fun. It is brutal toward humans and animals alike. ‘Blood Creek’ is an extremely dark, satisfying horror film with a lot of interesting and clever ideas based in the reality of the Third Reich’s occult dealings. I haven’t seen another film quite like this one, and that says a lot.

Stake Land

2010 film from talented writer/director Jim Mickle (Mulberry St) featuring Nick Damici, Connor Paolo, Kelly McGillis, and Danielle Harris. (see review above).

One of the best surprise indie hits of recent years. Not to be missed.

Shadow of the Vampire

A fictionalized account of F.W. Murnau (a perfectly cast John Malkovich) making his impressionist masterpiece ‘Nosferatu’, 1998’s ‘Shadow of the Vampire’ is one of the most engaging, often humorous, and visually gorgeous vampire films to come along in ages.

As film rolls, Murnau’s crew is oblivious to the fact that he has discovered a real vampire to star in his movie, portrayed brilliantly with equal parts menace and pathos by Willem Dafoe. Murnau has struck a Devil’s deal with the creature: do the movie and don’t kill anybody, then after it’s in the can, cast and crew are fair game. This ancient and mischievous monster finds Murnau’s rules petty and inconvenient and people begin to drop one by one throughout production.

Malkovich seems to be Channeling Werner Herzog here, with his single-minded reckless zeal, going to any length to create his art. He is the perfect foil for Dafoe’s vampire, who is an equally single-minded force of nature and chaos personified. Watching these two crazy people battle each other to the death for 2 hours is unforgettable, and so is this film.

Salem’s Lot 2004

I saw the Tobe Hooper TV miniseries when it ran in 1979 and, as an 11-year-old horror fan, loved it. It still holds up quite well. There are a few striking scenes and the whole thing is dense with gothic atmosphere. I recommend that fun original, but it is easily bested by this 2004 version of Stephen King’s classic second novel. I never thought I would say that a television script that deviates from and adds onto a King novel could improve the story, but amazingly that’s exactly what this one does. Characters have been added, there is a prologue and epilogue, the backstory of the main characters is fleshed out more and problems and situations of the contemporary world are weaved into this 1975 story as it’s brought up to date.

This movie is gripping and compulsively watchable over many viewings. Rutger Hauer is perfect as the vampire and Donald Sutherland is perfectly creepy as his human assistant. Rob Lowe does a fine job anchoring the center of the story as the main character; an author returning to his small town roots to face an evil presence that has taken root there. The dialog is terrific throughout and there is an overall nasty mean-spirited attitude which pervades the entire thing.  This is the best television Stephen King adaptation I have seen, ‘The Stand’ and ‘It’ being close seconds.

The Last Man on Earth

This 1964 black and white film stars the great Vincent Price as a doctor who survives a world-wide plague that kills off most of the human race, leaving a segment of the newly dead to wander the earth as undead ghouls.

The film is based on a short story by master sci-fi writer Richard Matheson, and was also partially the inspiration for ‘Night of the Living Dead’. The stark black and white photography and mix of obvious sets with real locations give the film a strange otherworldly quality. Price’s constant voice-over narration grounds us in the story and makes us feel for his character and all he has lost, while the odd and unfamiliar visuals distance and alienate us at the same time, making us feel his loneliness and fear at being truly alone in the world. The scariest part of the story is the fact that the vampires know his name. They gather around his house every night and cluster at the doors and windows. They cannot enter, as he has protected the property with garlic, mirrors, and crosses, but they bang on the doors, break windows, and call out to him all night; threatening his eventual death. They know he is outnumbered and cannot hold out forever. He knows it, too. But there is a twist to the story in that the vampires are as afraid of him as he is of them. I don’t want to give away everything, but I’ll simply tell you that this is a classic film. A must-see. I highly recommend reading the Matheson story as well.

Honorable mentions-

The Night Flyer.

Lair of the White Worm.

Fright Night (the 1985 original, of course!)

Jess Franco’s Count Dracula.

-Michael Salemi

 

Deicide

“In the Minds of Evil”

Century media Records

2013

  1. In the Minds of Evil
  2. Thou Begone
  3. Godkill
  4. Beyond Salvation
  5. Misery of One
  6. Between the Flesh and the Void
  7. Even the Gods Can Bleed
  8. Trample the Cross
  9. Fallen to Silence
  10. Kill the Light of Christ
  11. End the Wrath of God

After five years of silence since the release of the not so glorious “Til Death Do Us Part”. Deicide has decided to return to the masses with “In the Minds of Evil”, a high quality album from the Floridian death metallers. Being accused of just going through the motions with previous releases, which I actually agree with, the guys prove that they can still play with power, emotion and force.

The opening and self-titled track lays down some evil riffs that support Glen’s brutal vocals. The frontman once again bellows out his contempt for Christians and anything holy in his usual blasphemous manner but what really stands out is the guitar. Replacing the Slayer-esque solos that the Hoffman brothers brought, Jack Owens and Kevin Quirion gives us more of a melodic style that’s still played with intense ferocity. “Thou Begone” is a great track with a middle-eastern vibe intertwined with some insane blast beats. “Between the Flesh and the Void” has a very strong old school Morbid Angel feel to it in the song structure and riffs.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Deicide though I do consider “Legion” and “Stench of Redemption” a couple of greats as far as death metal go.  “In the Minds of Evil” brings back little bit of that passion the music carried back in the old days. It is a quite good return for the band and definitely worth taking the time to check out.

-Kate Smith

Exhumed-Necrocracy

Exhumed

“Necrocracy”

2013

Relapse Records

1. Coins Upon the Eyes

2. Dismorphic

3. (So Passes) The Glory of Death

4. The Rotting

5. The Shape of Deaths to Come

6. Necrocracy

7. Sickened

8. Ravening

9. Carrion Call

10. The Rotting

 

After an almost ten year hiatus Exhumed returned to kick ass once again in 2011 with their album “All Guts, No Glory” a mix of gory yet melodic old school death metal. Two years later they have kept it going with their latest release “Necrocracy”. Exhumed comes with a brand new lineup with only Matt Harvey as original and founding member. Bud Burke returns now playing on guitar, on drums is Mike Hamilton from Deeds of Flesh and on bass and vocals is Rob Babcock. This change hasn’t affected the sound too much; Harvey is the soul of the band and has a good grip on their direction and sound. While the delivery is a little different it’s still as solid as before.

Burke delivers some skillful soloing as Matt and Rob trade off vocals during “Dysmorphic” as well as a cool little acoustic interlude towards the middle that lends some stillness to an otherwise insane track. “Sickened” comes full throttle with shredding guitar riffs and blast beats that will satisfy any Exhumed fan, old or new. The dual vocal assault from Harvey and Rob Babcock is what stands out the most on this album. The high pitched screams match so well with Babcock’s low end growls that you could almost call it a harmony. Their single “Coins Upon the Eyes” is a great track with Carcass-esque influence and exultant chants of “Die!” being shouted in the background during the chorus. Exhumed have written an album that will satisfy those who feel that song-writing in contemporary death is a lost art.

Twenty years on, Exhumed continues to grow, “Necrocracy” is probably the most musical and mature they have done. Fans who liked “All Guts…” will appreciate the next step these guys have taken on “Necrocracy”. If you have never Exhumed before start with this one and then start going backwards and you’ll understand what I’m saying. But in either case I highly recommend you go get yourself a copy of the album now!

