Directed By: Peter Jackson
It’s always sad to see a trilogy or a series come to an end and especially when it’s something as epic as The Hobbit. When we have films like The Lord of the Rings and The Harry Potters and The Hobbits come out you find yourself become invested. It becomes a part of you and when it’s over we still have that piece but it’s still sad. I can’t say that they didn’t go out with a bang though.
The climactic finale begins with the terrifying Smaug delivering his wrath upon the people of Laketown before he is brought down once and for all by Bard the Bowman. With this opening scene the theme for the film is established as you see the Master of the town try to slip away with Smaug’s gold or the dwarves gold (it’s datable whose gold it really is) while all of the action is happening. The main theme is greed. Lust for gold, lust for power. For whoever has the gold has the power, right? Good old-fashioned greed. It’s very interesting how this also pertains to society today. As you see Thorin pacing around, draped with all kinds of jewels and gold and in complete paranoia as this greed takes over him, Bard tries to reason with him explaining that the people of Laketown only want their fair share. Just enough to get by and live. But instead of seeing reason Thorin proclaims is that the only way that any of them see a piece of that gold is by going to war and fighting over it. Sound familiar? Greed turns into paranoia, paranoia, paranoia into fear and anger and the only outcome is violence and war.
I’ve heard a lot of bashing by moviegoers and critics on the third installment of the trilogy. How it falls flat in comparison to LOTR’s “Return of the King” but I really don’t find that to be a fair comparison as they are two entirely different stories. I don’t remember the book that entirely well as I haven’t read it in a long time but I think Peter Jackson did a fine job with it. It cannot be easy as a director to take on something as famously known as The Hobbit, make it true to the book, make it entertaining and keep everyone happy all at the same time. So I give credit where credit is due. It is honestly not one of those movies where you sit and nitpick the entire thing. It’s one where you just let the fantasy take you away. It’s beautifully shot, the battle scenes are absolutely amazing, it’s touching and funny and you care about the characters. So to hear about CGI and blah blah blah seems ridiculous to me. I highly recommend you just sit back and have fun with it. You won’t regret it.
-Kat Von B
Nuclear War Productions
- Yabssor Born/Blood of My Blood
- Vengeance Absolute
- Annihilate or Serve
- Blood Division
- Superion Revenge
- Deathless Will
During their 13 year history Revenge has become one of the most prevalent bands in the Canadian black metal underground scene. Using militant imagery and strong ideology the band has built a strong die-hard following worldwide fans of black and death metal.
It seems like perfect timing to be reissuing this timeless classic that now has four additional bonus tracks including the “Superion.Command.Destroy” EP, their track from the split 7” they did with Arkhon Infaustus and their cover of Von’s “Lamb” that was recorded to be a part of the 2012 NWN! Fest compilation.
For those who are not familiar with Revenge this reissue is a perfect introduction. Right from the beginning you hear the sirens start howling before you are completely assaulted by James Read’s (Conqueror) insane drumming and hellish screams. The main focus, it seems, is on Read’s drumming but there are some very brutal guitar leads throughout that lends plenty of atmosphere.
Revenge has been called incomprehensible noise by some and complete genius by others but the fact that they have never betrayed their original intent and maintained their reputation by existing strictly on their own terms makes them truly original. They forge ahead with full force and look down upon those with disgust who question their approach.
Whether you are new to Revenge or a long-time fan you definitely want to pick up a copy of the reissued “Blood.Attack.Revenge”. It is well worth your time!
-Kat Von B
Massive Cauldron of Chaos
Season of Mist
Norwegian black metallers, 1349, have returned to raise some hellfire with their most recent release “Massive Cauldron of Chaos”. Straight-ahead, dark, cold and brutal; this is not only a return to their roots but surely confirms their spot once again in the black metal genre after receiving criticism from the masses on their previous albums “ Revelations of the Black Flame” and “Demonoir”. Though if you ask them 1349 will tell you that they genuinely do not give a fuck about anyone’s opinion and pretty much do what they want to do, which I fully respect.
Their opening track, “Cauldron” warm things up for us with some classic aggression and savagery before ripping into the second track, “Slaves”, very heavy with some major Bathory influence in it. Closest I can come to describing it is blackened-death with old eighties thrash mixed into it. “Postmortem” showcases Archaeon doing some serious shredding that harks back to the day of early Slayer and also delivers a bad-ass riff a little over the two minute mark.
Another transition for 1349 that has them heading back to the early days of their music career; “MCoC” is probably one of the most mature releases in their discography. The production is magnificently done with a crisp sound that lends the album plenty of atmosphere.
As the title hints, there is a great amount of chaos but it flows beautifully through each song creating a massive force waiting with anticipation to be released. If you’re looking for that old fury and speed then “Massive Cauldron of Chaos” is definitely for you!
Nuclear Blast Records
- 1. Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel
- 2. Furor Divinus
- 3. Messe Noire
- 4. Oro Pro Nubis Lucifer
- 5. Amen
- 6. The Satanist
- 7. Ben Sahar
- 8. In the Absence Ov Light
- 9. O Father O Satan O Sun!
After patiently waiting for almost five years for a new album the mighty Behemoth has finally unleashed their latest creation, “The Satanist”, upon us. We can hardly be angry with them for taking so long seeing as Nergal was in the middle of battling a life-threatening disease and all. Some wise man once said that with patience comes its reward, very true words because this is one hell of a reward! It may only be February but I am putting this in my top five, if not at the very top, of my favorite albums for the year. Right away you can feel the intensity of the new material and can hear how determined Nergal is to give the best performance with his vocals. This is equally backed up by the rest of the band who give us some of the most extreme tracks they recorded to date.
Don’t get me wrong I love “Evanglion” I think it’s brilliant and a monster of an album but thereis something special about “The Satanist”. There is a passion and unique power behind it andBehemoth as a whole seems more focused than ever before to bring their message to theworld. The opening track, “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” sets the tone with plenty of chillingatmosphere before heading straight into “Furor Divinus” with complete ferocity. Behemothfans will be happy to hear them getting back in touch with their black metal roots but with aneven more sinister sound. Inferno has always been so intense but he’s managed to take it upto even another level. The guitar riffs are relentless throughout and makes the ferocious passion even more present.Nergal has changed things up by adding some texture to his guitar playing instead of the usualblasting through the songs like a freight train that everyone is well familiar with. The titletrackand the closer “O Father O Satan O Sun!” will give you shivers when you hear the frontman’sripping through and with the trumpets, keyboards and chorus off in the background makes fora beautiful dark atmosphere when all combined together.
Old and new Behemoth fans will be impressed by the pure rawness of “The Satanist”.There’s a force behind it that can’t be explained, you just have to hear it. If you have not madethis a part of your music library then you should do so now if not sooner.
Season Of Mist, 2014
Throne of Time
Corpse of Care
Cover art by Zbignew M. Bielak.
2014 is the 30th year for Norway’s pioneering Black Metal warriors and this set is their 5th full-length studio album. Hard to believe but that is all. 5 albums in 30 years’ time. But Mayhem has always been about quality, not quantity, taking their time to write the best possible material. They have said in many an interview that they don’t like to repeat themselves from recording to recording and do their best to make each one more a special “event”, something worth waiting for, not just another album following in line with the last. ‘Esoteric Warfare’ is a great album. I hate the overused word “great”, but this one is.
This record is a journey through some of the darkest regions of human experience: secret programs which use systematic and ritualized abuse to psychologically break down victims and produce mind control slaves (Trauma based mind control is found in government operations such as Monarch and MK ULTRA). ‘Esoteric Warfare’ touches upon themes of “Black Ops”, secret societies such as Freemasons and other wealthy, powerful Illuminati-types who pull the strings behind the scenes of government and business. Leave it to Mayhem to tackle something more complex and frightening than the comic book Satanism found on many a Black and Death Metal album. This stuff is reality of the grimmest, bleakest sort, true satanic behavior most people know nothing of. It’s a brilliant and fertile concept for exploration.
