The Metal Minute Awarded 2009 Best Personal Blog By Metal Hammer Magazine

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween... The Metal Minute is Sojourning to the Crypt For a Spell




A happy and wonderfully creepy Halloween, everyone!

After dozing in and out of The Ghost of Frankenstein last night and turning an hour eight movie into a two hour event from constantly backing it up in a stubborn refusal to miss out, I've come to the realization that I'm just too danged tired these days. Between my day job, which involves an hour commute each way and requires intense concentration at a demanding pace, plus keeping up with the demands of a foster child who until lately has been sleeping soundly, my days are mostly pegged and numbered.

Granted, I had a cool little chat with former Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland last night and Grutle of Enslaved last Saturday, and I should be on the horn with the metal god himself Rob Halford after a reschedule from last week (no matter how many people I've interviewed and how long I've been doing this, there's still a monster thrill hearing the voice of Rob Halford on your voice mail), but that's enough work for the average Joe.

I've always expected more of myself, however, and I've sacrificed sleep, time, and general recharging to accomplish what I have. Unfortunately Papa Bear has been quite grumpy lately in the Van Horn cave now that a little cub is here for an indeterminate amount of time and the baby is simply quite a bit to manage and care for. Thus I need to downtune my frustration and stave the fangs so I can enjoy his charms beyond the hard work.

Of course, like everyone else suffering in this market, the bills pile, the money dwindles, we cut more from the budget, we start selling off things and we apologize to creditors, meanwhile giving our reserves and energy to the new life in our household. Recently someone attempted to pass a counterfeit check in a big purchase we'd conducted, but my suspicions along the way made me investigate it, withhold delivery of the materials and now the feds have been notified. Still, it doesn't help but leave a sour taste in the mouth at the end of the day. Desperate times and all that, but play honorably, you scumbags...

Music is my great healer and let me just say how grateful I am to have parents who understand me so well they showed up with Chinese earlier in the week and for Halloween they brought me a bottle of Merlot (Poe's choice of vino) and the new AC/DC album Black Ice, which has been spun mercilessly. This week I've been uninterested in thinking beyond my required capacity and AC/DC certainly doesn't make you think. Black Ice is all that you've heard and all that you'll expect, with maybe a few Led Zeppelin and Stones twists (you know "Big Jack" has to be in homage to "Jumpin' Jack Flash," particularly Angus Young's melody on the chorus). 15 songs, mostly on repetition but you know what? Damn fucking straight, I need something mindlessly rockin' this week.

A heartfelt rest in peace to my wife's uncle who passed this week. Uncle Allie, you and Uncle Sonny are all class. Give Bing my regards...

Thus, for now, I must briefly retire from The Metal Minute, at least until I can get my affairs into order, my articles turned in, overdue responses addressed and most importantly, my stress level down. Tonight, I hope to not fall asleep on Carpenter's Halloween in my annual holiday tradition and from there, I will move forward.

Please continue to check in; this is not a final death scene. The Metal Minute will continue, only in very sporadic moments until I am back on equilibrium. Look for me in the meantime at Metal Maniacs, AMP, Hails & Horns and Unrestrained magazines, as well as About.com Metal, DVD Review.com and other hidey holes. Be on the lookout for my farewell column for AMP's "Death From Below" at year's end. It's been a hell of a three-year run. A big shout-out to None Louder.com for the affiliation boost; The Metal Minute had a record week of hits last week and you guys are one of the reasons. I'll be back to make ya proud.

To all the labels, publicists, bands, readers and friends who constantly check in with me, you all rule my cruel. Those of you who have already submitted material for The Metal Minute will be given immediate coverage once I can check in, fret not.

My thanks to all of you for reading. Cheers...

Ray Interviews Alice Cooper, David Coverdale of Whitesnake, Sebastian Bach and Joey Eppard of 3 in Hails & Horns Magazine



In the latest ish of Hails & Horns magazine yours truly slings out interviews with three legends and one in the making: Alice Cooper, David Coverdale of Whitesnake and Sebastian Bach, plus up-and-coming prog prodigy Joey Eppard of 3.

Also be on the lookout for articles from the staff with Scars On Broadway, H20, Otep, Metal Church, Bleeding Through, All Shall Perish, Chrome Division, The Faceless, All That Remains and others...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Hoardefest: Faces of Heavy Metal Horror

Over at our joint venture site Whole Lotta Album Covers, myself along with Metal Mark, David Amulet and Bob Vinyl have a week-long feature dedicated to Halloween-themed album covers. Please take a visit at your convenience here: Whole Lotta Album Covers

Be on the lookout from covers by King Diamond, Iron Maiden, Bruce Dickinson and my entry yesterday, Grim Reaper's Fear No Evil.

Suffice it to say, heavy metal and horror go so hand-in-hand, the reflection is upon the covers, largely in the eighties, though the revival scene has more than its share of horror and Halloween-spirited artwork. Never mind the obvious pentagrams, goat heads and inverted crosses that are just simply cliche; Satanism, paganism and metal have always rubbed elbows, whether it's the season of Samhain or not. Still, in the tradition of our beloved terror season, here's a plethora of heavy metal album covers to get you in the Halloween mood one day early...


Megadeth - Killing's My Business... And Business is Good!
Yeah, skulls are another cliche of heavy metal, yet this birthright genesis of Vic Rattlehead is a sheer classic and it remains Megadeth's most stark album cover


Sodom - Get What You Deserve
Sodom has some notorious covers such as Obsessed by Cruelty and the infamous banned cover for Mortal Way of Live, but this one's quite nasty in itself


Slayer - Reign In Blood
Classic on all levels, this Bosch-like cover hardly prepares you for the horrific masterpiece lurking beneath


Exciter - Unveiling the Wicked
Vintage kabosh


Iron Maiden - Killers
You almost forget to see the hands of Eddie's victim clutching at his t-shirt...this one set a precdent


Grim Reaper - See You In Hell
See you in Hell, my friend, see you in Hell, my friend...


Cannibal Corpse - Butchered at Birth
The Lucio Fulci of death metal... 'nuff said


Destruction - Release From Agony
I prefer Mad Butcher, but this is surreal and not so easy to take your eyes away from, despite the fact you'll probably get your nose chewed off by this creep


Vio-lence - Eternal Nightmare
Probably what every kid sees in his or her sleep at least once


Testament - Souls of Black
The apocalypse will soon be near...


Death - Scream Bloody Gore
What else do ya need to say?


Mercyful Fate - Don't Break the Oath
When Satan was still scary...


Savatage - The Dungeons Are Calling
Yep, another skull, but one of the best of the genre


W.A.S.P. - s/t
Okay, pretty cheesy by today's standards, but kinda effective in its day...


Darkthrone - The Cult is Alive
Ouch...


Gorerotted - A New Dawn For the Dead
Now known as simply The Rotted, they shred under either name


Kiss - Creatures of the Night
Oooooooooooooooooooh! We're creatures of the night!!!


Gwar - Scumdogs of the Universe
No comments necessary, especially if you've seen them live


Alice Cooper - Alice Cooper Goes to Hell
And he lived to tell about it...


Samhain - Initium
All murder...all guts...all fun... or Mommy, I Snuck Out and Killed Tonight and You're Next!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween Hoardefest: Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer



Nowadays we're starting to see a little eighties envy (or at least a little eighties endearment) in music and especially horror. Forget the countless remakes that have been plaguing movie theaters from respected directors who shouldn't be called revisionists as much as they should be considered fanboy wish-they'd-done-them-firsts. Friday the 13th is the next one up on the redux block, and who cares if it's back to basics? There's no Betsy Palmer, so consider it heresy at face value.

On the other hand, there are a bunch of underground directors who are starting to break big such as Adam Green, whose love of eighties horror inspired brand new creations done in a neo-vintage style. Hatchet is surefire splatter mayhem, created simply for the spectacle and over-the-top love of gore. There are no other pretentions to Hatchet, other than to maybe broaden the mean age of the cast and round up some horror icons such as Tony Todd and Robert Englund. Some people are fans of Eli Roth's Cabin Fever, others are not, but Roth's adoration of The Evil Dead prompted him to reinvent the precipe of backwoods mutant gore with his own slapdash nuances. Roth made no bones Cabin Fever was done out of love for Sam Raimi's classic, and is certainly more forgivable than the shameless by-the-number sleepfest of The Omen remake.

What we need more of is innovation and both Green and Roth are showing there's new ways to turn the old school's tricks. However, director Jon Knautz and actor Trevor Matthews love eighties horror so much they're willing to camp it up to the point they dare to make a ridiculously archaic rubber monster in the finale of Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer that will undoubtedly remind everyone of Bill Paxton being turned into a big pile of talking shit in Weird Science.

What's particularly great about Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, aside from the fact it gives Robert Englund his longest screen time since the Nightmare romps, is a premise that's just as gonzo as The Evil Dead and Bubba Ho-Tep. Trevor Matthews plays the lead character, a hyper-angry plumber whose inability to keep his rage under control stems from a childhood incident where a monster rips his family to shreds before his eyes on a camping trip.