 

-Kate Smith

Sepic Flesh

Septic Flesh

“Esoptron”

Season of Mist

2013 Re-Issue

  1. Breaking the Inner Seal
  2. Esoptron
  3. Burning Phoenix
  4. Astral Sea
  5. Rain
  6. Ice Castle
  7. Celebration
  8. Succubus Priestess
  9. So Clean, So Empty
  10. The Eyes of Set
  11. Narcissism

Hailing from Greece, Septic Flesh delivers onto us symphonic dark metal in a haunting an atmospheric way. Only familiar with their album “The Great Mass” I was not aware that this album was a re-issue. I thought it was a brand new release but the original “Esoptron” is from 1995. Of course I had to go back and do my homework before reviewing this one. This is a reminder of Septic Flesh’s early career as it contains the eleven tracks of the original album. Some fans might be disappointed that Septic Flesh is not delivering a new album but there is nothing wrong with revisiting a favorite. Especially one as strong as this one, Sotiris (guitars) and Seth (bass/vocals) are the founders of Septic Flesh as well as Christos (guitars) and have been unleashing a unique combination of symphonic death along with a classic metal sound with twin guitar harmonies and melodic vocals.

“Esoptron” is a lot of fun to listen to. Atmospheric with plenty of keyboard but also edgy and brutal with Seth’s low growls and Sotiris and Christo’s ripping guitar leads.  “Narcissm” is probably one of the most atmospheric and oddest tracks on the album. It ventures into a series of musical experiments, going from haunting piano to insane blastbeats. From Sotiris’s clean vocals to Seth’s harsh growls that come tearing out from deep inside his throat. But this is what makes the band so unique. Strange melodies with odd piano and sharp guitar riffs thrown in and somehow it all comes together with harmonious elegance.

Fans of the original album will also notice that the artwork is different from the original album. Instead of demonic figures there is a drawing of a human head done by Seth with some kind of early mechanical apparatus. Some might not think this isn’t as edgy as the previous album cover but to me it is very artistic and well done.

“Esoptron” is a great album that I think old and new fans will enjoy listening to. It explores the more creative and atmospheric side of death metal. I highly recommend you picking up a copy and giving it a listen.

-Kate Smith

Vampire-band

Vampire
Vampire, 2013.
For the most part bands loathe being compared to other bands. As a musician I am acutely aware of this. Also it can be seen as a cheap shortcut or lazy thinking instead of delving deeper to find the perfect way of describing what you hear and how it affects you. However, when I hear bands of a certain sound and style I am tempted to contrast and compare with others, for descriptive purposes more than anything else. Just to give you some familiar common ground to latch onto. Here goes:
The guitars are a harsh angular lo-fi buzzaw sound which cut into a mid-paced rhythmic groove reminiscent of late-90’s Darkthrone with Dissection-like guitar melodies weaved here and there throughout.
These guys certainly are not reinventing the wheel, but if something is done passionately and done with a level of artistry and quality, I can appreciate it for what it is. If a piece of art is good it doesn’t necessarily have to be different or push the boundaries. “Cutting edge” or “different” does not automatically mean something is good.
I find myself increasingly drawn to this type of metal featuring simple arrangements of just a couple choice riffs backed by a heavy beat, basic, and uncluttered 2-3 minute tracks with just a hint of melody here and there. This is Vampire’s style for the most part aside from a few surprising acoustic flourishes from time to time.

vampireband2013_638
One interesting thing about this record is that at 2:20 into ‘Ungodly Warlock’ (title taken from dialog from Fulci’s ‘The Beyond’) the song shifts into a guitar riff from ‘Anno Vampyr’; an unused Mayhem track from the mid-90’s. It’s a great riff and fits here perfectly. I’m glad to see it used. This album has a slew of very nice riffs.
I must say I like the drumming here a lot. It is steady and powerful with a big sound. The guy does not overplay like many metal drummers. There isn’t a lot of blasting and the double bass is used sparingly. He makes regular use of all the toms and hits us with big rolls around the kit. He maintains interesting beats that lock in with the guitar riffs and I like his style a lot.
Standout tracks are ‘Howl from the Coffin’, the aforementioned ‘Ungodly Warlocks’, ‘Cellar Grave Vampire’, ‘Black Deserts’…aw hell they’re all good! I highly recommend this. Fans of Darkthrone, Watain, Gorgoroth, Bathory, Hellhammer, and Venom will find plenty to bite into here.
Even though I have compared them to many Black Metal bands I would call Vampire more of a Death metal band due to lyrical subject matter.
-Mike Falconer Salemi

gbh_eyes_f-up

GBH

MIDNIGHT MADNESS AND BEYOND w/ “OH NO IT’S GBH AGAIN” EP. 1986

NO NEED TO PANIC, 1987 w/ WOT A BARGAIN EP, 1988.

    Both albums are released through CAPTAIN OI with the EPs featured as bonus tracks.

MIDNIGHT MADNESS AND BEYOND                                 

  1.   LIMPWRISTED
  2.   FUTURE FUGITIVES
  3.   TOO MUCH
  4.   IROQUOIS
  5.   GUNS & GUITARS
  6.   HORROR STORY
  7.   MIDNIGHT MADNESS AND BEYOND
  8.   CHANCE FOR LIVING
  9.   THE SEED OF MADNESS
  10.   SAM IS YOUR LEADER
  11.   HOW COME
  12.   BLOOD

Bonus Tracks

“OH NO IT’S GBH AGAIN” EP

13.   MALICE IN WONDERLAND

14.   LOST IN THE FOG

15.   GET OUT OF THE CITY

16. COMPANY OF WOLVES

1249922676_gbh-no-need-to-panic-1987

NO NEED TO PANIC

  1.     TRANSYLVANIAN PERFUME
  2.     HEARING SCREAMS
  3.     TO UNDERSTAND
  4.     MAKIN’ WHIPS
  5.     I SHOT THE MARSHALL
  6.     ELECTRICITY THROUGH SPACE
  7.     HIT THE DECK
  8.     RUMBLIN’ UNDERGROUND
  9.    DESPERATE TIMES
  10.    GUNNING FOR THE PRESIDENT
  11.    AVENUES AND ALLEYWAYS
  12.    UNANSWERED PRAYERS

Bonus Tracks

WOT A BARGAIN EP.

13.   CHECKIN’ OUT

14.   NO ONE CARES

15.   INFECTED

16.   TIPUKI THUNDER

    In the late 1970’s through the mid-1980’s there was a huge divide between punks and metallers. Very few unique and special bands were capable of walking on both sides of that wall. Like Discharge, Amebix, and Motorhead GBH were one of those bands that both factions followed. With dyed Mohawks and liberty spikes, stud-covered leather jackets, and Doc Marten boots, their look was pure British punk. Their short politically charged songs placed them squarely in the punk camp as well. But there was something about the GBH sound that pushed them beyond the parameters of the genre. They had a very big sound usually associated with hard rock acts, featuring loud buzz saw guitars, driving energetic bass lines locked in to technically proficient drumming, and Colin Abrahal’s gravel-throated yell that is reminiscent of Lemmy. The songs leaned toward rhythm over melody and were unforgiving and merciless. In the early part of the 80’s they were responsible for two undisputed classics: ‘City Baby Attacked by Rats’ and ‘City Baby’s Revenge’.

    As the decade wore on, the metal/punk crossover began. By ‘86/’87, punks had become enamored with fat guitars, double bass, and big production while metal heads found they liked that a serious message could be delivered in a minute and a half with no-nonsense, non-self-indulgent music that got straight to the point in a simple, direct way. Both genres had two things in common: speed and energy. The crossover made for some of the most interesting records of the 1980’s and GBH were right on top of this.

    In August 1986 GBH issued their third full-length studio album, ‘Midnight Madness and Beyond’. Recorded at Stockport’s legendary Strawberry Studios, the record is at its heart a punk record, but more noticeable metal influences had begun to creep toward the surface, mainly speed metal rhythms, a thundering low end, and cleaned-up production. This was the beginning of GBH’s so-called “metal phase” although that’s not entirely accurate. The metal influence was always in there, it’s just that it stepped to the forefront from this record through 1993’s terrific but underappreciated ‘Church of the Truly Warped’.

    ‘Midnight Madness and Beyond’ still has the solid single-bass-and-snare hardcore beat propelling it. This is the final release to feature original drummer, Wilf. After this one he would be replaced by German born drummer Kai Reder and in would come the double bass drums.