I wasn’t sure what would become of the Mayhem sound following the departure of guitarist, Blasphemer. He’d composed the entire band’s music since they reformed in 1995 and was, alongside vocalist Attila, architect of the most critically praised “comeback” ‘Ordo ab Chao’ in 2007. The band spent several years touring and I began to wonder if there would ever be new material. As a longtime fan I should have known better.
The production sound, the feel, and the dark brooding atmosphere of this are very similar to ‘Ordo’, but with better material. The last one had some very good songs on it; but this is stronger top-to-bottom overall as an album and holds up to repeated listening much better than the previous. I liked ‘Anti’, the final track from ‘Ordo’, very much, and in my opinion ‘Esoteric’ picks up from that song and continues in similar fashion. The songs are shorter and more to the point, tighter and better-composed, but missing none of the classic deathly atmosphere.
I sensed a bit of a Thorns feel in this as well, which is interesting as Snorre Ruch (Blackthorn) played his role in creating the style of a certain guitar riffing that Norway would become known for (along with Euronymous) during the ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’ era of Mayhem. There is the texture and complexity of Snorre’s post-Mayhem Thorns work present here, blended with Mayhem’s own dark and sinister vibe.
This band has progressed miles beyond where they were when I first discovered them, both musically and conceptually. At this point Mayhem have gone into a league all their own.
Cradle of Filth
“Total Fucking Darkness”
- Black Goddess Rises
- Unbridled at Dusk
- The Raping of Faith
- As Deep as Any Burial
- Fraternally Yours, 666
Given new life some twenty years later at Turan Studios in Oxford, Cradle of Filth has decided to release their 1993 demo “Total Fucking Darkness” from their vaults. At the time the sound quality sounded pretty horrendous as it was recorded straight onto cassette. After it being remastered the demo still holds that raw, dark energy but with a much higher caliber. If you’re looking for Dani Filth’s trademark shrieks you won’t find them on this album. Maybe in or two spots but for the most part Dani uses very low, death metal guttural growls that unfortunately he did away with soon after. Same with the keyboards, they’re present but not overpowering. To me this is probably the earliest form of what evolved into the blackened death genre.
The first track, “The Black Goddess Rises” is a relatively slower, gloomier track with some great guitar solos and the deepest vocals I’ve ever heard Dani give. “Unbridled at Dusk” is a heavier, faster-paced song that begins with haunting keyboard effects while the guitar performs a spiraling riff over the top. It slows down to give way to a middle-eastern type melody played on the keyboards that gives it a sinister touch.
“The Raping of Faith” displays more of Dani’s evil and brutal vocals. I have to say this is not my favorite even though the vocals do make it better but COF brings in that modern gothic guitar melody that they are commonly known for. Just not my cup of tea. “As Deep as Any Burial” is more of my liking with heavy chugging guitar and fast drumrolls. A hardier, thrasher piece that has solos scattered throughout and ends with a short piano that sounds like a dark, haunting music box. “Fraternally Yours, 666” is the track of the album, a cool instrumental track that has a short pipe organ solo with a somber guitar that gives the song an interesting and effective contrast. Short and to the point this is a great outro for the demo.
I’ve never been a Cradle of Filth fan. I owned “Midian” once; listened to it once, thought it was a piece of crap and threw it away. Having said that I do have a lot of respect for this demo. It’s well constructed with a great amount of darkness and power. Fans of COF will probably be shocked when they hear this as it it’s nothing like their later material. I just wish they continued in this direction. I understand bands feel the need for some change and to evolve but this sound worked for them. If it ain’t broke why fix it? New and old fans should check out “Total Fucking Darkness” because it’ll give you an idea of what the real Cradle of Filth sounded like!
-Kat Von B
Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Vol. 1
Renown DJ, host of VH-1’s “That Metal Show” and true fan of rock and heavy metal Eddie trunk has branched out and compiled a really well done list that highlights 35 of the most influential artists in those genres with his book “Eddie Trunk’s Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Vol. 1”.
Each band that he picked out gets their own chapter featuring auto-biographical information and rare photos that were done by Ron Akiyama as well as the bands discographies and Trunk’s own recommended playlist in the sidebar. Some of the bands he’s chosen are pretty much no-brainers such as KISS, AC/DC, Dio, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and more but there are some that catch you by surprise like artists such as Bon Jovi and Billy Squier. But that’s what’s so great about Eddie he takes that group of musicians that you don’t give too much thought to and brings them to the forefront, explaining what makes them so unique and influential, giving them the appreciation they deserve.
What also makes this book really enjoyable are Eddie’s personal stories he’s been able to gather from interactions he’s had with all these bands over the many years of his career. From his famous interview with Axle Rose, to being treated to a private concert with Judas priest to the death of his very close friend and icon Ronnie James Dio each telling ranges from funny to touching to just downright bizarre while always remaining compelling and entertaining.
Eddie also makes an appendix in the back for a group of bands who didn’t quite make the cut but still deserve some recognition and gives them a short blurb about who they are and their part in the rock and metal scene. These include Testament, Night Ranger, Overkill, Ted Nugent, Saxon and a handful more. His tales along with the fantastic photos (that include a very young Eddie Trunk in a few of them) make for an excellent read for fans of this music would enjoy. Seeing as you can now get this for well under the asking price of twenty bucks why wouldn’t you make this a part of your collection?
There is no denying that Stephen King has been on a roll for the past two or three years with his writing and is still going full speed to this day. With just the recent releases of “Mr. Mercedes” and “Revival” I believe he still has a couple more coming out this year. I don’t know if he felt like he got a second lease on life after his accident but whatever it is it’s definitely working for him. I stepped away from him and his writings for a while only because it seemed like he had lost his focus on his stories, there was a lot of rambling and certain points like they weren’t going anywhere but once I got a hold of “Full Dark, No Stars” and read it I knew he was back and he’s been knocking them out of the park ever since. “Under the Dome”, “11/22/63”, “Joyland” and “Doctor Sleep (his sequel to “The Shining) are all incredible. “Under the Dome” was the longest out of all of them and I could not put it down. It seems, also, that he has taken a few steps back from horror. The books I just mentioned are very dark, bleak and somewhat creepy but I wouldn’t call them just horror. It’s too simple of a description. Same with his latest release, “Revival”, while it is dark and has some cool and creepy Lovecraftian elements to it I would not simply put it in the horror genre.
King knows how to make his characters very likeable and easy to sympathize or at least feel for. He does that with the narrator and main character, Jamie Morton and the preacher turned “lightening man”, Charles Danny Jacobs that Jamie looked up to as a child. Jamie takes you through his life from when he was just six years old up to his adult years, describing the simple days he had and all the horrific moments he experienced. King makes Jamie very relatable to the reader with those everyday moments like eating choc-straw-van ice cream with his family, the kiss he had with his first and true love, Astrid under the bleachers or the very first time he played rhythm guitar onstage in front of everyone at the high school dance. It’s done so effortlessly and naturally it just takes you right into that world.
The buildup to the darkness that I was talking about is very gradual. King does it very subtly but it is definitely there and it’s not until you’re in this world does it hit you. That’s his trick, that’s how he gets you. He waits until you’re all nice and settled and then he grabs you. He has you and there’s nothing you can do about it except ride it out til the end. Its fucking genius and I love it. Some would argue that the ending (don’t worry I won’t give it away) is too unbelievable, too much of a nightmare. But there is a thin line that separates the nightmare from reality, the horror from ordinary life. Who’s to say what’s believable and what isn’t? You decide for yourself.
-Kat Von B
“No Regrets: A Rock n’ Roll Memoir”
Written by: Ace Frehley
Co-written by: Joe Layden and John Ostrosky
Being a KISS fan for many, many years and especially of Ace Frehley and Peter Criss I knew I had to get “No Regrets” when I ran I ran across it at a used bookstore for a mere six bucks. I’m really glad I did because this is a fantastic tell all book about his life that’s done with wit, charm and a wicked sense of humor. Ace writes with a relaxed, conversational to that makes you feel like you’re right there talking with him. He holds himself accountable with the choices he made with booze and drugs and admits that his life was an out of control wreck when he wasn’t onstage being rockstar. It’s a very honest recollection of his years in and out of KISS.