Jack Brooks goes to therapy by day, charitably gives out plumbing freebies almost as if in penance for his boiling personality, and then habitually shows up late for night school. He hates his girlfriend Eve (Rachel Skarsten) and knowing he's failing his night time chem course, taught by Englund, he offers to look at his professor's clogged pipes in an old mansion, which sets up the story. Inadvertently causing a pressure leak that unleashes a buried corpse that hosts a nefarious black heart that turns humans into demonic entities, Jack Brooks sets his own fate on course.

Englund as Professor Gordon Crowley (any coincidence he appears in Hatchet, whose rampaging villain is named Victor Crowley?) is especially wonderful as he plays the character timid in the beginning then outlandishly ghoulish as he begins to be infected by the black heart's wispy poison trails. He eats with compulsion, barfs all over the chalkboard when attempting to teach and ultimately turns into a multi-tentacled monster which the constantly-incensed Jack Brooks must dispatch.

Along the way, Jack must battle his morphed co-students, and here is where his anger mismanagement plays strategically. He not only thwarts his enemies, he mashes them to pulp the angrier he gets. Eventually this gets downright hilarious, and it ultimately sets up for an inevitable sequel as Jack Brooks, already diagnosing himself as unfit for common society, drops out to become the titular Monster Slayer, as the film's Army of Darkness-esque ending alludes.

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer is a major breath of fresh air, particularly due to its comedic honesty. Seriously, why can't we have an antihero outside of The Punisher or Dirty Harry, where he's just an average Joe coping with a horrific childhood moment, and not doing so well in that manner?

Jack Brooks is an Ash of our day to certain latitudes; he's a bit of an oaf, though he's well-meaning. He's frustrated as hell and he absorbs a whipping while taking down the baddies. Though Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer is nowhere near as runny and gory as the first two Evil Dead movies, that doesn't mean this film isn't slippery and juicy in its own way. The fact we're dealing with a possible miscreant who could've slipped to the other side of the tracks makes Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer subliminally devilish in a playful sort of way. He's a Toxic Avenger without having to go through the nuclear waste and when he gets bit by his adversaries, he doesn't transform into one them; he becomes his own beast altogether.

And you think Obama's Joe the Plumber has notoriety? As if...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

CD Review: Enslaved - Vertebrae

Enslaved - Vertebrae
2008 Nuclear Blast Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



Opeth is so much in a league of their own it's hard to find a comparable within reach of their class. Norwegian stalwarts Enslaved, however, are the closest thing to Opeth's grandiose perfection you're going to get, and it might be said that Enslaved deserves a hair more credit for breaking the rules which the metal world has tried its damnedest to strap upon their refusing shoulders.

Most will agree Opeth is a stylish form of Goth metal, while Enslaved has had to continuously run the gamut of black metal, death metal and Viking metal purists who all want to claim this band unto their own. Of course, Enslaved came out of the gates with the caustic and terrifying Vikingligr Veldi in 1994, which the black metal sanction instantly pounced on. However, Enslaved began to show as of 1997's intelligent Eld that they weren't about to dedicate a career to one set of principles, while 2003's Below the Lights was the band's proper distancing effort. In 2004, Enslaved released their masterpiece Isa and in doing so, announced they belonged to not just the entire metal world, but more importantly, to themselves.

Having come into their own transcontinentally, Enslaved followed up Isa with 2006's Ruun, which gained them even more notoriety for their continuing evolution as a progressive extreme metal band that still heralds elements of black and death metal, but also with a propensity for alternative soundscapes sprinkled beneath their largely cataclysmic detonation.

Which brings us to 2008 and Enslaved's 10th studio album Vertebrae. The concept behind Vertebrae, if there is one, is derived largely from an article in Guitarist magazine Enslaved's Ivar Bjornson read in which celebrities were asked "What are you thinking this very minute?" After reading Tom Waits' correlation between a giraffe and a mouse having the same vertebrae and thus hypothetically making them the same species at one point, Bjornson began to find inspiration for his band's newest creation. Read into Waits' analogy as you will, but it subliminally speaks of Enslaved's continuous transition as a metal band, one that constantly seeks to be individualistic and thought-provoking while inherently remaining the beast as they were birthed.

Vertebrae is Enslaved in yet another watermark frame of mind as they once again push themselves forward with extraneous textures and complicated rhythms beneath the brute ugliness that carries forth from Grutle Kjellson's demonic growls, which are so liquidy on Vertebrae you can hear the saliva gurgling at times. Like his Opeth counterpart Mikael Akerfeldt, Kjellson blends smooth syncopation in uncanny Roger Waters fashion on a song like "Ground," which begins steadily with moments of harshness then largely assumes a psychedlic Pink Floyd art plane. Ditto for the closing stanza of "Center," which is simply breathtaking.

One of Vertebrae's starkest realities is its candescent effervescence that's countered brusquely by Kjellson's hard throat chops. As Enslaved drifts into placid rock pastures on "To the Coast," "Reflection" and the title track, expect the songs to take on menacing overtures. It's a blunt statement when Kjellson sacrifices the tranquility of his band's methodic melody structures with his morose grumblings. On the other hand, he pulls a fast one with his listeners on "New Dawn," the album's fastest track, and the closest Enslaved comes to black metal on Vertebrae. He hammers down the song's brutal verses yet instantly switches to croons on the choruses, much in the way Ihsahn did effortlessly for Emperor.

All of this interplay with Kjellson is virtual mindrape, which makes Vertebrae one of their most understatedly savage albums. Considering you want to swim in the appealing channels of Enslaved's gorgeous note floating, Kjellson is seldom going to allow you the luxury. Of course, as the songs on Vertebrae build to their climaxes, Kjellson knows when to scale back the mean stuff. You can't teach this sort of intuition to most bands. It all comes into play in Vertebrae's haunted finale "The Watcher," which if you listen very closely, should remind you of the closing theme to the original Friday the 13th.

Another note about Kjellson is that his bass is deeply captured on Vertebrae, so much it's another character altogether. While Ivar Bjornson and Arve Isdal send literal currents out of their strings on each song, Kjellson does more than merely supply low end. His bass has strict personality, and a result, he with Bjornson and Isdal, plus keyboardist Herbrand Larsen comprise a monstrous rhythm section.

With each album, Enslaved has gotten cleaner with each production. Isa may be the last we've heard this band with low-fi in addition to the sharp fidelity. In effect, Kjellson's vocals dominate Vertebrae all over the joint from the almost-perfect sound capture. Fortunately, his band are masters of accommodation and Vertebrae becomes a joint collaboration filled with wonderment, spectacle and dark glory.

Rating: ****1/2

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Halloween Hoardefest: Horror Films That Put the Retch in Wretched

Honestly, with the amount of horror films that have been shot, from the biggest studio production straight down to weekend amateurs filming on handcams, the ratio of good horror films is pretty slim compared to the bad or at the least merely marginal.

On the other hand, some horror films are just so goddamned terrible they reach a pinnacle of ineptitude they can sit on their own pedestal of shame. We've all stomached the worst of the worst and somehow we still keep coming back to these films in search of the next great Romero, Bava, Fulci, Garris, Gordon, Argento, Coscarelli or Green, what have you. Through mud, dung and vomit one must travel in order to reach the promised land, so the saying is loosely restated in the context of horror movies.

Submitted for your disapproval, a handful of horror flicks that put the "retch" in wretched...



Don't Go In the Woods...Alone

Numero uno top mutt piece of shit in the horror world, much less celluloid. Some regard this a classic slasher pic; the smart recognize it as better eaten in your VCR or scragged on your DVD player. I don't have enough time to list the faults of this infamous turkey, but let's just say a kid in a wheelchair falls down in one scene, the next he's not only back up, he's on a high cliff, ready to be decapitated! Another scene has a girl getting slashed repeatedly in an otherwise gruesome scene; the actress coughs noticeably after her murder. That lady painting a nature scene who gets killed in bloody fashion from behind? You know these clowns threw Dutch Boy paint from off-camera. Embarassing beyond words...




Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf

Sad that Sybil Danning's enticing "assets" are the only reason to watch this garbage. I guarantee you the Herndale Film Corporation agreed, since the film's credits feature Danning's ripping tittie exposure set on repeat. Even sadder the classy Christopher Lee was enticed to waste his presence in this mess. Related to The Howling only for the Roman number II, in addition to werewolf sex. Arooooo booooooo!




Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2

Okay, so the original Silent Night Deadly Night goes too far with its killer Santa motif and it's one of the most insidious horror films ever conceived. Still, it's a trash classic for those who can stand it. Silent Night Deadly Night 2, however, is utterly unforgiveable considering over 40 minutes of the original film appears in this piece of shit as flashback sequences. Talk about doing sequels on the cheap! Okay, so Big Bad Billy's little brother Ricky is taking up the red suit and cleaning up after his warped and quite dead older sib. Big whoop, ho fucking ho. Since we see so much of Billy's rampage from the first go-round, which Ricky couldn't have possibly been around to watch, much just get the entire recount of, whose story is this anyway?




Exorcist II: The Heretic

Bloody hell, what more need I say? This one defined the meaning of bad sequels. Audiences in 1977 were reportedly laughing in the aisles when this locust-cluttered train wreck premiered. Pazuzu wept...




Don't Go In the House

You thought the naked lady frozen to death in Saw III was disturbing? Try a sick fat fuck chaining bare-assed girls who remind him of his dead mother in a similar fashion and blow-torching them to cinders. Rancid, not to mention irresponsible.




Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

Satire or misfire? You be the judge, but this is obscene, nonetheless.




Cutting Class

Ever wonder why Brad Pitt fails to mention this film as his first genuine role? Probably the same reason Angelina almost never brings up Gia. At least Angelina fared better (and looked hotter 'n hell) in that bio portrayal. As for Brad, poor guy, I respect him greatly, but we all have to start somewhere, eh? This tripe isn't even worth sitting through for the novelty of Pitt's debut performance.




Shocker

Remember this one? Sorry for you. Remember, Wes Craven has lots of hits, but he also did The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 the first time around. Deadly Friend, also not so hot, though that basketball scene is gonzo good...




Queen of the Damned

No disrespect to anyone intended, but Heath Ledger went out on the highest note possible as The Joker. Aaliyah wasn't so fortunate... Neither was Anne Rice that this is what we got from her brilliant vampire novel.




Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2

Oh hell, there goes another one of those pesky sequels again... The soundtrack was all that mattered. Goth hipster chic and a tangled no-plot has zilch to do with a sharp predecessor featuring three kids, a video cam and the charade of the century...




Return of the Living Dead Part II

Again, the dratted sequelitis infects! The first Return was spot-on between comedy and horror. The third Return was sexy from a fetishist point-of-view. This one? They can yell braiiiiiins all they want; there's none to be found in this dreck.


So how about you, gang? What're some of the worst horror films you've ever seen?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Halloween Hoardefest: Masters of Horror - "Dream Cruise"

Originally published in my column "Death From Below" for AMP magazine... I've become a bit of a fan of Asian cinema and this quirky little ditty for the canceled Showtime series Masters of Horror was a goodie...



The now-defunct Masters of Horror wrapped its second and final season with a doozie Bake-eiga (or J-Horror film), Dream Cruise.

Directed by Norio Tsuruta of Ringu O and Premonition fame, and starring Daniel Gillies (Spiderman 2), Ryo Ishibashi (The Grudge and Audition), as well as Blindness beauty Yoshino Kimura, Dream Cruise is a creepy yarn told in the grand tradition of EC Comics, chiefly the comeuppance/vengeance motif imposed upon American executive Jack Miller, who is cheating with the wife of his best friend, Eiji Saito. One can understand why Jack has crossed the line by starting an affair with Eiji’s wife, Yuri, and why she in turn is compelled to her foreign lover. Whatever niceties Eiji has exhibited to Jack (which is presumed without background, save for a lone desk picture of the threesome, which Jack is found guilty of covering Eiji up), is out the door by the time Jack calls Eiji to sign off on an insurance proposal.

The wealthy Eiji is not all he seems, particularly in light of his suspicions of the tryst between friend and spouse. Fully aware that Jack has a phobia of the water due to an early incident in which Jack’s brother Sean drowned in the middle of the ocean before his eyes, Eiji coaxes the apprehensive Jack onto his boat. Jack and Yuri infer that Eiji is onto them and here is where Norio Tsuruta creates his primary tension, focusing on Eiji’s rage that unravels in small increments while he manages to boat out far away from Tokyo and any realistic chance of being spotted.

Without getting a direct accusation out, Eiji’s boat breaks down in the isolated waters, which we soon learn that he’s been in this location before. Eiji is a thieving murderer who snuffed out his rich wife, Naomi, and dumped her body into the ocean in exchange for Yuri. Now faced with a young spouse who’s rejecting him in favor of a white American, Eiji’s would-be revenge is thwarted by the apparition of Naomi, who not only wants him down in the murky grave with her, but Yuri as well. Jack is forced to face his fear of the water in light of losing his true love, heightening the apprehension of the story.

Dream Cruise is beautifully filmed, so much that Tsuruta brings us almost as close to a hypothetical-realistic Tokyo as Ridley Scott did in Blade Runner. While Scott’s is futuristic in comparison to Tsuruta’s present-day Tokyo, there’s still something atmospheric about the way he shoots everyday Tokyo, so much that we feel Jack’s awkwardness in a country he’s been in for two years. Culturally gorgeous, it’s the perfect setting of innocuousness to tell a story about infidelity and horror. By the time Naomi manifests into the story, her spooky green aura is damned unnerving, though it’s striking how Asian women still look alluring even as undead ghouls. The story, penned by Koji Suzuki, is fast-paced, even as Tsuruta clocks in at close to an hour and a half, a record for Masters of Horror. The film does get a tad silly (such as the lopped arm of Eiji relentlessly choking the crap out of Jack), but in the end, Dream Cruise is an enviable Tales From the Crypt salute that inadvertently closed the door on a highly adventurous horror anthology...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

Halloween Hoardesfest: It's All How You Slice It... The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)



In my interview a couple years ago with director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, From Beyond, Castle Freak) we touched on his remake of Edgar Allan Poe's immortal horror yarn "Pit and the Pendulum" and one thing we discussed was how the sharpened iron pendulum is a character unto itself within the story. I couldn't agree with him more as I've always felt that dreaded swinging death trap is one of the most insidious weapons ever conceived, so much you understand why Poe chose it as a muse. The fact it sways in such large, menacing quarter arcs spells out doom in a tediously prolonged fashion, even more so than Freddy Kruger dragging his steel hand knives along boiler pipes or even one of those hedonistic pay-to-kill slobs in the Hostel films who torture their victims just for the sheer experience.

The villainous pendulum in the 1961 version of The Pit and the Pendulum starring Vincent Price is saved until the final hurrah after Price's character Nicholas Medina has gone stark raving mad following a jarred seizure and mindwarp that turns him into a grand inquisitor that resided in his mansion ages before, and whose spirit is believed to still linger. One might infer this is the Marquis de Sade, had the story not been set in Spain. Living atop a subterranean torture garden filled with snarling gargolyes, ancient paintings of hooded occultists, an iron maiden and other torture devices, Medina snaps into his murderous alter ego Sebastian and cranks the scary-as-hell pendulum into action with his brother-in-law Francis Barnard (John Kerr) strapped helpless beneath the swooshing blade of death that inches closer and closer to wholly bisecting him.

Okay, for modern-day seen-it-all horror audiences and particulary a younger generation accustomed to watching over-the-top dragged-out snuff scenes, The Pit and the Pendulum is probably tame stuff, and that's a crying shame. Famed director Roger Corman (who tackled quite of a bit of Poe in his sixties horror classics) had an elegance and style to his craft, be it his pre-Victorian sets, sophisticated casts (almost always with the master Vincent Price in the lead) and Corman's films possessed the grace to charm you and tug confused sympathy out of you from various characters. In this one, you don't know if you really like Francis Barnard since he's smug and a pompous ass, but you understand full well his mistrust of the elusive situation he's contending with when searching for answers to the death of his sister. You then feel his plight 100% when he's within inches of being gutted by the pendulum as his previously timid and foppish brother-in-law has mentally snapped, donned executioner's robes and submitted him to a fearful and drawn-out death. The guillotine was horrifying enough, but as a victim you at least knew death would be swift, assuming the blades were probably sharpened.

Twilight Zone writer and director Richard Matheson, one of the greatest contemporary horror and sci-fi scribes who walked in his time, rearranged Poe's story (using mostly the pendulum sequence from which to build his own tale) to drag it out to an hour twenty, and still the film feels moderately faithful despite. One thing you have to wonder about Poe is his lingering dread of being buried alive or even having bodily remains hauntedly call out to their leads, be it in "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Cask of Amontillado" or "The Fall of the House of Usher." In Corman's The Pit and the Pendulum, Vincent Price's Nicholas is badgered by the soul of his deceased wife Elizabeth, which is played out via Matheson's penned hidden love tryst.

Nicholas keeps hearing her voice within the dungeons and is wracked with guilt, so much he is prompted to smash down a wall he knows hides what he believes are the skeletal remains of Elizabeth. When a sinewy corpse is indeed found, Nicholas is so distraught he slips into a deep depression that leaves him so vulnerable he finds Elizabeth again after hearing her voice from the beyond, and this time he finds her quite fleshy and rising from her crypt to stalk him. Petrified, Nicholas slips down a flight of concrete steps and then into catatonia, where the underlying plot of the not-so-dead-after-all Elizabeth's deception is revealed. Not only is she quite alive, she is having an affair with the family doctor, Dr. Leon (Anthony Carbone).

Making the mistake of assumption that her husband is dead, Elizabeth (Barbara Steele) spitefully unravels her plot to be rid of Nicholas and run away with Dr. Leon. Woe be to her, as Nicholas is far from dispatched, and she's now contending with Sebastian, who recognizes the infidelity on behalf of Nicholas and he nastily declares to make her death a long and unsparing one. Immediately throwing her into the iron maiden, Nicholas/Sebastian next submits Francis to the pendulum after a quick dukereoo. Nicholas' younger sister Catherine (Luana Anders) hears Francis's pleas for help and spurs Dr. Leon into action. Leon and Nicholas scrum, Nicholas falls to his death and Francis is spared, but just barely. The blade nicked him a few times, bearing a thin film of his blood on the blade in a snazzy narrow margin afterpoint.

Corman's The Pit and the Pendulum ends in appropriate Poe fashion as Elizabeth is completely forgotten and left for dead in the iron maiden, thus her ruse becomes reality.