    I have met a lot of fans who hate this era of the band, but I find it quite interesting to hear longer compositions, tempo changes, and material that is a bit more complex and challenging. It was an extremely novel idea at the time to make a punk record and weave metal guitar riffing through it. Opening track ‘Limpwristed’ is about how “the whole world’s gone limp wristed”. If they thought that in ’86 what must they think now?! My favorite cut on the record is ‘Horror Story’, an atypical slower jam with clean guitars and fun lyrics about partying with monsters and madmen from classic films and literature. Only during the chorus does the song explode into fast punk rock fury. The songs here are longer than what anyone was expecting from GBH at the time, but they never get boring. The four bonus songs on the end of the disc which make up the “Oh No it’s GBH Again” EP are some of the best songs the band ever released. I especially like ‘Company of Wolves’, but all four are great stuff. Solid.

    The 4th album was issued in 1987. It is titled ‘No Need to Panic’ and is similar to ‘Midnight Madness’ in production sound and musical performances but it pushes a bit further into the metal genre. I would call ‘Midnight Madness’ a metal-influenced punk album and ‘No Need to Panic’ a punk influenced metal album. More complex thrash guitars and double bass drumming propel this set of fast and furious tunes. But they haven’t lost their roots. The GBH flavor is still there. That “fuck you” attitude and punk rock vibe is still in there.

    Almost every track begins with a spoken word intro or sound effect sampled from TV shows and movies. Some of it is obviously the band in the studio screwing around. These intros are interesting even after repeat listens and don’t get annoying. When you choose samples you’ve got to pick good ones or else they become very irritating after a while. GBH have picked the right ones here and they work. Standout tracks are ‘Transylvanian Perfume’, ‘Hearing Screams’, ‘Hit the Deck’, and a cover of Tony Christie’s 1973 hit ‘Avenues and Alleyways’, which GBH do a splendid job with. I’d never heard the song before. It’s quite good.

    As with the other CD, this one is capped off with four bonus tracks comprised of an EP. In this case it is ‘Wot a Bargain’, originally issued in March 1988. I miss the days when punk bands would put out these short and to-the-point little 12” EPs of 4 or 5 songs that zip by quick and leave you wanting more. ‘What a Bargain’ is not as good as “Oh No, It’s GBH Again”, which just kicks ass all the way through, but it is solid, good quality material worthy of owning.

    ‘Midnight Madness and Beyond’, ‘No Need to Panic’, and their accompanying EPs are an excellent British punk/metal crossover time capsule as well as a great snapshot of one of England’s premier hardcore bands during one specific phase in their long career. These two CDs go great together and I can’t decide which is better. I like them both.

    I recommend avoiding the follow-up to ‘No Need to Panic’/’Wot a Bargain’: 1989’s ‘A Fridge Too Far’, which is easily the band’s worst record. The arrangements are awkward and disjointed, the ideas half-baked, and the band overplays to such an extent as to suffocate the life out of every song. Especially the bassist. His performance is ridiculously overboard. He overplays to comic levels and just kills every song. The drum sound is bloody terrible, as well. There is no power and no passion, energy, or life on this album. It is a clumsy, nearly unlistenable mess. But GBH got back on track for 1993’s ‘Church of the Truly Warped’; an explosive record packed with sharp thrash punk tunes which remains their least recognized album. A lost gem. In the early 90’s a band like GBH would have gone almost completely ignored. People were listening to boring, depressing, drab bullshit in 1993. ‘Church of the Truly Warped’ was as against the grain of the times as can be. It’s a brilliant record, and if you can find it, buy it immediately.

-Mike Falconer Salemi

Hanoi+Rocks+-+All+Those+Wasted+Years+-+DOUBLE+LP-519097

Hanoi Rocks

All Those Wasted Years…

This concert was recorded in 1983 for a double-album and filmed for VHS release before a sold-out crowd at London’s legendary Marque club (it closed long ago). I used to have the VHS tape of this show and I’d watch it just about every night back in the 80’s after band practice and before bed. Eventually some asshole borrowed it and it was gone for good. I went a long way toward wearing out the vinyl release as well as every other Hanoi Rocks record I could get my hands on. Back in those days music from underground bands from other countries wasn’t so easy to find and could be expensive.

This show was a perfect summing-up of Hanoi Rocks from between their 1980 debut ‘Saigon Shakes Bangkok Shocks Hanoi Rocks’ and their 4th release, 1983’s ‘Back to Mystery City’. Those were the bands underground years. After this, in 1984, they would sign with a major label (Epic), record the brilliant ‘Two Steps From the Move’, influence every band in Los Angeles, then do half a club tour before drummer Razzle was killed in a car crash by a drunken Vince Neil in December.

Finnish guitarist Andy McCoy is responsible for bringing punk rock to Scandinavia in the 1970’s. His band, Briard, was the first from any Norse country to release any vinyl. But by late 1979 he’d grown bored with the punk scene and wanted to do something new and different. At that time he met the teenage Mike Monroe, who helped him do just that. Hanoi Rocks were something new forged from something old: punk and blues melded together and played with passion and heart to create their own unique concoction of Modern Rock. They were a band looking into the past to see the future. They had the rowdy chaotic energy of 70’s punk rock with the dynamics and melody of the most infectious upbeat pop weaved seamlessly into it. In England producer Keith Forsey was crafting his version of slick modern alt.rock by grafting the poppier elements of “New Wave” onto a core base of punk with artists such as Generation X and Billy Idol. Hanoi was doing a version of this way up in Finland, before moving to England, removed from any “real” music scene other than that of Stockholm, where the band spent a lot of time. They were ahead of the curve, ahead of the 80’s sound by a few years.

Monroe happened to be an accomplished saxophonist and harmonica player, which gave the already thickly-layered material another dimension of texture and feel, sounding by turns melancholy, desperate, or joyous. His raspy, distinctive voice put the signature on an already individual sound. The rhythm section of bassist Sami Yaffa and drummer Razzle keep things nailed down tight; alternating through blues scales and surf beats to full-on Ramones-style workouts. They keep things punchy and alert. These guys are great together, as are rhythm guitarist Nasty Suicide and main man Andy McCoy. They play off each other really well, trading licks and taking turns laying back in the groove for the other guy to take a lead. They have a real feel for this material and deliver it with the necessary emotion and attitude; at times cutting and slashing ala Joe Perry, at times delivering a Keith Richards bluesy jangle, and sometimes ganging up to pummel the audience Johnny Ramone-style.

This is on the list of best live albums ever, and I would also call it one of the best rock ‘n’ roll albums by one of the greatest punk/glam/blues-rock bands ever. Here we have a live album without a bunch of overdubs and studio fixes. You hear it as it was played that fateful night long ago. The sound mix is excellent, the performance from the band is tight and highly energetic, and the set list is perfect. I highly recommend ‘All Those Wasted Years…’ as well as all other releases by Hanoi Rocks.

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I remember being quite annoyed back in the 80’s when people like Motley Crue, Guns N’ Roses, Poison, and all the other Hollywood people were taking the Hanoi Rocks image for themselves. For the most part they did it badly! Awkward and embarrassing. I wish all those bands would have tried to take Hanoi’s sound instead of look, then maybe there would have been a few better bands in the so-called “hair metal” or “glam” scene of the 1980’s. But instead, all kinds of lame, half-assed hair metal bands took that certain look that Hanoi did so well and with such effortless cool and turned it into an overdone costume in the quest for a “sellable image”.

Yes, H.R. had a strong image, but they came by it quite naturally and honestly. It wasn’t really a big deal and they wore it well. The music was the main focus, as it should be. I don’t want to give the impression that I’m operating under the belief that H.R. invented glam rock. I am quite aware of everything that came and went in the early 1970’s. All of that music influenced H.R. immensely, especially the New York Dolls. Instead of simply copying the bands that influenced them (as too many bands do), Hanoi assimilated all the various influences into their own naturally established and continuously progressing sound.