Even before he was playing music Ace was running around with gangs in his hometown in the Bronx. Just another kid destined to never leave his hometown. But it was music that truly fueled his dreams. Wowed by arena rock bands such as The Who, Cream and Jimi Hendrix Ace knew that’s what he wanted. He wanted the giant audience, the girls screaming his name, the lights and special effects, he wanted the whole thing. “No Regrets” is chock full of stories about he hung with Jerry Garcia, John Kay from Steppenwolf and not only meeting Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix Experience but also set up his drums onstage at the New York Pop Festival. He talks a lot about his time in KISS; his hilarious appearance on The Tom Snyder Show, how he storms off the set of “KISS Meets the Phantom” and ends up at some random bar in a Los Angeles suburb and his near-death experience during a show in 1976 when he was seized by an electric current while holding onto a metal rail to steady himself with his guitar in his other hand. He was able to break free but if he hadn’t he most certainly died from electrocution. He also talks a little about Freheley’s Comet but the majority of his book has to do with his drug and alcohol addiction where had many near fatal incidents, one that particularly stands out is the infamous police chase through the Bronx where he was going 100 miles an hour in his Delorian…and going the wrong way.
All of his stories are touching and insightful and if you’ve been through addiction that you can definitely relate to what he’s talking about. I really enjoyed reading “No Regrets” and have a newfound respect for Ace. Having to battle drugs and alcohol and your demons is not an easy task to do, some people are never able to. But Ace conquered all of that and moved on to living a really great life which he deserves. This an open and honest book that will inspire you to go after your dreams and not let anything or anyone get in your way.
Black Knight: Ritchie Blackmore
By Jerry Bloom
This well-written, well-researched biography on the most elusive and mysterious master guitarist was first published in 2005. It is the most complete and detailed overview of Blackmore’s life and work that I’ve yet discovered. For this Mr. Bloom earns high praise.
Ritchie Blackmore is one of my top favorite guitarists and performers, going back to my early teenage years when I discovered Rainbow and shortly afterward Deep Purple. He is a thrilling, unpredictable performer onstage and his guitar work is awe-inspiring.
The man was always an enigma; quiet, intense and brooding, always dressed in black with his signature buckled pilgrim hat atop his head, always telling different made up stories to reporters so that no one would know what the truth was of his life or gain any insights into his opinions or feelings. Blackmore is the type who would tell an outrageous bullshit story or an obvious joke but do it with an absolute poker face and nobody would catch on. It would all be printed as serious and meanwhile Ritchie would be howling with laughter inside. That is part of what makes ‘Black Knight’ so valuable, as Bloom does a great job at sifting through the rumors, myths, legends, and lies to get at the true story of this important figure in rock history, and he uses numerous people close to the subject to accomplish this.
Blackmore is such an important figure in hard rock because he is and has always been amongst the greatest guitarists in the world, yet is strangely somehow underrated in the mainstream. He pioneered the adapting of classical guitar into a hard rock context; a style that would be highly influential to younger players coming up behind him, especially in the 1980’s era of the “shredding guitar heroes”. He was ahead of his time. Last but not least one cannot speak of Blackmore’s playing without mention of speed. He plays with such mind-blowing speed and does so with amazing precision, clarity, and fluidity. But what is most important is that he doesn’t just shred. He doesn’t ever play fast simply because he can. He always plays for the song. The song is what is important. This makes him a better composer and more professional than many who walk in his footsteps. His solos are finely composed to fit the music in both melody and mood.
The chapters covering the early part of Blackmore’s career were quite illuminating as I knew nothing of his pre-Deep Purple years. He’d gone pro at the young age of 17, leaving school (which he’d hated and had never done well), to work as session guitarist for the legendary producer Joe Meek. He played on dozens of singles as well as toured with Jerry Lee Lewis, Screaming Lord Sutch, and Gene Vincent. Not a bad way to kick off one’s career, a career that would peak in the early 1970’s as Deep Purple rose to become one of the biggest acts in the world, primarily enjoying massive success in America (mostly thanks to the classics ‘Machine Head’ and ‘Made in Japan’), selling millions of records and headlining stadiums. Purple’s shows were characterized by lengthy jams involving musical duels between Ritchie and organist Jon Lord and often ended with a ritualized guitar sacrifice. Here is a particularly descriptive passage from the book of a DP show as viewed from the crowd: “All the instruments rocked away and each musician forced it to the limits. It became evident there and then that this mysterious thin man in black was rocking out not only with the guitar in the most unlikely positions but in impossible ways no one had ever dreamed of before, not even Hendrix. During the closing number ‘Mandrake Root’, the guitarist emerged from the wings, then unstrapped the guitar and threw it down. Thereupon, he stood on it, actually playing music, not feedback. From our seats it appeared he was fretting with one foot and somehow picking with the other. Picking the guitar up, he proceeded to play what I can only describe as flute-like music. He then unloaded a flurry of notes that sounded like a machine gun, which taunted the organist who repeated the notes in kind…This was the greatest demonstration of creative energy output I’d ever experienced. [Ritchie] approached the mic stand and sawed the guitar back and forth on the shaft and then tied it to the stand with his shoulder strap, before slapping the machine head so that it began to spin. He left the stage and the house lights came up on an abandoned stage, the rest of the band having left during all of this. An announcer walked on, and over our grateful adulation shouted “From England! Deep Purple!” All about me people lauded the set; it was not only the greatest group I’d ever seen, it was the greatest entertainment ever. I sat winded; my senses had been pulverized.”
One of my personal favorite anecdotes, which is recounted in detail in the book, is also available to see and hear for yourself on the DP ‘California Jam ‘74’ DVD’, where you will see an angry Ritchie Blackmore destroy a television camera with his guitar, blow up his amp with gasoline and explosives and in the process nearly set half the stage on fire, destroy his guitar and throw it, along with the amp head and cabinet from the stage, then escape by helicopter one step ahead of authorities (the band were fined heavily later for the damages).
I was most interested to delve into the chapters dealing with the early days of Rainbow, which I still insist were one the great rock bands of their time, or of any time. The lineup of Ronnie James Rio, Cozy Powell, Bob Daisley, Don Airey, and Blackmore were top-of-the line. Unfortunately the lineup was short-lived, as all of Ritchie’s lineups are. There’s always been a joke amongst his peers that Ritchie changes bands like most people change socks. It’s something that’s always boggled my mind; the fact that he puts together players that are so good not only individually but as a unit, that mesh so well to create a certain sound, only to dismantle it seemingly on a whim. He is odd, difficult to understand, quite possibly a genius, and for sure as eccentric as they come.
This book is full of outrageous tales, funny tales, all fascinating and all recounted with loving detail and great thought to time and place. This is a fantastic, and of course, unauthorized, labor of love by a longtime devotee.
-Michael S. Falconer
Big Ass Spider
Directed By: Mike Mendez
When a giant alien spider escapes from a military lab, (isn’t that always the case? It either manages to escape or the military/government somehow “loses the alien creature), it’s up to a team of scientists, an exterminator and his sidekick to kill it before it destroys the city of Los Angeles.
Not since “Eight Legged Freaks” have I had this much fun watching a movie. Greg Gunberg (played by Alex Mathis) the exterminator and Jose (played by Lombardo Boyar) the security sidekick is hilarious, charming and extremely likable. You can tell they are friends on and off the screen; they have a lot of fun with their parts and just click together. The banter between them is relaxed, flows really well and is just very funny. “How am I going to help you? Like a Robin helps the Batman”.