While many liberties were taken with The Pit and the Pendulum in 1961, at least the story is stylish, and even Stephen King has gone on record in noting the corpse discovery scene was so ambitious for its day it set a precedent that would eventually have to be met with the British Hammer series and of course outdone to the nth power by Herschell Gordon Lewis. Between this gory (for 1961 standards anyway) and the viscerally powerful pendulum sequence, Roger Corman and Richard Matheson deserve kudos for reinventing a classic and putting a vogue face to it before getting brute ugly.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Halloween Hoardefest: In Your Face!!! Friday the 13th Part III



The almost ridiculous popularity of the Friday the 13th films through the eighties became an addiction for teenage America and gorehounds alike. The first film in the interminable series (which is being remade and soon-to-be released in 2009, those selfish pricks) is the best of the entire lot with Mommy taking care of business. From the first sequel on, Friday the 13th as a franchise ended up pitting our undead serial killer Jason Voorhees against horny and besotted teens, not to mention vengeful attack survivors, imposters, a girl with ESP, soul transference, Freddy Kruger, The Big Apple, hell, even outer space!

As the annual Friday the 13th slaughter celebration became more and more gimmicky by the year, the best of the franchise novelties was the third film, assuming you were fortunate enough to catch it in the theater in 3-D. I used to lie when I was younger and tell people I saw Friday the 13th Part III in the movie theater, just because I wanted to be "cool enough" to have seen it in 3-D, when virutally just one single person I knew actually did. The truth was, I'd actually seen Jaws 3-D, a terrible film that was saved by the ultra-rad 3-D effects, in particular the gnawed-off arm and fish head. Fish heads, fish heads, roly poly fish heads...fish heads, fish heads, eat them up, yum!

No, the first Friday the 13th film I'd actually gone to see in the theater was the fourth film, dubiously titled The Final Chapter, which we all know now ended up being total bullshit in name, if not at least one of the neatest of the sequels for Tom Savini's kickass chop 'n slop effects. At that point, I was 14 and somehow looked old enough to the box office of our old hick theater to get myself and my friends in to R rated films. Ahh, the glory days...

Still, the minor bitter pill remains that I never saw Friday the 13th Part III in the movies, which I certainly would've loved to, just to see how Rick's (Paul Kratka) eyeballs shooting out at the audience looked. I mean, seriously, how much better could you have gotten? It's amazing Paramount kept consigning Friday the 13th sequels thereafter, because how do you top that gonzo Grand Guinol moment?

That was precisely the point to the kabillion sequels, because we all showed up every damned time to see how much nastier and bloodier they were willing to get. Does that constitute good horror? Yes and no. Does that mean Friday the 13th Part III is guilty of taking things to a point of no return? Well, honestly, between George Romero's Dawn of the Dead and John Carpenter's Halloween, we were already pushed to our limits in different manners; everything else had to either measure up or exceed.

The fact Friday the 13th Part III originally came out in 3-D with plenty brutal bits of onscreen snuffing (honestly, how awesome was that harpoon shot, whether you saw it in 3-D or not?) was reportedly intended to actually end the series. Jason was supposed to die for real, once he'd taken the fateful axe to the head after surviving his spelunked hanging. When you stop and think about it, did they really need to keep going from that point? When your initial purpose is to complete a series and go out as much on top as you possibly can, wouldn't you think anything else beyond was overkill?

I mean, let's not call Friday the 13th Part III a masterpiece or anything. It's executed tidily even without the 3-D effects and the gore, but no Friday the 13th sequel was intended to be halfway serious or underhanded about creating something memorable beneath the tittie and kill scenes. Granted, Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives is one of the best sequels for its intentional humor, deliberate schlock and a wonderful film production. Still, high art these films are not. We know by now the purpose to the series: get a bunch hopeless teenagers high then inside each other's privates, let them get a final orgasm before their meangingless lives are extinguished in spectacular fashion.

For sake of the argument, let's quickly outline Friday the 13th Part III's plot, loose-ended as it is:

The film is supposed to pick up the day after Jason's hack 'n slash fiesta from Part 2 as Ginny (Amy Steel, still my vote for cutest Friday heroine) is carted off in an ambulance after taking a gruesome slash from Jason's rusted pickaxe--make sure you get a tetanus shot, Amy--and losing her boyfriend Paul (John Furey) in an over-the-top finale. I likely need not rehash that for you. Of course we're reintroduced to this sequence in the beginning of Part III as Jason slithers away and we get a funky post-disco opening theme and 3-D credits propelling straight from Pamela Voorhees' mummified head. Note, I used to think this opening theme was just dreadful, but now I'm actually quite fond of it, stupid as it is.

Amazing, though, how these events turn, because Jason (who, if we're to believe Ginny's nightmare) has long hair on one side and gross facial stubble amidst his chewed-up facade. He's also in suspenders and a flannel shirt. In Part III, only a day after his escape, Jason is herculean (now played by the massive Richard Brooker instead of Part 2's trimmer Warrington Gillette) and he's in an entirely new outfit with no hair, to boot! Screw continuity!

After dispatching a white trash couple in the boonies (with a cleaver and knitting needle), Jason makes his way to a lakeside property called Higgins Haven. Just his luck, a new batch of kids are on their way to party down and screw, only this time there's someone in their midst who's trigger shy about coming (Dana Kimmell), particularly since the last time she'd been to Higgins Haven, she was attacked by a large, ugly man until she improbably passed out and gasp! survived... Guess who jumped her? And guess who wasn't sporting long hair, suspenders and potato sack then, though the incident was supposed to be two years prior? Screw continuity!

The dumpy kid who keeps pranking everyone to the point of aggravation, Shelly (Larry Zerner), shambles a ride into town with his blind date Vera (Catherine Parks) and they manage to piss off a biker gang, who look more like rejects out of Beat Street. The gang trails Shelly and Vera back to Higgins Haven for revenge... Wowzers, look at all the potential corpses delecti for Jason to play with!

Before the kids even get there, we're informed that one of the sex-starved couples Debbie and Andy (Tracie Savage and Jeffrey Rogers) are pregnant. Now there's a first (and last, I believe) to this series. Of course, they're still humping like jackrabbits--in a hammock, no less--and Debbie is exposed to secondhand weed smoke and then takes up Andy's offer for a beer after sex and shower (though she changes her mind later). Remember, this is 1982 and studies on fetal alcohol sydrome had yet to change the birthing process. Also keep in mind that after Jason delivers the most painful death to Andy by smashing his machete down the middle of Andy's balls as Andy does a hand walk, he next tears a butcher knife through Debbie's chest from behind. For you kill count geeks, make sure you add her unborn to Jason's tally, sick as that may be.

With Friday the 13th Part III being originally presented in 3-D, there's a circus-like atmosphere much in the way the original House of Wax tinkers and plays with the audience. You know the scenes of Andy dropping his yo yo up and down near Debbie's face and then the bird's eye view of his juggling duel with Shelly is an homage to Vincent Price's classic. Of course, Steve Miner, Sean S. Cunningham and company make this film their grand toy, whether they're dragging a hay bale into your face repeatedly or they're sticking poles, baseball bats, hot iron pokers, chained fists and the eyeball from one of Friday the 13th Part 2's victims (reportedly John Furey) out of the screen. The numerous 3-D visuals they get out of pitchforks as Jason snuffs the bikers Fox (Gloria Charles) and Loco (Kevin O'Brien) translates effectively even on the tube.

Dana Kimmell deserves top honors for kicking Jason's ass the most severely in the series. Forget that tripe of Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood and Lar Park Lincoln's preposterous telekinetic assault on Jason. Kimmell shrieks like a newborn in Part III but at the same time, she puts Jason through the damned wringer by stabbing his hand, dumping a shelf load of books on him, whacking him from behind with firewood as well as a shovel five minutes later. Then she hangs the stubborn bastard and when that's not enough and she realizes he's the one who pounced on her two years prior (ahem ahem) she puts an axe in his head. All the while, she looks mighty hot in those tight designer jeans while putting a hepcat whoopin' on ol' Voorhees.

And there Jason lies, flumped in the barn, finally licked, despite Kimmell's dream sequence, which is just wrong on all accounts. But is he finally licked for real? The dissippating camera pan from his unmoving form into the eerie solitude of the nearby lake hints both the end as well as another possible sequel. Given the fact Friday the 13th Part III struck gold, you know what happened next. Pick the story up from the barn, Jason's "corpse" is moved to the local morgue, the idiotic (and naturally perverted) intake doctor leaves the meat locker unclosed and bang, Jason has little more than a smarting headache as he goes on yet another rampage. Put together, that's three days in a row of solid killing...that's assuming you're a stickler for continuity.

The other notable about Friday the 13th Part III is this is where Jason first acquires his trademark hockey mask. Considering they don't make hockey masks in the traditional face shield mold with the eye and air holes anymore, how Jason has been able to constantly procure new ones in the subsequent films (it's literally shattered in half in Part VIII) is as nutty as Michael Myers being able to continuously have access to rubber William Shatner masks. Guess they both shop at the same Kill Mart...