After splitting in the spring of 1985, the band reunited in the 2000’s as a part-time project, appearing now and then for small tours and new albums. They were still very good and I’m glad they came back, but in my opinion the later incarnation couldn’t touch the glory days of the early 80’s, when they were burning with white-hot intensity. In 2011 Hanoi Rocks played their final show in Helsinki, Finland; back where  they began, in a small club before ecstatic fans.

519097b

All Those Wasted Years…

Pipeline

Oriental Beat

Back To Mystery City

Motorvatin’

Until I Get you

Mental Beat

Don’t Never Leave Me

Tragedy

Malibu Beach Nightmare

Visitor

11th Street Kids

Taxi Driver

Lost In The City

Lightnin’ Bar Blues

Beer And A Cigarette

Under My Wheels

I Feel Alright

Train Kept A Rollin’

-Mike Falconer

130612-black-sabbath

Black Sabbath

“13” (Deluxe Version)

Republic Records

Released: 06/11/13

As a long-time fan of Black Sabbath I was really excited to discover that they were releasing a new album, even with Bill ward out of the picture I was highly anticipating what “13” would sound like and I can tell you that you will not be disappointed. Black Sabbath has kept with their roots with that old-school doomy sound, slow tempo and down-tuned guitars. You can hear it especially with the opener “End of the Beginning” that really holds that melancholy tone in the vein of “Black Sabbath” until you get to the middle where it kicks in a nice groove that takes you back to the days of “Children of the Grave”. With Ozzy’s brooding vocals this track gives you an even more of a haunting feel to it. Rick Rubin did an excellent job as the producer and drawing out the Black Sabbath from the days of old.

 I’m sure you’re wondering how Rage Against the Machine’s Brad Wilk did replacing the mighty Bill Ward? Well I can tell you he did just fine. I know it’s difficult for a lot of you to get past this but if you can let go that it’s not Ward bashing on the skins and just listen you’ll hear that Wilk is just a competent drummer as others have been in the past. He added a very dynamic sound to the album and should be given praise for this. “Damaged Soul” is a great track that has a mixture of modern-day doom with psychedelic rock and blues from the past. Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler really show off their talents here with a great solo from Mr. Iommi and Butler’s heavy bass tone right underneath it. “Zeitgeist” is a perfect interlude to this otherwise dark and heavy collective with a very “Planet Caravan-esque” feel to it that I think fans of new and old will really enjoy.

The mighty gods that are Black Sabbath have not only thrown down the gauntlet once again for all to see with “13” but gives metalheads of the younger generation to see what true heavy metal is all about.

 

-Kate Smith

TheDevilsBlood-TabulaRasa

The Devil’s Blood

“III: Tabula Rasa or Death of the Seven Pillars”

Metalblade Records

Released: 06/2013

 

  1. I Was Promised a Hunt
  2. The Lullaby of the Burning Boy
  3. …If Not a Vessel?
  4. In the Loving Arms of Lunacy’s Secret Demons
  5. Dance of the Elements
  6. White Storm of Teeth
  7. Tabula Rasa

 

The Devil’s Blood is one of my favorite bands that I’ve stumbled up on in the recent years thanks to my friends at Earsplit Compound who sent me both “The Time of No Time Evermore” and “The Thousandfold Epicentre” to review. I was not prepared for what I heard when I put the cds on but after one listen I was fully addicted. The Dutch rock band are a blend of psychedelic rock and occult themed lyrics with influences of Jefferson Airplane, Pink Floyd, Coven, Black Sabbath and others. “I was Promised a Hunt” is the epic opener that clocks in at twenty-two minutes of mind blowing music. Heavily Pink Floyd influenced Farida’s vocals are theatrical and emotionally strong, this masterpiece has three parts to it within the track titled, “Upon the Aimless path”, “Wielding the Hammer of the Dead” and “And the Holy Cunt Spewed Forth Abomination”. Creating some sort of rock opera that’s filled with atmosphere and occult mystery.

 

“Dance of the Elements” is another excellent track that is purely instrumental with great acoustic parts and solos weaving in and out of the psychedelic mind trip that TBD always promises to deliver. This is a passageway to the next track “White Storm of Teeth” that carries distorted guitar riffs and beautiful vocals from both Farida and Selim. The album-titled track is the instrumental closer with bluesy guitar and inspiring atmosphere that gives it and mysterious and magical climate.

 

It is very sad to have The Devil’s Blood leave us; it’s refreshing to hear something so different and obscure in a time of replicas and copycats. But they will not leave us empty handed, they are still releasing an acoustic album and a live DVD so at least we have that to look forward to and they will always be remembered as the godfathers of modern occult rock!

 

-Kate Smith

minstryAlb

Ministry

“From Beer to Eternity”

13th Planet

2013

  1. 1.       Hail to his Majesty
  2. 2.       Punch in the Face
  3. 3.       Permawar
  4. 4.       Perfect Storm
  5. 5.       Fairly Unbalanced
  6. 6.       The Horror
  7. 7.       Side FX Include Mikey’s Middle Finger
  8. 8.       Lesson Unlearned
  9. 9.       Thanx but No Thanx
  10. 10.   Change of Luck
  11. 11.   Enjoy the Quiet

 

    If you’re gonna go out you might as well go out with a bang. Back in 2008 Al Jorgensen stated that there would be no chance of a reunion after splitting up and that “The Last Sucker” was in fact going to be their final album. Yet here we are two albums later and I for one am happy that Ministry decided to give us one last hurrah before going off to do different projects. I really enjoyed “The Last Sucker” and thought “Relapse” was decent but neither seemed to be that final album. With “From Beer to Eternity” Ministry has taken a little of everything they’ve done over their thirty year career span and put it into each track. This album definitely gives you the notion that this is the last album and they are saying their farewells.

It starts off with “Hail to His Majesty” a sluggish mid-tempo piece that has Jorgensen denouncing the world and society in his usual fashion before the pace is quickly picked up on the second track “punch in the Face”. A trademark Ministry track through and through with that more metal influence that showed up in the early 2000’s. The first part of the album is distinctly heavier with the chugging tracks “Permawar”, “Perfect Storm” and the faster, thrashier track ”Fairly Unbalanced” that takes all kinds of shots at Fox News. Nothing new as Al has criticized and denounced Republicans on several albums.

“Side Fx Include Mikey’s Middle Finger” is a schizophrenic track with a manic pace to it and chopped up samples of drug commercials explaining the side effects of pretty much drug that’s out there. Easily the fastest track on here and the dividing line where the album drops off into more spacious elements. The reggae tinged “Thanx but No Thanx” features the Thanksgiving Poem done by William Burroughs thanking the government for all its despicable acts done upon the country. Sgt. Major is the one reciting the poem who was also featured on the Rio Grande Blood track “Gangreen”. “Enjoy the Quiet” is layered with static and samples until Sgt. Major comes back in to pass along the message from Big Al to do exactly what the title suggests, enjoy the quiet.

The fact that this is Ministry’s last album makes even more of an impact with the incredibly sad passing of guitarist Mike Scaccia who was also one of Al’s closest friends. I consider “From Beer to Eternity” an excellent parting gift and would like to give Al and Ministry a huge thank you for all they have given us over the years.

 

-Kate Smith

TheManuscript

My Dying Bride

“The Manuscript EP”

Peaceville Records

2013

  1. 1.       The Manuscript
  2. 2.       Var Gud Over Er
  3. 3.       A Pale Shroud of Longing
  4. 4.       Only Tears to Replace Her With

 

    Staying with their trademark doom sound My Dying Bride returns into the fray with their latest album “The Manuscript EP”, it clocks in at around twenty-seven minutes with slow churning doomy riffs occasionally broken up with some brutal death metal. There aren’t too many surprises on the EP, no shifts in their sound or any radical changes. Vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe keeps with his sorrowful and melodic vocal style mixed in with his low metal growls. The guitars harmonize beautifully with the atmospheric keyboards giving us that melancholy vibe that we are all so familiar with.