I am completely anti-spider, they freak me out, “Arachnophobia” scared the shit out of me when I saw it in the theatre but when it comes to films like “Eight Legged Freaks” and “Big Ass Spider” I can get into t and have fun because not only because of the characters but the spiders are so ridiculously huge it’s hard to take seriously so all I can do is laugh. The spider starts out as the size of one of those Alien face huggers and slowly emerges into King Kong sized proportions and scaling up the side of a structure that’s close to the size of the Empire State Building.
Unlike a lot of the SyFy movies we see today where the effects are super cheesy and make the movie look campy and silly they’re actually really good here. Mike Mendez does a fantastic job directing and obviously enjoyed doing it. The characters draw you into the film; the blue collared worker with a hero complex, the goofy partner, the military team who just want this over and done with, they all entertain you and make you laugh.
As far as B horror movies go this one is great. Not one to be on your regular rotation maybe but if you’re in the mood for some silly and scary fun then I highly recommend Big Ass Spider!
Released: November 16, 1988
- 1. Leprosy
- 2. Born Dead
- 3. Forgotten Past
- 4. Left to Die
- 5. Pull the Plug
- 6. Open Casket
- 7. Primitive Ways
- 8. Choke On It
I remember being a junior in high school and hearing Death for the first time. A friend of mine had just gotten their second album “Leprosy” on cassette and told me that I needed to listen to it immediately. I was already pretty familiar with the death metal scene from being a fan of Obituary, Napalm Death, Morbid Angel and many others. I kind of considered myself an expert on the matter but was not prepared what was to come when I put the tape into my walkman. As soon as Chuck Schuldiner ripped through with his death metal screams on the opening title track I knew that death metal had been taken to whole other level. The guitars shredded on every single track, the drums stayed at a neck-breaking speed but there were catchy hooks and grooves throughout as well and Chuck’s vocals were just insane. I gave the tape to my friend, immediately bought a copy of my own and listened to it over and over again.
Although they are only a year apart you can hear a significant difference between their first album, “Scream Bloody Gore” and “Leprosy”. “SBG” is rawer and way faster but the guitar is thinner, to me not quite as interesting as on “Leprosy” and it’s not as well produced. “Leprosy” is taken down a notch on the speed level, there are definitely some fast-paced riffs and drumming but it’s not straight through like “SBG” was. But this album is thicker (which is partly due to the additional guitarist Rick Ross who gives some diversity to the album as well), heavier and the production is much better than on the first album. As I said before there are catchy hooks and grooves with the guitar and drums that keeps the tracks interesting and captures the attention of the listener. It’s more technical and inventive and shows that Death was willing to grow with their sound.
One of the highlights on the album, for me anyway, is the opening title track. It starts off with nice mid-tempo pace before it rips wide open with Chuck’s viciousness and then gets kicked off into high gear. “Forgotten Past” is another one that is truly brutal with monstrous riffs and fantastic solo. “Pull the Plug” is a classic that’s filled with a morbid atmosphere and grotesqueness that makes it truly awesome. “Open Casket” is also excellent; the tempo changes are really well done. Switching back and forth between a mid-tempo almost doomy pace to full on beast mode makes it one of the more technical tracks on here. The hyper fast “Choke on It” is a perfect ending to the album.
“Leprosy” is one that has lasted through the test and decays of time and still stands strong today. It is one of the best metal experiences I was honored enough to have back in the eighties. I was lucky enough to see them a few times playing at The Omni in Oakland, California and actually got to meet Chuck and I can say that he was one of the nicest and most down to earth musicians I have met in a long time. We need more like him in the metal scene today. If you do not have “Leprosy” as part of your death metal catalog then you need to go out and by it immediately so you can experience it for yourself.
Released: May 25, 1983
- 1. Stand Up and Shout
- 2. Holy Diver
- 3. Gypsy
- 4. Caught in the Middle
- 5. Don’t Talk to Strangers
- 6. Straight Through the Heart
- 7. Invisible
- 8. Rainbow in the Dark
- 9. Shame on the Night
What could possibly be said about Dio that hasn’t be said before? When you hear the name you automatically think of dragons, wizards and soaring upon the wings of a demon as Tenacious D so aptly put it. They have been respected, admired and paid tribute to by musicians and fans alike from all over the world. Ronnie James Dio’s vocals were so powerful and amazing they soared above and beyond anything you heard before. When he sadly lost his battle against stomach cancer the great loss was felt all across the metal community. I was lucky enough to see him play with Heaven and Hell in 2008 along with Testament, Motorhead and Judas Priest. It was such an incredible show and one that I’ll always keep in my memory fondly.
I’ve been a fan of Ronnie ever since the days of Rainbow and Black Sabbath but when I discovered Dio I was completely blown away. My brother gave me copy of “Holy Diver” on cassette and even with the crappy recording quality (it was the eighties, we didn’t have much) I was instantly hooked. The titletrack is one of the most recognizable tunes and a classic but honestly every song has something great to offer. From the rockin “Stand Up and Shout” to the grooviness of “Gypsy” and Invisible”. The melodies of “Caught in the Middle” and “Straight through the Heart” and the catchiness of “Rainbow in the Dark”. To the ballad-like “Don’t Talk to Strangers” and the visibly more doomy metal of “Shame on the Night”. There is no form of pretention, all this album offers is a set of really good songs and it does it very well. The differences between each song is what catches it for me, the slow build up on “Don’t Talk to Strangers” the heaviness on “Shame on the Night”, the melodic keyboards throughout “Rainbow in the Dark” and the guitar melodies behind Dio’s vocals on “Caught in the Middle”. There is something for everyone on here. The drumming is incredible as well. Vinnie Appice knows his stuff when it comes to metal. He plays his heart out and backs up every track with superb precision.
“Holy Diver” is a milestone in the metal genre, crafted from a basic love of rock, metal and music in general. Dio gives you the sounds of shredding guitar, chugging bass, wailing vocals and killer drumbeats. If you are an old fan of Dio then this will give you great memories of those awesome days of the early metal scene. If you are a new fan then this will give you an idea of how powerful metal was back then before it got all pretentious and wimpy. Either way this album is more than worthy of your attention and being a part of your music collection.
Super Duper Alice Cooper
Directed By: Sam Dunn and Scott McFayden
Before there was Lady Gaga, Marilyn Manson or even KISS there was Alice Cooper. Born in Detroit in 1948 as Vincent Damon Furnier it wasn’t until the late sixties did he transform into Alice Cooper.
Vincent was a very straight-laced, all-American preacher’s son who went to church every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night as well as all day on Sunday. But music was something that Vincent always wanted to do ever since he saw The Beatles on TV for the first time. Starting out with bands like The Earwigs and The Spiders; Alice Cooper came into formation after he found out that was his name in a past life and was burned at the stake. It not only came into formation as a band but also as his alter ego and became notorious for explosive theatrics featuring live snakes, horror movie stunts and mock guillotine executions.
With the limitless amount of archival material and the way it’s presented makes “Super Duper Alice Cooper” really interesting and entertaining to watch. You get a really honest telling from Alice about his alcohol and drug abuse. Never glorifying or boasting but just giving us the straight story. Though it’s a serious subject and a dark part of his life it’s approached with some light-heartedness that lets you know it was in the past and he was able to return triumphantly.
Scott McFayden and Sam Dunn do an excellent job directing this film. Expanding on the story that fans of Alice Cooper are already well familiar with. Covering the bases as well as uncovering some new ones. His bout with his cocaine abuse has never really been touched or mentioned, even in his own book. One horrific clip from a 1980s interview with Tom Snyder shows Alice near death obvious from the ravages of his coke use. The vintage still photos are brought to life with the magic of motion graphics and the usual style of interviewing is replaced with a more animated style of storytelling. The 3D illusion is very effective here as is the 1920s style silent film clips. The movie also incorporates a lot of great commentary from the likes of Elton John, Dee Snyder, Iggy Pop and John Lydon. The use of Elton John’s song “Everyone Loves Alice” is also a nice touch.