All nitpickings aside, Friday the 13th Part III is just as much fun as it is idiotic. The fact you can predict when Rick's body is going to come crashing through the window to terrorize Dana Kimmell is the same as knowing a corpse is going to suddenly drop and dangle from a tree in the closest frame as she's running towards you. There's a formula to the Friday the 13th films with the only air of mystery being how gross their respective characters are going to get chopped to pieces. Ditto for who's going to show some skin and who's not. You're almost wondering why Steve Miner didn't order a 3-D shot of Tracie Savage's boobs during the shower scene. Now there's a concept; softcore porn in 3-D...beware if it's XXX.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

CD Review: Living Colour - CBGB's The Bowery Collection: Live, August 19, 2005

Living Colour - CBGB's The Bowery Collection: Live, August 19, 2005
2008 MVD Audio
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



Living Colour was one of those few bands that could stop me dead in my tracks whenever they were doing something, and though I can't prove it, I'm 50% certain my wife and I stayed at the same hotel as Corey Glover in New York the year this was recording was taken and we (possibly) ran into the man and his significant other in a mutually fruitless effort to find a cab. Forget trying to find a cab in NYC on St. Patty's Weekend, folks, words to live by... We made eye contact longer than you normally might with people on the street and like the time I made eye contact with Chuck Billy of Testament in Virginia (that was valid since I was waiting in his hotel to interview Greg Christian and Alex Skolnick), there was this "Hi there, glad you recognize me, but please don't bust me" look to both men's eyes. If that wasn't Corey, the yuk's on me, but I was again stopped in my tracks, literally this time.

Prior to that, I'd seen Living Colour live in 1990 on their Time's Up tour, and what really socked me out about them was how much improv they threw into their performance, so much that familiar songs took on new life. I recall "I Want to Know" and "Desperate People" being played mostly to script, but even the newer material Living Colour was debuting in that show was jacked up, sonically-explosive and guttural to the point Corey Glover bellowed his guts out and Vernon Reid crushed more strums-per-second than perhaps anyone I've ever seen in a live capacity. Then-bassist Muzz Skillings was a mad dog on bass and drummer Will Calhoun smashed his skins as if under a clinical microscope and being given marks thereafter.

Toss in a few Bad Brains covers scattered through their set including "Sailin' On," which sent a tidal wave of approving roars throughout the crowd, and Living Colour put on one of the most devastating sets I personally have ever seen. Only Sonic Youth managed to outdo their cerebral electricity spewage and aural territorial coverage, and one of the lasting images I had of Living Colour was that they were meant for the stage. It's a damn shame they cashed their chips in ahead of their time with a decade's layoff before reuniting earlier in the new milennium.

Although there's already a Living Colour CBGB's recording in existence (Live at CBGB's Tuesday 12/19/89), it's great to have a second visit with the anti-glamour boys circa 2005, if for nothing else to hear what Living Colour still has to give at this point. The answer to that is a heck of a lot, since CBGB's The Bowery Collection: Live, August 19, 2005 is simply massive, almost too much for the deceased rock hub to contain.

The idiom "blowing the roof off" is used so often in describing music performances, but honestly, Living Colour blew that damned club at least to a few new plaster cracks. The audio capturing this excitable concert certainly took a beating because Living Colour simply goes berserk in CBGB's right on the first step of the almost double-timed "Type," to where Living Colour is so adrenalized to kick this show into gear they lose the core tempo of the song, instead opting to just ride the vibe. They slide back long enough into calypso grooves on the bridges, while Corey Glover recites the choruses instead of sings, as if giving his audience a more dramatic, open-mike delivery for them to savor. The cheeky part to this is right after Vernon Reid sends waves of guitar frizzle fry just through one song, the energy level is so amped Glover tells everyone "I'm getting too old for this!"

Perhaps he's right since a Living Colour gig isn't your prototype entertainment show. They hoist all of the influences that made Vivid a veritible classic such as jazz, funk, metal and punk, and they run like hell with it, shooting strictly from the hip from song-to-song. How they've managed to stay healthy and still passionate in their delivery is remarkable considering the complicated and wonderfully noisome din (most cats couldn't pull a song like "Time's Up" so long after it was recorded, but Living Colour nails the shit to a cross) they're required to reproduce onstage. It wouldn't be surprising if these guys never truly duplicated a performance because this one alone is instinctual and painfully loud. Painful as in gimme more painful.

Even as Living Colour tinkers and dallies with sample loops, sequencers, jam splashes and daydreamish scats between songs (even teasing the audience with a fake intro sample for "Love Rears Its Ugly Head" before vaulting into the punishing "Ignorance is Bliss" -- the former song makes its appearance afterwards, fret not) the time biding may wear slightly thin, but all of it is anticipatory for the next eruption yet to come and the one thereafter.

Corey Glover seizes the opportunity to chat randomly with the crowd and dote all over the importance of CBGB's in its day, at one point issuing the sadly incorrect exclamation "CBGB's will never die!" in closure of the set. It's almost poetry to hear him thank the late Hilly Kristal for giving Living Colour one of their first places to play while noting the already-exposed fate of the club in 2005, then begin his soulful solo wails leading into "Open Letter to a Landlord." The fact he starts giggling in the midst of his expelled nostalgia and then says "You know the fucking song, we can leave, fuck it!" before Living Colour hammers out "Landlord" poignantly creates its own endearment. Likely those who were in attendence this night won't ever forget this moment. In the grand perspective of rock history, the gesture is minimal, but for the sake of CBGB's, it might rank along with the early halcyon eighties performances by the Ramones, Talking Heads and Patti Smith, particularly when Glover lets the crowd sing "Landlord's" choruses; for once, said interaction comes off natural instead of fabricated.

On this performance, Living Colour whisks out a couple of tunes from their last studio album Kaleidoscope, "In Your Name" and "Sacred Ground," the latter of which is likewise used in tributory fashion to the club. Otherwise, expect a generous heaping of Vivid tunes with "Middle Man," "Funny Vibe," "Glamour Boys" and of course their signature "Cult of Personality," the latter of which is one of the most booming and uplifting set closers you'll ever hear.

Never ones to avoid causing a ruckus, they dedicate "Terrorism" to GW Bush and Tony Blair, playing the drawn, hypnotic opening licks in the way Killing Joke and The Exploited probably would before the song pounds aggressively to finish with oodles of sonic grandeur extolled from Vernon Reid. Brutal, yet funky, with a return to the platform these guys never should've have abandoned. Just hearing Corey Glover whisper "I don't want my babies living with terrorism" says it all...

That's the exact point to Living Colour in the 2000s. They're family men with plenty of road mileage behind them--even with a long hiatus--but push comes to shove, these guys were the embodiment of a heavy rock porridge with dashes of Bob Marley, Bad Brains and Curtis Mayfield. A little shaky in spots of their otherwise brilliant career, Living Colour's relevance alone is the reason to pick up CBGB's The Bowery Collection: Live, August 19, 2005. All it needed was "Elvis is Dead" to make it one for the ages.

Rating: ****

Friday, October 17, 2008

CD Review: Metallica - Death Magnetic

Metallica - Death Magnetic
2008 Warner Brothers Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



Yes, when it comes to Metallica, I'm one of those snooty "first three album" fans, which is hilarious considering I originally laughed at their name when Ride the Lightning came out. There was a local record store owner who'd given me the bum steer a few times, which naturally jaded me to purchasing any more of his lamewad recommendations. Unfortunately when he said "Trust me, Metallica is going to rule the world one day" as he waved a vinyl copy of Ride the Lightning at me, I blew him off and told him Metallica was one of the stupidest band names I'd ever heard. The laugh was on me because I'd left that day with a copy of Raven's The Pack is Back, easily the worst album from that otherwise kickass unit. Suffice it to say, I should've gone with Metallica instead.

Of course, Master of Puppets changed my life as much as it did a large portion of metalheads coming to it in 1986. The first time I played my friend Metal Mark's copy, I was joyfully devastated and thence ran the train tracks to the same record store and demanded my own copy of Master in a breathy series of pants. The laugh was on me yet again, as the store owner Ron guffawed heartily, reminding me of his prophecy about Metallica.

Damn if Ron wasn't spot-on with his prediction. However, the path it took for Metallica to become this generation's Led Zeppelin came with a cred costability in my eyes--as well as in many of their jilted fans who weren't buying the jock rock mockery Metallica became beginning with The Black Album and lasting well into their FM-courting Load records.

Like most of my peers who were so deeply affected by Metallica's first three albums, my dismay was derived from having seen them play the Monsters of Rock 1988 in which they'd last been a true thrash band. Jason Newsted had only been in the band a few weeks, even as we were all still mourning the loss of Cliff Burton. Still, we formed mini slam pits all over JFK Stadium and got into heated arguments with the jocks and preppies who'd infiltrated the festival to see Van Halen (or Van Hagar at this point, if you will). They hated us, we hated them. They called us losers and ferociously picked on Metallica during the show. Middle fingers went up, voices were raised, trash was thrown, but we didn't stop moshing because Metallica's presence on a commercial rock bill that also featured Scorpions, Dokken and Kingdom Come meant the world to us. As we'd done in the hallways of school, we deferentially fought for Metallica as the speed metal lords they were.