The two tracks that really encompass what My Dying Bride have been doing for the past two decades are “Var Gud Over Er” and “A Pale Shroud of Longing”. The other two tracks are not quite as powerful but still hold positive attributes to them. The titletrack starts out a little weak but picks up more towards the middle with some great dual vocals and a beautiful acoustic outro. “Only Tears to Replace Her With” doesn’t do too much for me as it is mostly spoken word with some simple guitar riffs and drums behind it but I’m sure someone out there will be able to appreciate it.

“The Manuscript EP” is a nice expansion from the previous album, “A Map of All Failures” and is a welcome inclusion into their already massive catalogue. A solid contribution that is definitely worth a listen.

-Kate Smith

Black Star Riders

“All Hell Breaks Loose”

Nuclear Blast Records

2013

  1. All Hell Breaks Loose
  2. Bound for Glory
  3. Kingdom of the Lost
  4. Bloodshot
  5. Kissin the Ground
  6. Hey Judas
  7. Hoodoo Voodoo
  8. Valley of the Stones
  9. Someday Salvation
  10. Before the War
  11. Blues Ain’t So Bad
  12. Right to Be Wrong (Bonus Track)

After the death of the iconic Phil Lynott in 1986 it appeared that Thin Lizzy’s fate was sealed and shut forever. Who could possibly take the place of the Irish, larger than life vocalist/bassist? In 1996 John Sykes decided to give it a go on vocals while getting guitarist Scott Gorham, drummer Brian Downey, keyboardist Danny Wharton and bassist Marco Mendoza together to pay tribute to the music and the legend with some live shows but no intentions to record an album or any new material under the name Thin Lizzy.

In 2009 John Sykes left and the band was put on a hiatus only to be reformed again in 2010 by Gorham with Downey, Wharton and Mendoza. Ricky Warwick was added into the mix on vocals as well as Vivian Campbell on guitar but due to his commitment to Def Leppard he had to leave and was replaced by Damon Johnson. In 2012 Gorham announced that new material would be recorded under the name the Black Star Riders. The last line-up change was when Downey and Wharton decided to bow out and Jimmy DeGrasso was brought in to play on drums.

This is just a brief overview for anyone who may have been out of the loop. Now on to the review of this rockin album.

Ricky Warwick bears a remarkable resemblance to Lynott, especially on tracks such as “Bound for Glory” and “Valley of the Stones” but still brings in his own gritty vocals style and makes it work for him. Gorham brings the tracks together really well with his great guitar playing and classic flair. But when you have an all-star lineup like this it’s pretty hard to make a bad album. One of my favorite tracks on here is “Kingdom of the Lost” that carries a beautiful Celtic vibe to it before heading into a boisterous Irish punk sing along chorus. Along with Warwick’s vocals the music on “Bound For Glory”, “Hey Judas” and Valley of the Stones” all sound like classic Thin Lizzy but modernized somehow to appeal to today’s audience. Smooth guitar playing, great keyboards and bass all flowing together perfectly. “Hoodoo Voodoo” has the band going a little outside their comfort zone with a nice mix of funk and rock that makes this track stand out a little more and grabs your attention.

In the end, “All Hell Breaks Loose” is a solid debut with quality songwriting and fantastic performance across the board that has a Thin Lizzy influence but doesn’t dominate. Whether you’re a fan of Thin Lizzy or someone who’s just looking for a good rock album you’ll be more than pleased with this album. Hopefully there’ll be more great releases like this from the guys in the years to come.

-Kate Smith

THIS MUSIC LEAVES STAINS; THE COMPLETE STORY OF THE MISFITS

By James Greene Jr.

This short history of the legendary Lodi, New Jersey horror punk pioneers (120 pages) reads more like an extended magazine article than an in-depth analysis. Surprisingly, this is the first book to emerge about the band, but shouldn’t be the last, as the definitive biography of the Misfits is yet to be written. Having said that, I do recommend this, even though for the hardcore fan there isn’t much here you won’t already know.

Greene skims the surface, recounting events in a “this happened, then this happened” sort of way. He doesn’t spend too long digging in and analyzing the songs, particular shows, or recordings. Anecdotes are strangely devoid of suspense, tension, drama, or surprises. His writing is flat. I think if the book had been better written this same story would read in a much more fascinating and engrossing way. He isn’t a terrible writer; merely inexperienced. He seems very young. In time he’ll become a fine writer if he keeps working at it.

It is nice to see someone who feels so moved by a band that they want to write a book. You don’t see that kind of passionate fandom every day and it makes this reviewer feel damn good. I like to see kids grow up obsessed with the cool classic artists such as The Misfits and others of that era and even earlier because there really doesn’t seem to be anyone interesting to take the place of all the great originals. I’m still waiting to see who from the newer generations is going to emerge doing something of interest; something different. Shit, I’ll settle for something merely “cool”.

I did learn a lot from the back third of this book, as my knowledge of The Misfits lies squarely within the 1977-1983 time frame; the years of Glenn Danzig as vocalist and principal songwriter, the original emergence punk, and the arrival of hardcore. I’ve always had little interest in the 1990’s reformation with Michale Graves on vocals or the 2000’s “supergroup” era with members from Black Flag and the Ramones. But I must admit I had fun reading about those later formations and their activities as well as the “almost” reunion of Danzig and the brothers Jerry and Doyle in 2002 which, according to Greene, Jerry fucked proper. In fact, if this book is to be believed, Doyle is the sole member who is a somewhat decent human being. I tend to believe it. There are at least two sides to every story, but by now Glenn has gone out of his way to prove himself a humorless, bullying, selfish douchebag and deserving of all the ridicule heaped upon him. If he wasn’t so talented he’d have been a forgotten relic by 1994 at the latest. What caught me by surprise while reading this book is what an asshole Jerry Only turned out to be. Again: IF this is accurate. Apparently he is obsessed with money, totally consumed by greed, a backstabbing rip-off artist who will get over even on his own brother, all the while preaching this born-again Christian B.S. He seems quite the two-faced phony. No wonder he and Danzig can’t work together: they both need to be “the king” and the richest man in the room. Meanwhile Doyle has his head down, ready to get to work on some decent music. Doyle seems humble and hard-working, appreciative of the fans, taking nothing for granted, and has a true love for The Misfits’ music. He seems level-headed and down-to-earth. In other words; all the things Jerry and Glenn are not.

If you are at all interested in The Misfits, read this book.

-Michael Salemi

Dayal-Patterson

BLACK METAL

Evolution of the Cult

By Dayal Patterson

484 pages, Feral House.

From the great Feral House, the same iconoclastic publisher who brought us ‘Lords of Chaos’ in 1998 comes this bigger and better, more in-depth exploration of the subgenre. It covers the same ground as ‘Lords’ but without the sensationalistic tabloid journalism feel and goes much, much further and deeper into the scene. There is a wealth of excellent photographs, some never previously published. I find myself going back to look at them again and again. There are amazing shots of Mayhem actually recording the ‘Deathcrush’ EP in the studio, pictures of the mysterious and rarely photographed Manson Family-like French cult Les Le’gion Noires (the Black Legions), from whose ranks came bands such as Vlad Tepes, Mutiilation, and Belke’tre, early live shots of Gorgoroth in tiny clubs with Frost on drums, performance photos of Beherit and Darkthrone (of which not many exist), and many more.

Bands covered include Venom, Bathory, Hellhammer, Blasphemy, Tormentor, Master’s Hammer, VON, Beherit, Mayhem, Thorns, Burzum, Trelldom, Emperor, and many, many more. These bands are covered extremely in-depth, featuring their history, discography, and many interesting behind-the- scenes tales about their lives and workings, personnel, philosophies, opinions, and how they connect to other parts of the scene in the Black Metal timeline.

As someone who has been into the music since the “first wave” with Venom in 1982, I thought I knew a lot about Black Metal. This amazing book gave me a whole different perspective. I learned many new things that I had no idea about. You will feel like an insider after reading this incredible document from Mr. Patterson. His writing style is thoughtful, in-depth, and concise all at once.