As a documentary, th
“Lemmy: 49% Motherfucker, 51% Sonofabitch”
Director: Greg Olliver, Wes Orshoski
In “Lemmy: 49% Motherfucker, 51% Sonofabitch” a rockumentary about the godfather of rock n’roll done by Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski there is honestly nothing but kind words said about him, From punks to metalheads to people like Peter Hook of New Order, there is nothing but respect given to the rock legend. Even the members of Hawkind, Lemmy’s former band who kicked him out during a tour in Canada because of his drug use, shared nothing but good memories that they had playing with him. And why not? As outstanding as his presence may appear, he genuinely seems like a really cool, down to earth type of guy to hang out with.
Reverend Horton Heat described Lemmy as “Black Bart meets Mad Max” which I totally agree as his fashion sense goes somewhere between apocalyptic cowboy and Nazi SS officer but as intimidating as the rock n’ roll cowboy may appear he is very approachable in the documentary and is just as happy sitting quietly playing the video trivia machine game at a local bar as he is playing up on stage.
Going beyond the traditional rockumentary, Lemmy quietly takes the filmmakers into his tiny L.A apartment that is packed with so much pop culture and historical memorabilia; it almost puts “Hoarders” to shame. When asked what the most precious thing to him there is, he declares that it is his son. Giving us the sweet and sentimental side of Lemmy, we get to see that there is much more to him than sex drugs and rock n’ roll.
Though the title, says “49% Motherfucker, 51% Sonofabitch, Lemmy still has a lot of heart.
is really tells Alice’s story in a charming and honest way. How Alice Cooper consumes Vincent Furnier to the point of threatening to swallow him whole completely gives the necessary emphasis of how he nearly self-destructed. The story of his comeback and how he found himself again is really inspiring. He paved the way for past musicians and still does today. “Super Duper Alice Cooper is a must see!
Aussie director James Wan has carved out quite a nice little niche for himself in the horror community, mostly making films which deal with hauntings and/or possession. He put himself on the map in 2004 with ‘Saw’ and has since gone on to make ‘Dead Silence’, ‘Death Sentence’ (both 2007), ‘Insidious’ (2010), and 2013’s ‘Insidious Chapter 2’ and ‘The Conjuring’.
Right away I loved the look and feel of ‘the Conjuring’. It is nicely shot and leisurely paced, taking its time to let you get to know the perron family, Carolyn and Roger (played with great chemistry by Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston), and their 5 daughters who range in ages from infant to mid-teen. The story takes place in 1971, when the Perrons move into a dilapidated farm house in Rhode Island. It is a beautiful piece of land and a large house set on the shore of a lake. Anyone would find it attractive, but there is also something creepy about the environment as well: a looming, unsettling darkness below the surface that the filmmakers convey subtly and expertly. It turns out the property has a Satanic curse on it; a demon and a few crazed ghosts roam the night!
I absolutely loved the first half of this film. The scenes depicting the haunting phenomenon are done realistically and with conviction. It isn’t over the top, but subtle, at least at first, and all of it is very scary. There are several highly effective scenes of great tension and freakish scares, my favorite being where a gust of wind blows a sheet from a clothesline, it floats a few feet and hits something solid but which cannot be seen, wrapping upon the obstacle to reveal that there is a ghost standing there in the yard. You can for a moment see the entire outline of a person, then the sheet flies away on the wind up, up, up into the air and blows back and forth before landing on the second floor bedroom window, covering it. As the gust dies down the sheet falls away from the window to reveal the ghost of a gruesome old hag staring down into the yard. She turns and walks out of sight. This is but one example of the imaginative scares at work here.
Eventually, at their wits end, the Parrons call renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (played convincingly with warmth and charm by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) to help rid the homestead of these malevolent entities. The Warrens are most well-known for their involvement in the ‘Amityville Horror’ case. The Perron case was the one before it and according to them was the most violent, scary, and dangerous of all their cases. I’m not sure how much of it I believe but as a movie it is frightening and tension-filled. There are several utterly unnerving and freakish moments involving a possessed doll that play out in a side story. ‘The Conjuring’ is a much better film than ‘The Amityville Horror’. I read the book of ‘Amityville’ as well and was not impressed. It isn’t a good book, nor is it scary, and it didn’t go any further in convincing me of the validity of the case. So where does that leave the Warrens? Are they charlatans out to make a buck? I don’t know much about them, but I’d say probably yes. Lorraine claims to be in possession of a piece of the “true cross”. I don’t know about that one, Lorraine!
Unfortunately ‘The Conjuring’ goes wrong in the final third, which is quite frustrating because it’s great up until then. But the final act and the climactic moments of the film I found to be a real disappointment. I was bored with it and it was not scary. All it had built up to slipped away just like that; as air out of a balloon. It was thoroughly predictable. The whole time I had that feeling like I’d been there before many times, and only recently. I have. It’s the usual possession and exorcism, words chanted from a book while bodies and objects fly around the room. All the typical clichés we see in possession movies, of which there’s been a lot lately. The white contact lenses, growling voice, jerky convulsive movements: it’s all here, and for me seems out of place in this movie. Okay, so maybe it is what happened in real life and they are showing it all to us how it was, and then who am I to make these complaints? Alright, fine. So assuming for a moment it’s all one hundred percent true, bottom line is that as a movie I still feel the same way about the last 1/3 and as a real story I’m shocked and blown away. How does that sound?
I still recommend seeing ‘The Conjuring’ for its killer first 2/3, but that final act sank it for me. Too bad. Could’ve been a great one.
Written by Richard Rothstein and directed by Dick Richards, suspense-thriller ‘Death Valley’ was made in 1982 and features the debut performance of young Peter Billingsley, who would star in Bob Clark’s classic ‘A Christmas Story’ one year later.
Horror films from the 1970’s and 1980’s are my favorites. I make a point to see as many as I can and I collect the ones I like the most on Blu Ray or DVD. Somehow this film went right by me. Not only had I never seen it but I hadn’t even heard of it until I ran across the Scream Factory Blu Ray. I was intrigued by this film that eluded me for over 30 years, so I bought it immediately.
The other aspect which lured me in was the strong cast comprised of Wilford Brimley, Paul LeMat, Catherine Hicks, and Stephen McHattie (as well as the aforementioned Peter Billingsley).
The plot follows a divorcee’ (Hicks), her son (Billingsley), and boyfriend (LeMat) on a trip through the stunningly beautiful and mysterious Death Valley. It begins as an ordinary vacation but turns deadly when they stumble across the scene of a murder mere moments after it was committed and the killer is still in the vicinity; watching. This man killed several people years ago and is back at it now. The group suddenly find themselves pursued by a maniac through the deserts and ghost towns of the southwest.
This film does a great job capturing the scenic beauty of Death Valley and the performances are fine all around, especially a very creepy Stephen McHattie in his turn as the frightening killer. You can sense a current of barely controlled violence just beneath the surface whenever he is onscreen and it is unnerving. You get the feeling he could lash out and strike like a rattlesnake at any moment. It makes you nervous just watching him sit and have a conversation with another character. It’s a terrific portrayal of a homicidal maniac.
The movie is a bit slow in parts and slightly too long, but it uses the time to develop characters and build story. They don’t make films like this much anymore. The blood effects are weak and the scares are a bit soft, as is the climax (more PG than R). It could’ve used more suspense and tension in the build-up and a stronger payoff. Bloodier kill scenes might have increased the sense of danger as well. These complaints certainly do not ruin the experience for me, but I must be honest: the film feels very restrained, as though the producers were aiming at a television audience and not the gore-obsessed slasher fiends who were filling theaters in 1982.
I enjoyed ‘Death Valley’ and I say it’s worth a viewing. It kept my attention through 3 viewings (so far) with gorgeous cinematography, strong dialog, and fine acting. It is a good thriller that could have been a great thriller if only they’d have thrown caution to the wind and gone edgier, rougher, and more potent instead of aiming for the middle of the road.