Thus it felt like betrayal when one day we woke up and the same Rush Limbaugh-praising dittoheads had flocked to Metallica and declared themselves hardcore to the tune of "Enter Sandman," which today sounds as tame as Ozzy's "Crazy Train," both made pretty kitty thanks to sports arenas. Even further indignation was to hear the main riffs of "Sad But True" whumping behind a skanking and rapping Kid Rock. Bad enough we'd suffered Metallica losing a gimme Grammy to Jethro Tull, but we'd lost them, man, and we should've seen it coming as earily as ...And Justice For All, the inarguable turning point where Metallica fell into the corporate clutches of the mainstream.

All of this being said, nobody roared more happily than myself when St. Anger came out and royally pissed off all the gym junkies, rednecks, Republicans, accountants and scenesters, not to mention heavy metal purists. I selfishly loved Metallica's implosion on that train wreck (a train wreck that does have a few good moments, admittedly) because like many of my true metal peers, it had become the case if we can't have Metallica to ourselves, then nobody should have them!

All pettiness aside, the world has now seen Metallica at their most dysfunctional via St. Anger and the Some Kind of Monster documentary. Perhaps there was more blackness lurking beneath the platinum than previously thought. Nonetheless, the next Metallica album was left suspect after such a debilitating non-effort in which Kirk Hammett was relegated to rhythm stooge with virtually no fret splashes and his customary outrageous solos.

Maybe he was wondering what would've happened if he'd stayed in Exodus (though that's highly doubtful given the successful life he's enjoyed), but let's face the facts; Hammett is the soul of Metallica and his demotion on St. Anger was tops on the list of reasons the album failed. Now that Metallica has made enough headlines to warrant their own political party, they return in 2008 with something to prove on Death Magnetic, easily a do-or-die album that will determine the band's future fate.

Allowing Hammett to fly free on Death Magnetic is antithesis to the singular-minded hatred of St. Anger, despite the new album's occasional propensity to reflect the hostile bombast of its junior. If you think Metallica isn't still cheesed off from the St. Anger sessions, get a listen to the snarling solo section on the otherwise swaying "Unforgiven III," a trifecta capper that beats the pants off of its Load-era predecessors.

Death Magnetic, by and large, is Metallica's heaviest outlay in many years. Even though "That Was Just Your Life" is essentially a redux of "Blackened" from And Justice For All with James Hetfield scraping some high octaves amidst a conventional rock edge on the song's bridges, the switch between bobbing rawk and brisk thrash is just the right amount of moxy to get this thing started. Once Kirk Hammett peels off a dirty solo in the midst of a blast beat pattern on "That Was Just Your Life," all that existed on St. Anger is like a bad day in the ball yard to be forgotten in better times.

Bringing in the man with the golden producer's hand Rick Rubin, Metallica sounds like they give a damn on Death Magnetic. "The Day That Never Comes" is a culmination of Ride the Lightning and Load with a floaty few minutes of melancholia before Metallica brings the hammers out. When "The Day That Never Comes" really takes off, Metallica gives it everything they have with impressive soliong and exhilirating shredding in the final minutes. If you're old-school Metallica, this is the one you've been waiting over a decade for. The following song "All Nightmare Long" is likewise chock full of distorted bliss, banging beats and some absolutely sick shred in the last third. Goddamn, not to beat the same tired horse, but honestly, Metallica hasn't sounded this motivated to be purely metal since the immaculate first trio.

Sure, there's still a bit of plastic fantastic on "The Judas Kiss" and the lengthy jam instrumental "Suicide and Redemption," even though Kirk Hammett rips out solo after solo with a salivating vengeance as if reminding his bandmates to never repeat their previous errors. Unfortuantely, these tracks are far too busy and occasionally convoluted in the way And Justice For All overcomplicated many of its melodramtic tunes. This couplet is unnecessarily ambitious, though listenable in increments even as they comprise 17 minutes of Death Magnetic. At least the swift and trim "My Apocalypse" rounds the album out on a hopeful note. Metallica hasn't sounded this thrashy and noisome is quite some time, and despite "My Apocalypse's" inherent clunkiness, it's far more preferable to, say, "Fuel" from Reload, especially with Hetfield and Hammett's tag-team melody blitzing beneath the steady velocity. A far cry from "Damage, Inc.," but at least Metallica cares enough to send Death Magnetic out on a hungry note.

If Metallica is suffering anywhere at this point in their careers, it's the fact there's a tiny, lingering sense of instability and unsurety between themselves. Robert Trujillo does a formidable job in his post Suicidal Tendencies home. His presence is largely subtle as rhythm keeper, though he coughs up a beastly intro on "Cyanide." Lars Ulrich, considered one of metal's greatest drummers, is frequently out of whack all over Death Magnetic, plus at times his isolated tempo leads could benefit more high hat accompaniment or some double kick to compliment the often rudimentary smacks. At least he doesn't sound like he's hitting trash cans like on St. Anger.

Never ones to understand the meaning of abbreviation, Death Magnetic is one long metal mania chug fest after another and Rick Rubin simply lets Metallica have at themselves. Rubin could've scaled back the majority of these songs if he really wanted to since the man knows the ins-and-outs of issuing memorable tunes. However, he seems to have Metallica's base interests at-heart, which is to get their sea legs kicking again. Death Magnetic bears flaws, sure, but Metallica's willingness to connect with their old selves and their original fan base that got detentions and suspensions for wearing "Metal Up Your Ass" t-shirts out of blind loyalty is sending the right message. We'll see what happens next in the Metallica camp before declaring them officially back, but Death Magnetic is the first sign this band is finding their way back home.

Rating: ***1/2

Thursday, October 16, 2008

CD Review: Destruction - D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N.

Destruction - D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N.
2008 Candlelight Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



Destruction very seldom gets their proper due as thrash pioneers, but suffice it to say, this German juggernaut is a legend, plain and simple. Sure, bassist and vocalist Schmeir (real name Marcel Schirmer) and guitarist Mike Sifringer are the last remnants of the classic lineup that recorded the eighties speed freak beloveds Eternal Devastation, Infernal Overkill, Mad Butcher and Release From Agony. Considering Schmeir wasn't present for a long period of Destruction's career on experimental and sometimes befuddling efforts like Cracked Brain, Them Not Me and The Least Successful Cannonball, this period of internal disintegration is perhaps the reason Destruction has been grossly overlooked by the metal community.

Suffice it to say, Destruction is these days Schmeir's band as he is the principle figurehead, but as a trio (with Sifringer and drummer Marc Reign) in modern times, Destruction is heavier than ever with the same trimmed and precise execution as Motorhead or Rush for their own brands of hard music. The fact Destruction fills so many spaces with only three guys in the band is pretty remarkable. There's very little overdubbing to be found, considering the exquisite technicality Destruction has become known for beginning with Release From Agony.

What you get from Destruction is a sinewy, grinding sound highlighted by a propensity to blindside with pounding velocity and frequently absorbing math prog and their latest album D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N. is more of the same, God bless 'em. Though not every song on this weighty effort is an all-out thrash attack, Destruction still has gusto and testosterone on mid-tempo cuts like "Offenders of the Throne" and "Inner Indulgence."

Alright, so D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N. may not always leave blazing vapor trails every second of the way, but this sucker rips most of the ride with impressive tenacity on "Elevator to Hell," "Devolution," "Vicious Circle: The Seven Deadly Sins" and "Odyssey of Frustration."

Take note each song on D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N. is led by each letter in the album title. That takes a bit of thought, so hats off to Schmeir and his power posse in that regard. An even bigger tip to Mike Sifringer who sounds utterly inspired on this album. His solos are gorgeous and he can still teach half of the axe slingers in the scene today how to properly shred. Schmeir provides some equally rapid low-end fills on bass, but even more striking is his vocals on D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N. Did this cat jump into the wayback machine and kick Mr. Peabody out along the way? It's astounding enough you can hear his vocals so clearly, but Lord does Schmeir sound so young and exuberant! Of course, Marc Reign keeps his bandmates on their toes with accurate beat patterns and spiked double-timers in sneaky measures.

Fitting that D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N. concludes on the toe-tapping "No One Shall Survive," because it leaves this album on a strident note with its anthemic nature (anthemic by thrash standards anyway) and right after Sifringer jerks out of a pair otherworldly solos, "No One Shall Survive" wraps up with the same determination as if the year was 1988. The difference now is that Schmeir and Sifringer appear to have their act far more together than back then, which only means Destruction has only yet begun to fight.

Rating: ****

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

CD Review: Megadeth - Anthology: Set the World Afire

Megadeth - Anthology: Set the World Afire
2008 Capitol Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



Any excuse to write about Megadeth is fine by me since I'm always going to think of the fall of '86 when I couldn't stop spinning Peace Sells...But Who's Buying to the point of obsession I was flipping the cassette version over and over as I raked leaves at my folks' house after school. That unbridled thrash fury completely alleviated the teenaged drudgery of said chore (which lasted over a week, given the spaciousness of our yard and the fortress of trees therein), and thus Megadeth has always been a friend to me, albeit a distant one. In my writing career, I've had the chance to speak with the highly amicable David Ellefson and by email, Marty Friedman, but the man himself, Dave Mustaine, is still on my bucket list. One day, Dave, I'll catch ya...