I love reading about my favorite artists. The thing is, when your favorite bands and movies tend to be “underground”, “indie”, “unpopular”, or whatever term you choose, it is difficult to find much written information. So when a book like this appears it is nothing short of a treasure. Some of my all-time favorite bands are Mayhem, Ulver, and VON. They are here and I learned things about each that I never knew. Surprising things. One tiny tidbit: did you know that VON are NOT from the San Francisco Bay Area, as is widely accepted? They are originally from Hawaii, where they formed in 1987 before relocating to SF in early 1989. I was beginning to think I knew everything worth knowing about Black Metal, but there is always more coming to the surface. This is a nice place to find details and histories.

This book is incredible.

I recently heard that Dayal Patterson is working on a follow-up which will focus on a different group of bands. I cannot wait.

-Mike Falconer Salemi

34548

IF CHINS COULD KILL, Confessions of a B Movie actor

By Bruce Campbell

This 2002 autobiography by actor/producer/director/smart-ass Bruce Campbell is one of the most entertaining and enlightening books on the world of film and TV that I’ve read in a long time. And it’s hilarious, which goes without saying; after all, we are talking about Bruce Campbell. He is a man of intelligence and wit who also seems like a real down-to-earth, hard-working guy. He seems like somebody you’d want to hang out with. Over the years he’s developed a huge cult following and is one of the most beloved genre personalities in the world. This book shows as much why he is so appealing as any of his films.

The book starts with a couple short chapters describing Campbell’s family, early life, and home town in suburban Michigan. At a young age he and his friends, Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, Scott Spiegel, and others began making their own super 8 movies. They didn’t know anything about making movies, they learned as they went.

As the friends got older they decided to try and make “a real movie”. The book goes into great detail describing every step along the way of production on this first movie, which turned out to be ‘Evil Dead’, and it is absolutely fascinating. Campbell walks us through the whole 4-year process from fund raising (much of the budget came from a group of Detroit dentists) to the grueling 12-week shoot, to the edit (which Joel Coen worked on as his first job in film). Campbell, Raimi, and friends did everything on ‘Evil Dead’, right down to shooting the advertising posters and working as foley artists. Everyone in the crew had 2 or 3 jobs to do. It’s a classic film and reading about its creation in great detail makes me appreciate it even more. Those guys went through hell and worked their asses off to make that, relying mostly on ingenuity and creative imagination to get the thing done on just over $100,000.00. It remains an amazing piece of work and this segment of the book is my favorite.

Campbell pulls no punches in describing what it’s really like to be a working B-movie actor. I admire him greatly, as he was able to carve out a nice career for himself outside the Hollywood system (mostly anyway). He walks you through his whole career and you get a sense of how hard he’s had to work to get where he is (very). He had a lot of setbacks and uncertainty, a lot of disappointment. As a creative person working in the arts, this was quite inspiring. Campbell takes it all in stride. He keeps moving, always focused on his goal.

I highly recommend this book, but especially for people who work in the arts. It is funny, touching, insightful, inspiring, informative, and contains none of actors usual ego-driven B.S. you find in most autobiographies, put there to build image. It is The Real Deal. I couldn’t put this down. I’m a bigger fan of Bruce Campbell than ever after reading this book.

-Mike S. Falconer

I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll (Except When I Hate It)

Extremely important stuff about the songs and bands you love, hate, love to hate, and hate to love

By Brian Boone

    I am a big fan of these kinds of books, which are chock full of interesting factoids about music, broken into short easy chapters and written with a good sense of humor. This one is compulsively readable and I tore through it in about 3 days.

    Here is a short list of some of the subjects you get:

-How bands got their stupid names.

-All alternative rock bands directly descend from the Pixies (includes a family tree).

-The most metal facts of metal in the history of metal.

-The secret lives of one-hit wonders.

-The story behind ‘Layla’ and other assorted love songs about George Harrison’s wife.

-What is quite possibly the worst song in rock history.

    Here’s a few of my favorite entries:

    There’s a section on what songs are really about (as opposed to what the general population thinks they’re about/what the artist leads you to think they’re about). As a lyricist I love this topic and find it endlessly fascinating. For example, ‘There She Goes’ by The La’s, which was released in 1988, is not about a relationship with an adorable hipster girl. It’s really about a relationship with heroin. Apparently, when the Christian pop group Sixpense None the Richer had a hit with their cover of it in 1999 they had no idea what the tune was really about. It is a certainty that no one at Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical knew when they licensed the Sixpense version for use in a commercial for ortho tri-cyclen, a birth control pill. So, you’ve got a Christian band unwittingly endorsing birth control pills AND heroin. Classic!

    The one I remember cracking everybody up at the time was when Bruce Springsteen released ‘Born in the USA’ and the Ronald Reagan reelection campaign of 1984 began using it immediately as their theme song until Bruce hit them with a cease-and-desist order. Nobody involved with the campaign bothered to listen to the lyrics of the song, because it’s about a Vietnam War vet who returns home and, unable to find a job anywhere, eventually lands in prison. It’s a bitter indictment of nearly everything Reagan stood for, delivered in a potent 4-minute blues tune. Classic Republican buffoonery!

    This book is chock full of goodies like those.

    There’s a section on where bands got their names. For example: the band Warsaw formed in Britain in 1976. But there was another band called Warsaw Pakt playing the London club circuit, so they changed the name to Joy Division, which is the name for the prostitution sectors of Nazi concentration camps where prisoners were used as sex slaves for officers. Then there is KMFDM, which was always rumored to stand for “Kill Motherfucking Depeche Mode”. That isn’t true. It actually stands for “Kein mehrheit fur die mitleid”, which is German for “no majority for the pity”. It is intentionally grammatically incorrect because it was randomly assembled from headlines cut from a German newspaper by group leader Sascha Konietzko.

    We’ve got a section covering sequels to songs, such as David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ and its sequel ‘Major Tom (Coming Home)’ by Peter Schilling (there’s a funny paragraph about how Schilling didn’t understand the meaning of Bowie’s brilliant song when he wrote his continuation of the story). We’ve got covers that were much bigger than the original versions, like ‘I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll’ by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. There are the most unlikely #1 hits ever (anybody remember ‘My Ding-A-Ling’ by Chuck Berry (1972)?

    An entire chapter is dedicated to uncovering Beatles references in the work of Oasis. There’s a lot, even their drummer is a goddamn living, breathing Beatles reference (Zak Starkey, son of Richard Starkey aka Ringo Starr).

    There is so much in this book I cannot possibly begin to describe it all. If you’re a music geek/collector/obsessive like me, I recommend it.

    According to this book, the #1 worst song of all time is Brian Wilson’s 1989 rap tune ‘Smart Girls’. The record company rejected it and so the song never got a proper release, but 250 copies were pressed for fan club members and radio. It has been widely bootlegged ever since. I’ve never heard it, but after reading Boone’s detailed description I’m very curious to hear this misguided train wreck of a tune.

    You know those ‘Book of Lists’ that come out every so often? This is pretty much just like one of those. That’s the best way I can describe it. Brian Boone has a good sense of humor that makes all the subjects a lot of fun.

-Mike Falconer Salemi

joyland_stephen_King_edition_papier_exclusivement

Joyland

By Stephen King

2013

Joyland is a quick read at only 283 pages. Very short by Stephen King standards, and, like most of his novels, difficult to put down. It tells the story of 21-year-old Devin “Jonesy” Jones, who takes a summer job at South Carolina’s Joyland amusement park while on break from college. The place is closer to the old-fashioned carnivals than the bigger corporate parks that are taking over such as Disney and Six Flags, therefor is always on the brink of going under. On the other hand, it has an old-world charm reminiscent of traveling carnivals from decades past and the full-time employees are a tight-knit group of eccentrics, misfits, and rough old carnys who’ve been around the block a few times.

The story is told in memoir form by a 60-ish Devin looking back at the summer of 1973, which is interesting because it gives the reader a chance to see the events as they unfold in ’73 as well as learn how Devin sees and feels about those events today with the wisdom of a long life lived.