-Mike S. Falconer
Directed By: Juno Mak
Back in the eighties Chinese cinema brought in their own version of classic monster movies, mixing the folk tales of “hopping vampires” with action, martial arts and humor that proved to be very successful. As homage to that time, Juno Mak brings that creative style back with his 2013 film “Rigor Mortis”. Starring Chin Siu-Ho who was also in the 1985 movie “Mr. Vampire”. But “Rigor Mortis” is different from those movies from the eighties in the sense that there is very little humor here and just straight ahead horror. Chin plays the role of a despairing actor who’s been defeated by the business and is on the verge of suicide when he moves into the detoriating apartment complex.
The story then splits off into several different subplots, one being a murder-suicide that happened in one of the apartment’s years ago and continuously haunts one of the tenants who witnessed it. Another is of a kindly old seamstress who, after her husband is murdered, resurrects him using black magic that ends with very dark results. There is more involved but those are the two main plots that are focused on. This leads to Chin and his reluctant partner, Yau (played by Anthony Chan who was Mr. Vampire IV) having to battle against a crew of paranormal adversaries.
This film has such a dreamlike quality to it that I fell in love with from the first time I watched it. The way it was shot is just perfection. I love the use of the hopping vampires who actually lunge more than they do hop. The film itself is very dark but emotional and personal as well; the relationships between the characters are intimate, sincere and come across very touching.
I can’t recommend “Rigor Mortis” enough, this is not just your typical vampire movie, there is so much more involved. But in order for you know what I’m talking about you’re just going to have to check it out for yourself
-Kat Von B
Directed By: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
I had been putting off seeing this movie since it was released in 2011, mostly due to my love and fondness for the John Carpenter version. I realize that this is indeed not a remake but in fact a prequel…and still…I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I finally broke down and watched a few days ago, not really expecting anything and unfortunately I was not so pleasantly unsurprised.
Not to say that this is a bad movie, it’s not, but it’s not a great movie either. It’s….good. It didn’t leave me wanting to watch it again; it just left me feeling indifferent. It left me with a flat line, so I watched it again to see if it would invoke any different feelings out of me. If maybe I could catch something that I didn’t see before. Nope, still nothing.
What I love about John Carpenter’s movie is that from beginning to end I am completely wrapped up in the movie. There is so much tension, paranoia, anger and fear it’s almost claustrophobic. It is claustrophobic actually. It makes me feel for the characters and sit there hoping that they make through the night. With this one I just didn’t care. I didn’t feel involved with the story or characters and it didn’t matter one way or another if they lived or died.
I am going to give props to the fact that they used John Carpenter’s music in the film, I did think that was very cool. Plus I liked that they had the ending tie right back into the beginning of the original movie. I also can’t deny that the alien monsters are pretty damn creepy in this version. So there are some plus sides but unfortunately not enough to make this a classic.
Call me old fashioned but I miss that dirty, gritty feel that movies from the 70’s and 80’s had. The characters were real, believable. You felt for them and connected with them. They weren’t just a bunch of pretty models that spouted off sarcastic one-liners and catch phrases like today.
But I won’t completely bash it, I’m just going to out saying that they did a pretty decent job with it. It’s not something I would recommend going out and buying but if it’s on cable one on of those rainy afternoons where you just want to curl up on the couch and watch a horror film then I definitely would say that this is a fun one to watch.
-Kat Von B
“Sepultura and Les Tambours du Bronx: Metal Veins- Alive at Rock in Rio”
Release Date: 09/16/14
Eagle Rock Entertainment
- We’ve Lost You
- Firestarter (Prodigy Cover)
- Structure Violence
- Big Hands
- Roots Bloody Roots
In celebration of their amazing thirty-year career, Brazilian/American thrash metallers have paired up with the French percussion group les Tambour Du Bronx to offer a new live offering in September entitled, “Sepultura and Les Tambours du Bronx: Metal Veins- Alive at Rock in Rio”, that will be made available on DVD and bluray as well as on CD. Les Tambours is well known for their beating on 225 litter barrels with beech wood bats or even axe handles and put together with Sepultura’s Brazilian death/thrash metal sound makes for a spectacular performance.
From the beginning you can feel the raw energy from the band and from the audience as well. This is why I love live albums, as great a lot of studio albums are, there’s nothing like the feeling of electricity you get from listening to a live album, next best thing to actually being there.
Starting with “Kaiowas” you feel the heaviness and the rhythm of the percussion, there’s a nice groove to it and you hear Sepultura showing off their Brazilian roots. “Refuse/Resist” is a classic from the Chaos A.D album with some amazing guitar riffs and Derrick Green really brings in a new level of brutality to the vocals. Les Tambour du Bronx comes into the spotlight with “Delirium” and “Fever”, rocking the stage and the audience with their industrial style drumming. I’ve never been a huge Prodigy fan and I thought their song “Firestarter” was decent until I heard it 25,000 times on the radio and got sick of it, but I really dig the version that Sepultura did with it. It’s much heavier, much darker and they put their own style into it and make it work. “Roots Bloody roots” is a perfect ending to the live release, violent and brutal that puts you into headbanging mode from beginning to end.
I’m already a huge fan of this album, I’ve like Sepultura since the days of “Morbid Visions” and “Beneath the Remains”, I kind of dropped off after “Chaos A.D” but still look up to them as they are one of the pioneers of death metal in South America. I’m glad to have picked this up and hear that they are still going strong. I loved hearing some of those classic tracks and makes me want to go back and revisit their older albums and invest in some of their newer stuff as well. Sepultura has grown and progressed and brought in different elements all the while holding fast to their death metal roots and I respect that a lot. Highly recommend this one to Sepultura and death metal fans alike.
-Kat Von B
A Skeletal Domain
2014 Metal Blade
Cannibal Corpse has always put out consistently solid Death Metal albums. ‘A Skeletal Domain’ is no exception. It boasts everything fans have come to love and expect: brutal music and entertainingly gory lyrics. This band is a bloody good time, and I do mean bloody. Many of CC’s contemporaries from the 1980’s and early 90’s Florida Death Metal scene progressed into tackling themes of real world horror such as war, politics, and social injustices. Either that or they delved into spiritual and mystical matters. Like AC/DC, Cannibal Corpse stayed the course, taking a “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach. Their style and artwork has changed little. The covers are not as shockingly disgusting as they used to be, but honestly how many times can you repeat that and shock people? It becomes tiresome and loses its impact after a while. Those early covers served their purposes.
‘High Velocity Impact Spatter’ lets you know what you’re in for right off. It is a short crushing burst of rapid-fire drums, guttural growls, and grinding guitars that gets your blood pumping. ‘Sadistic Embodiment’ comes on with cymbal crashes and a flailing skitzo lead up front, sounding very Slayer-like for a while. ‘Kill or Become’ crawls slow and sinister, reveling in its heavy malevolence (something CC do so well) before exploding like a landmine.
The tracks on this album are all aided by great production which magnifies the bass drums and lower-end tones in each instrument and the vocals, creating a heaviness you can almost feel as well as hear. At first I was thinking “where’s the bass guitar?”, then I turned it up loud and that mean rumble suddenly appeared from under the loudly mixed guitars. This was recorded to be played loud. Do so!
A couple tracks have melodic, almost Amon Amarth-type passages in them which come and go to keep things interesting, such as ‘The Murderer’s Pact’ and ‘Vector of Cruelty’. Some of my favorite tracks are ‘Funeral Cremation’ and ‘Kill or Become’, with its signature line “fire up the chainsaw, cut their fucking heads off, if you want to live you have to kill or become”, and the amazing title track which sounds like you are being assaulted by a dozen guitars from all sides.
This is yet another strong release from Cannibal Corpse. Solid. The bottom line is: if you like them, you’ll like this; if you don’t, you won’t.