A thousand things come to mind every time I slide a Megadeth disc off the shelf and nearly all of them have been played repeatedly, even the non-fan-favorites Youthanasia and So Far, So Good...So What! Plain and simple, I love this fucking band, so much I rooted for Mustaine and his demolition squad over Mustaine's former allies, of whom need no mention here. Unfortunate that it took all the way until 2004 when Megadeth finally bested their one-time competitors; suffice it to say, The System Has Failed is in a class farflung from the vilified St. Anger. Now that Mustaine has patched his holes, survived internal meltdown and gained immeasurable respect in the metal revival as one of its top dog figureheads with two solid-selling recent studio albums (including last year's United Abominations), it seems to this writer that a capitalizing effect (or Capitol-izing effect, if you will) is playing foil to Megadeth's hard-won cred.

Okay, we all know the music formatting hucksters are doing their damnedest to force everyone into all-digital streaming and downloading, which threatens the existence of traditional music presentation in hard copy form. These are the same dispicable, money-hungry pricks demanding we ditch our conventional t.v.s and go hi-def, then discard the still-warm DVD format in exchange for Blu Ray. I could proselitize my strong opposition of this (a hearty "fuck you" to the industry seems well in order), however, newer generations are speaking with their instant-gratification-forked tongues and music production is forced to respond accordingly, so fuck you too, kids.

Hence, we have Anthology: Set the World Afire, another Megadeth hits package that comes far too soon upon the heels of recent compilations like Greatest Hits: Back to the Start from 2005, Capitol Punishment from 2000 and of the course last year's Warchest box set.

Honestly, it pains me greatly to speak against one of my all-time favorite bands, but enough is enough, eh? Save for the issuance of these Megadeth classics and standards in a digital album format to promote the new world order of music streaming, what excuse is there for Anthology: Set the World Afire? Yes, just about every song on this otherwise worthy and comprehensive collection is indispensible, though undoubtedly more songs from Peace Sells...But Who's Buying and Killing's My Business...and Business is Good would've done the collection a better favor. Then again, I profess these two albums ought to be gimme locks in any serious metalhead's collection, as well as Megadeth's masterpiece Rust In Peace, which is at least represented fairly well with four songs.

Anthology: Set the World Afire pulls a few hodgepodge rarities (assuming you don't already have the remastered version of Countdown to Extinction with the then-unreleased "Crown of Worms" or Greatest Hits: Back to the Start for "Kill the King") like the demo version of "High Speed Dirt" or yet another live rendition of Megadeth's calling card "Symphony of Destruction" from Countdown. Of course, Anthology only dips sparingly into the much-dismissed Risk album with only "Prince of Darkness" and "Insomnia," which leads to amusing question as to why Capitol hasn't seen fit to release Megadeth's jokey wrassling ode "Crush 'Em" on these current packages, unless the WWE's Vince McMahon has an estoppel in place, which wouldn't be surprising.

Still, the bottom line is Anthology: Set the World Afire, without the previous slew of hits packages, live albums, DVDs and remasters is still a top-notch gathering of Megadeth tunes. If it comes to the front of your mind, it's here, and that's terrific if you're newly arriving to Megadeth or you don't feel like surfing around for hours and paying by the unit trying to jerk singles off the web for your iPod. Anthology: Set the World Afire is a much more expedient way to fill up your plastic music toybox, point granted. In hard copy form, however, the feeling of exploitation is sadly undeniable.

Rating: ****1/2

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Saturday, October 11, 2008

CD Review: John Wilkes Booth - Sic Semper Tyrannis

John Wilkes Booth - Sic Semper Tyrannis
2008 Bukkake Orange
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



Persistence gets my attention eventually and suffice it to say after being contacted a few times by vocalist Kerry Merkle of the grime punk band John Wilkes Booth, The Metal Minute happily accepted a copy of his band's remarkably solid full-length debut Sic Semper Tyrannis.

What do I like most about John Wilkes Booth? I'm referring to the band, of course, because the actual living Booth was a crybaby fop who couldn't accept the fact his homeland army (brillianly led as the Confederacy was) was doomed from the start. Wherever your sympathies lie, the South lost due to an inept quasi-president and moreover, the lack of a sustainable economy, particularly one unable to keep its otherwise formidable infantry properly clothed and fed. Of course, a hedonistic total warfare executioner like Sherman planted the premature headstone with his first order to set fire to Southern cities. Interesting to think if the South won the war or at least forced a stalemate, because the future would've been more explosive than it already was (nobody would've wanted to set foot past the Virginia border in the sixties, trust me). Assuredly one John Wilkes Booth would've had no reason to drill a bullet into Abraham Lincoln out of spiteful vengeance for a lost cause. What then, on the plotline of history?

Would we then have had John Wilkes Booth the band? Maybe, but they probably would've been known as John Hinckley, as in the would-be snuffer of Ronald Reagan. As a punk rock band at their core, John Wilkes Booth under said alter ego would've thus swiped the standard from the Dead Kennedys for most uncomfortably amusing political potshot ever. Funny to think that no band named John Hinckley cropped up during the eighties since Reagan (along with British prime minister Margaret Thatcher) had punk rock's biggest heat seeking bullseye taped to his back. Guess we'll settle for a later-year punk act that has enough tact to dismiss our current president who's already digging forked tongues out of his hopeless keister and dip back more than a century to derive a brazen namesake. To boot, John Wilkes Booth throws a party on the tab of their figurehead, participating in "punk rock pillowfight" shows and coralling a slew of ridiculously funny caricatures such as this one:


Booth snakes out Statler and Waldorf (Photo courtesy of JWB MySpace page)

Not that John Wilkes Booth is bluntly political in their business. In fact, there's almost no proselitizing or soapboxing to John Wilkes Booth's snub-nosed "dirt rock," as they call it. In essence, this Long Island quartet possesses the inherent attitude and snide chicanery of punk and garage rock culminated from an eighties versus nineties hodgepodge: Mudhoney to Nirvana to JFA to Black Flag to Kyuss to the Melvins.

As Sic Semper Tyrannis opens with the instantly gratifying stomper "Eye Rack," John Wilkes Booth establishes out the gate they're a smart bunch of musicians and not gimmicky cellar dwellers clad in faux politburo pants. These guys can play quite well on punchy songs like the Helmet-dashed "Breathing for No Reason" and the jam whirlwind that unravels coolly and hazily for six minutes on "Albino Mechanic." There's even some smuggled funk sludge ala Clutch ("The Inner Workings" for example) and an almost hilarious merge between Black Flag and Monster Magnet on "Rats In My Room."

Frequently clever, John Wilkes Booth utilizes a jazz-type of drum solo from Christian Horstmann to lead into the anxiety-laden "Only the Facts," which employs a similar razor-dragging-across-the-proverbial-vein effect that Steve Austin does as a speciality in Today is the Day. "Only the Facts" is sharply-written and it pays off in dividends with scraping riffs from Jason Beickert, clobbering beats and dosed wailing from Kerry Merkle. Ditto for the subsequent snarling ditty "The Jesus Song," which needles out strains of Clutch, Skrape and The Melvins.


Dare ya not to laugh... (Photo courtesy of JWB MySpace page)

Included on Sic Semper Tyrannis is John Wilkes Booth's four song EP, which has only maybe a difference in fidelity, but is an equally exciting announcement of a rapidly-developing band you're likely missing out on. For these guys to sound this hot on their own duckets only means one of two things: a record contract is going to make them legendary or it's going to turn a potentially great band into a smoldering ash of its former self (the once-vibrant Quicksand comes to mind in that respect).

Still, you get the feeling that John Wilkes Booth will take their sweet time getting along whatever road they seek to travel. These guys watchdog the scene as much as they cheekily rip apart Lincoln and his mustachioed assassin. Pay-to-play venues beware; this John Wilkes Booth is equally sniper-minded.

Rating: ****

Links: MySpace page: John Wilkes Booth MySpace Page Website: John Wilkes Booth website

Friday, October 10, 2008

CD Review: The Haunted - Versus

The Haunted - Versus
2008 Century Media
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



Seemingly having been on a quest to find the right fit sound-wise with ranges as wide as clouting death metal to grandiose Goth (and a multitude of variances between) over the course of six albums, The Haunted are back again with a pounding declaration of back-to-basics on their latest slab Versus.

When we last left The Haunted in 2006, original vocalist Peter Dolving had made his way back to camp for The Dead Eye, a critical hit that found Dolving expanding his vocal repertoire, which one might look upon as a tune-up for his rousing ruck-a-muck performance on Versus. Full of confidence on this stripped album, Dolving is more a part of the scheme this time around as opposed to his sometimes isolated portions throughout The Dead Eye.

A new attitude begets a beat-heavy smackdown and jagged yelps from Dolving, thus making Versus a rocksteady, gristly hunk of metallic joy. With only a few moments of respite from the determined push and shove motif behind Versus, the album largely boasts a booming kick that roars like a heavy metal .289 and with a steel shank compressing the accelerator. No doubt many cars will be pumping out the thrashy "Little Cage" and "Crusher" as well as the thumping mid-tempo cuts like "Pieces," "Faultline" and the funkalicious "Ceremony."

That's the catch to Versus, if there really is a catch. The Haunted reportedly went bare knuckles and kicked out these recordings live. To that extent, the instant flow and crushing pitch of Versus is a heady success, even as the band yields a few contemporary metalcore customs like gang choruses and maybe a breakdown or two. Nonetheless, The Haunted are focused strictly on creating memorable tunes on Versus, even if it means using traditional verse-chorus-verse structures on "Ceremony" or the wicked cool strumfest of the opening song "Moronic Colossus."