Joyland is somewhat off the beaten path for King. It’s a bit different in that it is not scary, even though there are two ghosts which play a small but crucial role in the plot. Nor is there much action or violence except for in one short chapter toward the end which contains both a dash of suspenseful action and a little dose of bloodshed. In addition to the ghosts there are two psychics who help propel the plot, but this is at its heart a coming-of-age drama about love, loss, friendship, dealing with grief, facing an uncertain future, and coming to terms with death. It is about overcoming fear as you make your way through life, and learning to grasp love and happiness in the small moments when they appear.

Joyland is an excellent bittersweet story about looking back to a life-changing moment in one’s life and all the nostalgia doing that tends to bring about. It is realistic in that it shows life as it is: wonderful and terrible, sometimes at the same time. Most stories I’ve read can’t come close to capturing that.

-Michael Salemi

ministrylost

MINISTRY; the Lost Gospels According To Al Jourgensen

By Al Jourgensen with Jon Wiederhorn, 2013, 278 pages.

This memoir by Ministry/Revolting Cocks/LARD main man Al “Alien” Jourgensen is by turns hilarious, disturbing, and frustrating, but most often it is fascinating whether you’re a dedicated fan or someone who hasn’t a clue who the man is. Early on I began to suspect that many of the wilder anecdotes are greatly embellished and exaggerated but I was thoroughly entertained by it.

However, the aspect I found frustrating and difficult to forgive is the fact that Al takes every opportunity to downplay the contributions of all former members of Ministry. He especially takes shots at former collaborator and bassist Paul Barker, stating that he was a terrible bass player who contributed hardly anything to the records but continuously tried to take over the band. He goes on to accuse Barker of Pilfering money from him for years as well as taking out a life insurance policy on him while having Chris Connelly waiting in the wings to take his place in Ministry as they waited for him to die from his one thousand dollar-per day addictions (alcohol, cocaine, methadone, a variety of pills, LSD, heroin, crack, ecstasy). Al unleashes a lot of venom on Connelly and Martyn Atkins as well. He calls the great 1990 ‘The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste’ touring band “incompetent”. Basically Jourgensen paints himself as the architect behind everything, the songwriter, and captain of the pirate ship; while everyone else was there just to play the notes and do what they were told.  He is trying to rewrite history, but the records don’t lie. If Barker’s place in the band was so inconsequential and he was so incompetent then why was he there for 17 years? In the liner notes of the albums why was his name the only other name listed next to Jourgensen as an official member of the band while all others were listed as contributing musicians? Furthermore, all promo photos of the band consisted of Al and Paul; nobody else. Not to say there isn’t some great cuts found on ‘Houses of the Mole’ onward, but the older records are arguably better than the post-Barker records.  I don’t know why it’s so difficult for people to put their ego aside and tell it like it was, for better or worse.

Another thing I found frustrating is Al’s blasé attitude about having started an entirely new form of rock music (Industrial Metal) that influenced innumerable bands and his lack of depth and insight into the making of some of the most influential extreme records ever. Even his production style influenced everybody, but Al doesn’t have a lot to say about it. He credits Mike Scaccia for the success of ‘Psalm 69’ due to his great riffs and guitar tone. The one album he goes more in depth about is ‘Land of Rape and Honey’, and it’s fascinating stuff. He describes the record as a true hand-made art project, where the entire thing was done with analog synths and programming, recorded on reel-to-reel tape There is very little guitar on the album, only small melodies, embellishments and fills around the edges. 99% of the record is done with synth. This revelation surprised me but made me hear and appreciate the record anew. The hit ‘Stigmata’ was a last minute addition which Al doesn’t particularly like. There was room left on the album and he needed one more song, so he wrote ‘Stigmata’ in about ten minutes, and he never thought it would catch on the way it did. There were other songs on the album that he thought were much better that he wanted for singles, as ‘Stigmata’ was “too simple and didn’t go anywhere. It was repetitive”. That’s one of the songs that surprised me. I thought for sure there were guitars on it; but no. Live there is a wall of guitars, and it’s an amazingly powerful experience.  ‘The Land Of Rape And Honey’ was edited with scissors and a grease pencil.  Al didn’t even use headphones to listen to what he was creating. This is why it was such an old-school art project. He’d grab a strip of tape and connect it at random to another strip, without knowing if it was running forward or backward. He went through the whole album like this, trying different combinations until he had what he liked, which is what we hear today.

Many people forget today that there was a time in the late 80’s, early 90’s, when Al Jourgensen was as much a legendary figure shrouded in mystery as there’s ever been in rock. EVERYBODY was ripping him off, whether they’ll admit it or not, and he was in high demand as a producer with that certain MAGIC TOUCH. There was an aura of darkness and danger around him and his personality was distant and illusive. Ministry’s most important and interesting work were their early releases, as was Revolting Cocks (although RevCo did save a masterpiece for late in their career with 2006’s ‘Cocked and Loaded’, which is an infectious, fun, silly, and rockin’ record crafted from classic 70’s riffs. It’s simply incredible). In the waning years of the 1980’s Ministry and Skinny Puppy were producing the most interesting and cutting edge music available.

Most of the book is dedicated to all the punishment his mind and body have taken over the years: car accidents, a brown recluse spider bite that nearly cost him his arm, a toe amputation, financial ruin, numerous fights he was on the losing end of, and a serious downward spiral into drug and alcohol hell that he nearly didn’t make it out of. All of it is recounted in matter-of-fact style with humor and wit, even when dealing with the numerous deaths of friends along the way. Al gives all the credit for his being alive today and for the rebirth of his career to his wife and manager, Angie.

One thing that bothered me and I’m sure will bother others is the fact that he never bonded with his daughter. He didn’t want to be a father and so put no effort into it. All of his time went toward working on music and getting wasted. He was a workaholic and a drug addict, two things that normally don’t go together and one more thing that I find fascinating about Jourgensen. I’ve seen very few junkies who create and work hard. Al put out so many albums and toured relentlessly. The only other people who come to mind who fit the category are maybe Keith Richards and Nick Cave.

And so we get down to the end of the book and the end of Ministry. The final album is ‘From Beer To Eternity’. I’ve only listened to it once as of this writing, but it seems a nice farewell, probably better than ‘Relapse’ or ‘The Last Sucker’, which weren’t bad albums, but maybe not memorable as final albums. A farewell album should be kind of special in some way. The 2 before this, although solid, were not special. ‘From Beer To Eternity’ is special in that it is a stroll through every style that Ministry have touched upon in their 30-year career. Plus the songs are good, which is a bonus! In the book Al spends a lot of time talking about the making of the album and why it was made. ‘The Last Sucker’ was really supposed to be the end. But he got bored sitting around at home. He’d come up with all these riffs that were obviously Ministry-like riffs, and so ‘Relapse’ was born. This last one was mostly Mikey Scaccia’s doing. He’d written a bunch of killer stuff and talked Al into going for it one last time.

Apparently Al’s next book is to be a fiction book. He says he’s been working on it for 28 years and it’ll be coming out soon. I don’t know much about it other than it’s about murder and mind control. Sounds intriguing. ‘The Lost Gospels’ could’ve been a lot more, and it was somewhat frustrating for me, but to be fair I have to judge the work for what it is, not for what I want it to be. It’s a wild fucking ride and I recommend it whole-heartedly.

-Michael Salemi.