Norma Evangelium Diaboli
- Sleeping Throats of the Antichrist
- Plagues of Forgiveness
- Cadaver Synod
- Unearthed Veins
- Burning in Damnation Fires
- Silence of the Great Martyrs
Teitanblood know how to keep it simple when it comes to deciding on album titles. The simplicity in the title “Death” allows the listener to conjure up their own images and fears that death brings up while taking in the sound and atmosphere of the album. To say that this album is a hefty slab of death metal is a major understatement. “Death” is an incredible journey into the ghastly world of darkness and shadows. Teitanblood still carry their signature bloodcurdling sound they delivered on “Seven Chalices” but have upped the intensity with brand new energy.
Not too many bands have been able to master such a great production job in this genre. A lot of times they will have the production fit to their style, that ultra-condensed, low-fi sound that ends up sounding really muffled and all over the place. Very have done it as right as Teitanblood has on “Death”. When it’s needed the guitars offer an impenetrable wall of noise and other times the album grooves with riffs and harmonic atmosphere. It flows with a consistency that makes the weave in the album unbreakable. Listen to “Cadaver Synod” and you’ll know what I’m talking about. From the rolling waves of brutality, to the dark chants and haunting ambiance they have this down perfect. It’s not overwhelming or over glorified. It’s balanced out just right. The murderous three part guitar riffs alongside the drums turns this track into an experience that will have the listener feel like they’re entering a whole other dimension. “Sleeping Throats of the Antichrist” and “Silence of the Great Martyrs” are swathed in distortion with guitars and percussion building mesmerizing entanglements that remain hypnotic throughout.
Upon the release of this album it was announced that “death” would correct the misconception that death metal is music. I agree with the thought that death metal is not music. At least this isn’t. This isn’t just a few riffs put together with some blastbeats and low growls. This is structured and relentless. It has order and disarray. It doesn’t feel like just another death metal album. It blurs the lines of black and death metal bringing them together to create something entirely new. This isn’t a glossy over-produced mess of modern metal or new metal that we’ve been hearing nowadays. This is a natural progression of what’s to come. This…is Death.
-Kat Von B
“Redeemer of Souls”
- Redeemer of Souls
- Halls of Valhalla
- Sword of Damocles
- March of the Damned
- Down in Flames
- Hell and Back
- Cold Blooded
The gods have returned this year bigger and more bad-ass than ever with their latest release “Redeemer of Souls”. Straight ahead classic metal and rock with a power and force that is always refreshing to hear among the sea of bland and unmemorable crap that is passing for music these days. I’m not the only one who feels this way either. “Redeemer” was welcomed with high praise and appreciation from fans all over which for some reason came as a surprise to Halford and the rest of the Priest clan.
I wouldn’t consider this a “comeback” album necessarily but after the departure of K.K Downing there was some concern as to the future of the band but with the release of this album a powerful statement of solidarity was made.
Priest goes back to that classic metal sound with “Dragonaut” and their titletrack; “Halls of Valhalla” show off some excellent craftsmanship where the metal god gives one of his most dynamic performances utilizing his storytelling abilities brilliantly while switching back and forth between his usual power vocals and roaring screams. They continue on with their excellence on “Swords of Damocles” that heavily focuses on heavy guitar and some ripping leads between Glenn Tipton and their new guitarist, Richie Faulkner.
What is really cool about this album is that it touches on pretty much every style the group has used on past albums with possibly the exception of “Turbo”. For example, if you listen to “Hell and Back” or “Crossfire” you’ll catch that deep, bluesy rock and roll they used on their first album “Rocka Rolla”. Very cool way to go back to their roots and keep it refreshing for the listener.
All in all “Redeemer of Souls” is an incredibly strong release from a band who has given some of metal’s greatest and most timeless classics. I highly recommend you give it a listen!
-Kat Von B
Decline and Fall
2014 Avalanche Records
Birmingham’s apocalyptic doom metal/industrial legends Godflesh have issued this new 20-minute dose of suffering and abuse in the form of ‘Decline and Fall’ through 8-string riff master Justin Broadrick’s own label, Avalanche. This is just a taste, for the new full-length album ‘A World Lit By Fire’ arrives on October 7.
‘Decline and Fall’ is important, for it is the first new recording since the reformation of Godflesh in 2010 and the first since their last full-length, 2001’s ‘Hymns’. It contains 4 tracks (the Japanese verion features 2 bonus cuts): ‘Ringer’, ‘Dogbite’, ‘Playing with Fire’, and ‘Decline and Fall’. B.C. Green is back where he belongs on bass guitar and of course Broadrick handles vocals, programming, and his 8-stringer.
This 20-minute block of crushing heaviness is perfect for me as some of the band’s longer albums were a bit too long for my taste. It was all a bit too much after a while. It would wear out my ears and I found it tedious and tiring. With this type of music, better to get in and get out in a short block of time with great songs all around.
As their career went on I must admit that the work of Godflesh lost me after a while, but the early records were amazing. Actually, all the releases were amazing, if simply by virtue of the fact that no one else sounded like them. That band was/is wholly unique. But, I did always prefer the heavier, thicker, more simplistic approach of ‘Godflesh’ (1988), ‘Streetcleaner’ (1989), and ‘Pure’ (1991). Those records were heavy as a ton of bricks and stomp-you-in-the-face angry. I am extremely pleased that ‘Decline and Fall’ is written and performed in much the same style as those early works. The production sound, although updated, also mirrors those early stripped-down albums. The focus is on instrument tones and the ability to use those instruments to devastating effect.
‘Ringer’ fades in with distorted static approaching through the atmosphere before guitars and drum machine drop like bombs with a heavy churning riff that relentlessly grinds to dust all in its wake. ‘Dogbite’ introduces guitar melody atop the thunder, creating a dissonant wave of electrical energy as stomping drums pound the whole thing forward. A dirty, treble-boosted bass opens ‘Playing with Fire’, sounding almost like the bass which opens Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds ‘Tupelo’. The adrenalized repetition of the drum and bass are hypnotic, but not hypnotic in a “put you in a trance” way, more like a “zone you out so you can speed across the outback in a 1976 Interceptor with Wez, Humongus, and his Road Warriors in pursuit” kind of way. ‘Decline and Fall’ is a celebration of pure droning industrial death. It is primal, sweaty, dirty, greasy; a fully mechanized Death Metal weapon with double bass cannons and guitar like a bullwhip laced with razors.
In other words, this E.P. is great. If the upcoming full-length is anything like it then it is going to be a classic.
Box Set, 2001 (Disc 1; demos & unreleased tracks)
By the mid-1970’s KISS had developed a signature sound with which they would always be associated, represented by material found on seminal albums such as ‘Destroyer’ (1976), ‘Love Gun’ (1977), and ‘Rock n’ Roll Over’ (1976). A decade later when they were making watered-down, uninspired, half-hearted spandex poser rock records such as ‘Lick It Up’ and ‘Asylum’ for the Bon Jovi/MTV crowd, the 1970’s would in hindsight become “the glory days”, and they would always live in the shadow of those days no matter how vociferously they’d deny it, going so far as to downplay the roles of Peter and Ace. But they would end up inadvertently admitting that those were in fact the glory days and the original line-up was the best one, by doing a reunion in 1996 with the old show, the costumes, and the 70’s tunes.
One thing I must take a moment to note: in 1982, the twilight year of the band’s makeup and costume era, they released ‘Creatures of the Night’. It was a really strong record and as close as KISS ever got to full-on metal. It was catchy but heavy. The drums sounded absolutely massive. ‘War Machine’ and ‘I Love it Loud’ are the two best songs KISS wrote in the 1980’s. Unfortunately, instead of signaling a bold new direction for the band, this thrilling album was a one-off, and stands as one of the best and most unique KISS ever did. They instead chose to go in a totally generic and predictable direction, becoming more flaccid with each release.