Murder in the Front Row

“Murder in the Front Row”

Shots from the Bay Area

Thrash Metal Epicenter

By: Harald Oimen and Brian Lew

If you’re like me a fan of the eighties Bay Area thrash metal scene or a fan of thrash metal in general then this book needs to be in your possession immediately. “Murder in the Front Row” is simply amazing, written by Harald Oimen and Brian Lew who grew up in the Bay Area with a passion for metal. Wanting to seek out underground hard rock and metal bands led them to be able to meet the guys rom Metallica, Possessed, Exodus and Slayer. Not only did they meet them but also became really close friends with the bands and used Harald and Brian’s awesome photos on some of their album covers. It is really cool that these classic photos have finally seen the light of day, they capture the chaos, camaraderie, excitement and crazy feel of the thrash metal scene. Not only are they photos of thrashers from the Bay Area but also bands that came to play there as well.

halloween-palo-alto

The photos are high quality that let you immerse yourself fully in pages and pages of classic moments out of time such as Cliff Burton’s first rehearsal with Metallica. As well as Dave Mustaine’s last San Francisco gig with the band, Kerry King when he used to play in Megadeth, Slayer’s first show at Wolfgang’s in San Francisco, Paul Baloff going nuts on and offstage and tons more. Not only do you get the photos but you also get words of recollection from greats such as Gary Holt from of Exodus, Ron Quintana, Alex Skolnick of Testament and Robb Flynn of Machine Head. Both the images and statements brought a huge smile to my face as I went through the book because it brought back all the memories I had of being a teenager and being a part of that thrash metal scene. All the good times I had with friends as we got to see some amazing shows all over the Bay Area and how excited we would get listening to all these great bands. I remember hearing Slayer’s “Hell Awaits”, Exodus’s “Bonded By Blood” and Metallica’s “Kill ‘Em All” for the first time and just being obsessed with thrash metal, I couldn’t get enough of it! Being a part of this scene was like being a part of a family, a community. Everybody knew everybody and you took care of each other, listened to some great metal and had a blast. I completely miss those days and was great to relive them again through this book.

Slayer

“Murder in the Front Row” is much more than a book that gives a history of heavy metal, it’s a time capsule of some of the most iconic bands out there at their very beginnings and I personally want to thank Harald Oimen and Brian Lew for bringing these fantastic images up to the surface for all to see. If you’re a fan of metal, no matter how young or old, you need to go out and purchase this book immediately!!

 

-Kate Smith

BOOK_REVIEW_DOCTOR_SLEEP_33353533

“Doctor Sleep”

Written By: Stephen King

Released: 9/24/13

Those who have read “The Shining” know that it is an all-time horror classic. Destined to give readers, including myself, nightmares as we made our way through the horror that lied within the Overlook Hotel. The great thing about Stephen King’s writing is that he doesn’t give to too much detail in his stories, he lets the reader’s imagination take over which makes it all that more terrifying.

The terror continues some thirty years later with his latest release and sequel to “The Shining”, “Doctor Sleep”, but on a much deeper level. As King matured so did his writing and shows you that the scary things are not the ones that jump out at you but the ones that latch on and stay with you on your travels as you try and leave the past behind.

The story is partly centered around the now grown up Dan Torrance who tries to bury his own demons through alcohol as his father did before. He still carries the shining that lets him not only communicate with the dead but with others who carry the same ability through a telepathic network. As he makes his way through recovery he starts to work at a hospice care center where he is referred to as Doctor Sleep as he is able to soothe the ones that are on the verge of death into the next world with the littlest amount of trauma. He is also pulled back into the horror of the Overlook Hotel when he is contacted by a thirteen year old girl named Abra (as in Abracadabra) who’s shining is even brighter and stronger than Dan’s ever was. She tries to tamper it down to protect her parents but freaks out when she comes into contact with a boy that the True Knot, a group of really nasty psychic vampires, torture and kill to take his steam, his life force out of him. She recruits his help as The Knot hones in on her when she enters the mind of the leader, Rose the Hat, after she sees what they do to this boy that she refers to as the “baseball boy”.

When an all too human virus starts to pick them off The Knot becomes even more determined to find and keep Abra for themselves to sustain the group with her steam. I’m not going to give too much away except that there is a showdown between Dan, Abra and The Knot that will leave your mouth hanging wide open. You want strong emotion and supernatural thrills? King gives you plenty in Doctor Sleep as well as well as little curveballs and connections to his other books that will have you not wanting to put the book down for a minute.

Back in the eighties King was on top of the world and had fantastic books coming out left and right. It looks like he is back up there again. The past couple of years he has delivered some grand slams and “Doctor Sleep”, for me at least is a home run. I wouldn’t call this a full on horror but is definitely a supernatural thriller with some very creepy and scary moments in it. It also has a lot of heart and deep emotion that allows to connect with the characters and lose yourself in the story. You definitely will to pick up a copy of this fantastic sequel, you will not be disappointed!

-Kate Smith

Alice Cooper

“A Rock n Roller’s 12 Steps

To Becoming a Golf Addict”

Written By: Alice Cooper

2007

 

The man and legend, Alice Cooper, the inventor of shock rock tells his amazing story of how he did away with his demons through the power of golf. From being a full-blown alcoholic to being a full-blown golf addict. I say if you’re going to replace one addiction for another it might as well be something that’s good for you.  Alice’s tell all memoire is done in an endearing, funny and interesting way that lets you see the true Alice. Not the guy you see up on stage but the guy behind the makeup and costume. He really lays it out in an honest and humble way about his career, alcoholism, his time in the sanitarium, finding the game of golf that saved his life as well as his wife Sheryl and his manager and good friend Shep.

Alice has some really funny and touching stories about some of his shows with The Doors, Led Zeppelin and many others. Very cool stories about meeting George Burns, Frank Sinatra, Elvis and Liberace. About being friends with Keith Moon, Harry Nilsson and Groucho Marx. About going from being a complete outcast to being accepted in the world of Hollywood mostly due to the game of golf.

In between the chapters of his life, Alice fills you in on his passion for golf. Where he’s played, who he’s played with, how good or bad his game has been and again does it in a very honest and humble way. There’s no boasting or bragging he just loves golf as much as he loves music.

If you want an interesting inside look at the life of Alice Cooper I highly recommend this book. Once I was done, I found myself having an all new respect for the man behind the mask.

-Kate Smith

True Norwegian Black Metal

Photography by: Peter Beste

2008

Black metal is a subgenre of metal that started out in Norway in the late 80s and early 90s, pushed to the ultimate extreme with guttural vocals, black leather, corpse paint and lyrical subject matter that was meant to strike back against Christianity. I didn’t get into black metal until the late 90s, I had my selection of thrash, death and classic metal that I was particularly fond and kept in my collection but once I discovered it I was completely hooked. Bands like Darkthrone, Gorgoroth, Mayhem and Marduk fascinated me. The culture that embraced obscurity and solitude was one I could really identify with.

Photographer Peter Beste started his project back in 20002, gaining the trust of the black metal community, slowly being welcomed into the homes of many reclusive musicians who also agreed to be a part of his book. By the time he was done Beste had taken some of the most memorable photos throughout the years. “True Norwegian Black Metal” captures not only the grimness of the genre but the beauty of Norway itself. Majestic mountains with ominous clouds rolling through is the perfect setting for black metal. Included with the photos is an intro from Metallion, the founder and editor of the metal fanzine Slayer, a three page timeline of Norwegian black metal that goes from the Christianization of Norway in 995 A.D to the trial of Varg Vikernes in 2006, plus some great interviews in the very back of the book as well as clippings from Varg’s trial and some of the infamous pictures of the church burnings that happened in Norway.

Everything is beautifully shot and captures the full of atmosphere and feel of black metal that you can easily see when you look at the pictures of Gaahl standing out in front of his house in the dead of winter, Fenriz in his bedroom headbanging or Abbath hiking through the dark forest. There are so many pictures that I love but one of my absolute favorites is that of Kvitrafu of Wardruna standing out in the streets of Bergen with a very conservative looking woman walking by and just staring, I can only imagine what she was thinking.

If you are a fan of black metal then this book needs to be a part of your collection. Being able to look at all these pictures of my favorite bands, reading those old interviews and stories takes me back to a time when black metal was full of raw, mysterious, brutal and vicious power. If you want to have a piece of black metal history then you will want to go out and pick up a copy of “True Norwegian Black Metal”.

-Kate Smith

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