If you’re of a certain age chances are you grew up with KISS. ‘Alive’ was my first record when I was 7 (look for my review of that in the classics section) and I became an obsessed KISS fan up through ‘Dynasty’ when I was 11 in 1979. Like many others, as I grew into my teenage years I became very disappointed with them. I moved on and discovered new bands, but I always loved, and continue to love the KISS of “the glory days”.
I have recently discovered that the songs which defined the signature KISS sound of the ‘70’s is only half the story.
There’s a small shop near my house called The Devil’s Workshop. It started in 1969 and began as a head shop. Over the years it expanded into selling shirts, posters, collectables, jewelry, and all sorts of odds and ends. It’s still open today and is still run by the same guy who started it in ’69. I’ve been buying things there since 1984, when my mom took me in and I bought a skull ring like the one Keith Richards wears. In the spring of 2014 I went there to find that the guy had a KISS ‘Box Set’ (2001) all taken apart so you could either buy the whole thing or buy it in pieces. I bought discs 1 and 3 for 10 bucks each with plans to go back for #2 later (I don’t want disc 4 as it covers the years of the band’s career I am not at all fond of)
I wasn’t sure what to make of these discs at first. I have ‘Alive’ (arguably their best album) and ‘Gold’, which is basically ‘Double Platinum’ expanded to 40 tracks; it has everything you really need in it. So what could this box set provide? A lot, as it turns out.
I remember reading in Ace Frehley’s book ‘No Regrets’ where he says the original KISS demos were better than the same material found on the debut album. It made me curious to hear them, which is why I scored these discs. They are packed with demos and unreleased material. I agree with Ace; the demos are great.
Disc 3 features a demo of Gene Simmons’ ‘Radioactive’, a song I never liked. The demo kicks the shit out of the final version found on his 1978 solo album and I actually like it. But I would like to focus mainly on disc 1 (1966-1975), for that is where most of the interesting material is found. There are demo versions of ‘Strutter’, ‘Deuce’, ‘100,000 Years’, ‘Let Me Go, Rock N’ Roll’, and ‘Firehouse’. Also included are unreleased tracks ‘Stop, Look, to Listen’, ‘Leeta’, and ‘Acrobat’. There are 9 classic album tracks taken from the first 3 Kiss releases (‘Black Diamond’, ’Hotter Than Hell’, etc.) and 3 interesting cuts from Gene and Paul’s pre-KISS band, Wicked Lester, including an early version of ‘She’. I prefer the KISS version, as it’s heavy and doomy, strong in its simplicity, but the Wicked Lester version is an interesting listen just the same. It sounds much more Prog-rock as it boasts a JethroTull-like flute and a much more layered, smooth sound with some impressive vocal harmonies. In fact, many of the early demos feature quite nice harmonies (something KISS have never been exactly renowned for).
The drumming on the demos by Peter Criss is commanding. He slams hard, precise, and with an authority that makes these songs rock. It’s odd because his drumming on the records is, for the most part, so reserved and stripped-down, lacking a bit of energy. Here, he kicks like a mule, firing out rolls and cymbal crashes in all directions. He has a real sense for dynamics and a unique style all his own.
On the other end we have Ace helping to breathe life into this very early material. His guitar playing is stellar on every song. These tracks were recorded years before the distractions brought about by fame, money, and frustration that negatively affected his playing (and life). On these demos Ace is ripping it up with energy and passion. It is nothing less than exciting. His solo work is superb, one of my favorites being the one he does in ‘100,000 Years’. It plays out like a composition within the composition. It is lengthy and melodic. The solo in his later song, ‘Shock Me’, came in at #50 in a Guitar Player Magazine poll of the Top 100 Greatest Guitar Solos of All-Time. While I think the ‘Shock Me’ solo is great, it is easily bested by the one in ‘100,000 Years’.
One thing I find funny is that the band history reads (as told by the band and various biographers) that none of their records could properly capture the KISS sound and always lacked power and raw energy. It wouldn’t be until ‘Alive’ that the true sound of the band was captured in all its glory. But this history is not true. They actually had captured it their first time in a studio. These demos serve to highlight even further how the producers of the first 3 albums botched it. Not that the first 3 are bad. They aren’t. I do enjoy listening to them. I’m saying in comparison to that first demo, however, they are pale, thin, and flat sounding.
I’m glad I decided to buy this box set. It showed me another side of KISS I’d not heard in studio recordings and also proved the vital importance of Peter Criss and Ace Frehley to the KISS sound and success despite what Gene and Paul would have you believe. In my eyes there was never any doubt about it, but for anybody who questions: the demos speak for themselves and they are brilliant.
The rarities are interesting and really good tracks, well composed and performed. ‘Stop, Look, to Listen’ especially caught my attention. This one should’ve made it onto the first album. It begins with a build-up on the drums and the band jumps in with down strokes, a chugging riff on top of which Stanley delivers a fine vocal performance warning his woman of the awesomeness she’ll be missing when she leaves him. Ace drops a very Stonesy guitar throughout, even throwing a nice slide hook in there.
‘Leeta’ is an acoustic one, on the slower side, mellow, and is pure Beatles worship. Peter keeps time with a simple snare rim shot and they all throw in on some of those great harmonies I mentioned before. The capper of this one is a piano break. Very nice. I recall in an old interview with Simmons where he had explained how the initial idea for the band was to be a heavier version of the Beatles (an approach Cheap Trick would perfect a few years later and Oasis would then run with in the 1990’s to huge success).
‘Let Me Know’ is pure Boogie-Rock. A good time party tune that’s made to dance to and a lot of fun.
‘Acrobat’ is recorded live, and the quality isn’t too bad. Great guitar riff here on this mostly instrumental tune. The vocals come around late and work well enough with the music however better lyrics would have helped this one.
If you are a fan of the KISS glory days you need this. It’s great stuff and reminds us what a fantastic rock band they were once upon a time; a band of power and passion and raw energy.
From Makeup to Breakup
Written By: Peter Criss
In Peter Criss’s tell-all autobiography, “From Makeup to Breakup”, the original drummer of KISS recounts his nine lives of decadence, depravity and dissolution in and out of the band. The Catman gives a very honest look at his life as a musician, husband, father and person in general.
Starting out with his recollection of the 1994 earthquake that struck the San Fernando Valley about twenty miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, Peter left his apartment while it was happening wearing only sweatpants and a robe with a .357 magnum tucked in his waistband and a wad of cash in hand. He returned to find his apartment completely totaled, feeling devastated and like he had lost everything Peter tried for the first and hopefully last time to take his life. What had saved him was seeing a picture of his daughter, ten years old at the time, sitting on top of his armoire unbroken. He realized that even with everything he had lost he still had his kid.
That is just a prologue in what turns to be a roller coaster ride of a book. Growing up on the streets, Peter did not have an easy life, as he says in his books a lot of those times were violent and depressing. Having to outrun gangs, getting his ass kicked, beaten by nuns at school, no wonder he was desperate to make it as a musician. Through it all his parents were there to give him encouragement to always follow his dream. After playing in many bands with many adventures and mishaps Peter Criss finally landed a gig with a couple local guys who wanted to start a rock n’ roll band, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Thus KISS was born.
The Catman doesn’t hold back on his dislike of Gene and Paul, not mention his feelings of betrayal but he also says back in the day they felt like a band of brothers. An indestructible, unstoppable force that was going to make it all the way to the top. Peter gives full details how Gene always stunk, never showered and was a total pig, how Paul was a complete diva and how they questioned his sexuality several times, how crazy Ace was and that he truly believed he was from another planet but he also takes responsibility for himself. He admits that he was whiny, angry and complaining all the time and completely out of control with drugs and alcohol.
Where Ace holds back on his story about KISS, you get the full picture from Peter’s point of view. It’s a very interesting, honest read and perspective of his life. There are some very touching and funny moments as well as some that will shock the hell out of you.
When you read “From Makeup to Breakup” you get a true sense of what it was like to be part of the hottest band in the world. Of course each member has their own opinion of what happened but I highly recommend you pick up a copy just to see what the Catman has to say!