As former At the Gates brothers Anders and Jonas Bjorler and Patrik Jensen (who doubles in the likewise booming Witchery and Seance) whip frenzied chord structures, sophisticated solos and underlying textures to the overt throb of Versus, drummer Per Moller Jensen guides his wrecking crew with a steady candor throughout the album.

Though Versus is a distant nod away from 2000's The Haunted Made Me Do It and 2003's One Kill Wonder, The Haunted more than have it under Tue Madsen's continued guidance. Versus serves as a kicking vent session with scattered jewel layerings beneath its overt heavy crown. Recommended.

Rating: ****

Brother Von Doom Review at Heavy Metal.About.com



For my first review at the Heavy Metal page of About.com, I'm taking on the stamping deathcore band Brother Von Doom.

Click here to check it out: Brother Von Doom review

Thursday, October 09, 2008

CD Review: Girlschool - Legacy

Girlschool - Legacy
2008 SPV/Steamhammer
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



Let's face it, when it comes to the ladies of heavy metal, Girlschool paid everybody else's dues along with Wendy O. Williams, Lee Aaron and Betsy Bitch. Sure, The Runaways helped usher what was at one time unfortunately viewed as a gimmick, the proposition of an all-female rock 'n roll ensemble. However, ever since they were originally known as Painted Lady, future legends Girlschool deserve the largest credit for cracking the testosterone-fortified armor protecting the overwhelmingly alpha genre of heavy metal. Even when the boys tightened the leather, glitzed the hair and smeared their faces with Covergirl, access for women into the metal spectrum was, by-and-large, through a blowjob of the tour manager or chief engineer before getting any further than that.

Girlschool's 1980 album Demolition and the subsequent year's Hit and Run proved that women could tear some shit up onstage and on record. Though it took many years for the band to garnish their proper due, garnish them they have, just by looking at the gratuitous influx of women in today's metal scene. No longer a freak show or an oddity, Girlschool should be revered by both men and women for providing a snarling alternative to the shameless muff-seeking motif that dominated hard rock and heavy metal in its primary stages.

What was glorious about Girlschool in the eighties was their immediate empowerment and kick-you-in-the-balls daring, and that spirit of snaggletoothed femme rock blares proudly all over Legacy, an album marking testament and tribute to the late Kelly Johnson, who sadly passed last year. Her remaining tribe carries forth Legacy with a purpose, and though Girlschool released the studio album Believe in 2004, by and large, the band has mainly issued live albums and compilations to sustain their reputable name. As a result, Legacy sounds like a band making up for lost time.

Rustling up a slew of guests on Legacy such as Lemmy Kilmister, Phil Campbell, Fast Eddie Clarke, J.J. French, Eddie Ojeda, Tony Iommi, Neil Murray and Ronnie James Dio to spot-check this very game set of songs, Girlschool sound perhaps more relevant now than at the very least 1988's Take a Bite.

The shadows of Kelly Johnson float through a posthumous appearance on Legacy's opening cut "Everything's the Same," an appropriate jumpstart to an album full of raw energy and determination. There's nothing second rate or motion-forcing to this album, despite the assistance of so many third parties. If anything, it's as if Kim McAuliffe, Enid Williams, Denise Dufort and Jackie Chambers wanted their peers to join in their giddy rock party, because Legacy is a largely upbeat endeavor. At times they roll straightforwardly through toe-tapping rockers ala Motley Crue on "Spend Spend Spend," "Whole New World" and the title track, while on others, the Girlschool posse stamps on their pedals with heavier shanks on "Don't Mess Around," "Zeitgeist" and their cover of Motorhead's "Metropolis." Ironically this cover is remiss of Lemmy and Phil Campbell but instead features a juicy solo by Fast Eddie Clarke. The longer you've been in this scene, the cheekier you'll recognize this maneuver as being.

"I Spy" is particularly meaty on the primary riffs even as the song takes a subtle calliope tinge to the verses. Legacy also offers a second version of "I Spy" featuring a very loose duet with Ronnie James Dio as a bonus track. Of course, Legacy has its share of punk laces on "London" and on an update of one of Girlschool's most well-known songs, "Emergency."

For a band that inspired everyone from Lita Ford as a solo artist to The Go Gos to L7 to PJ Harvey to the Lunachicks to Cycle Sluts From Hell and every gal practicing metal and punk today, Girlschool is the cornerstone of it all. To have them come out and deliver a rock solid shot 30 years after getting started is inspiring and here's hoping this stems a second coming for the 'school. Welcome back in full, ladies...

Rating: ****

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 10/8/08

Hidey ho, people! Happy midweek or happy midwife if you're in such a situation...

More of the same train wreckage as before, but let's not dwell on that since all it does it create negative energy and disrupt my personal harmony. On the positive side, I had a hilarious interview with Exodus' Gary Holt last week for Metal Maniacs and I'm happy how that piece reads. Dude is consistently witty from the last time we spoke.

I was recently invited by Chad Bower of About.com to pick up some review work for his heavy metal section on the world-traveled site. I'm rather honored to be selected as I've applied for various posts at the massive compendium site and now finally get to break in.

I have also been extended a couple other opportunities which I'll get into once those details are finalized. Obviously this only makes my life that much busier with the baby here and it's hard to constantly miss out on things when I have him on Saturdays (having to inadvertently pass on a get-together with an old high school friend this past week is a taste of parenthood's boundary lines, but hopefully resolution will be coming down the road). At least this coming Sunday we're going for a day trip to the ocean to hook up with my folks, and though I'm nervous about how the baby will do three hours each way, the ocean is one of my greatest soul healers. Considering I came home from the day job the other day with a screaming headache and a baby hangover from the previous weekend, this little day tripper is hopefully going to feel oh so very good...

Musically-speaking, I've been spinning Southern Culture On the Skids like there's no tomorrow, while trying to worm promo reviews into my jacked schedule. The new Enslaved just arrived, so I'm stoked for that one. Ever since I started writing for DVD Review.com, a lot more of those are sliding into my mailbox, so my dungeon will be resembling a video store very soon on top of the 3600+ CDs down there. I have a shower and bath, fridge and foldout bed down there too...who says I have to leave? Trust me, there's times I could stay in that cave and refuse to come out.



Southern Culture On the Skids - Dirt Track Date
Tesla - Time's Makin' Changes: The Best of Tesla
Exodus - Bonded By Blood
Exodus - Let There Be Blood
Brother Von Doom - Relentless
Wednesday 13 - Fang Bang
Wednesday 13 - Transylvania 90210
Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique
Beastie Boys - The Mix Up
All That Remains - Overcome
Bison - Quiet Earth
Blue Cheer - Vincebus Eruptum
Britny Fox - s/t
New York Dolls - s/t
The Saint soundtrack
Joetown - Pills and Ammo
Sahara Hotnights - Kiss & Tell
New Order - Republic
New Order - Get Ready
Girlschool - Legacy

Monday, October 06, 2008

All That Remains - "Chiron" video

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Halloween Hoardefest: The Howling



Over the decades, traditional monster lore such vampirism, flesh reanimation and especially werewolves have experienced revival periods, and in the horror boom of the eighties, it was the lupine species that got a serious jumpstart once again. Consider Wolfen, The Company of Wolves, Silver Bullet, American Werewolf in London, hell, even freakin' Teen Wolf if we have to. Even the highly enjoyable Fright Night, which was largely a vampire flick, had a quasi-wolf.

Outside of John Landis' wonderfuly smarmy American Werewolf in London, the decade's affinity for wolfsbane came directly from 1981's The Howling. As inventive as Landis' horror schlock, The Howling's deep-buried sense of humor is rather subtle. Indeed it is a tribute to the horror genre itself as much a werewolf salute. You can parallel, if you like, Dee Wallace's reporter character Karen White and the entire claustrophobia she feels in the news room after her harrowing experience in the film's opening montage to an understated peck on the cheek to the clouting desperation and fear inside the chaotic t.v. station featured in the original Dawn of the Dead. You can spot Lon Chaney, Jr. on the tube in The Howling hailing a scene from The Wolf Man. By and large, however, The Howling's sense of free-spirited play beneath its dreaded terror zone comes from cameos and cast appearances from established actors known to crop up in horror films, in addition to cheeky movie references. John Carradine and Slim Pickens crop up in The Howling, as does character names like Terence Fisher and George Waggner (Dee Wallace's therapist, played by Patrick MacNee). Also be on the lookout for a quick-spot howdy from none other than Roger Corman, who is the guy standing outside the phone booth waiting for Dee Wallace to finish. Where was Michael Landon in this thing? Oh yeah, picking burrs out of his britches on the set of Little House On the Prairie.

Getting down to business, though, The Howling's creative sense of exploiting Dee Wallace's traumatic experience by thrusting her into an underworld society was pretty cutting edge stuff for 1981. She's already had to contend with being a pawn in the capture of a wanted killer named Eddie Quist as the film opens. She is submitted to torture porn and a shadowy exposure of Quist's true internal beast, which leaves her vulnerable to the subculture she's prescribed by a shady doctor with his underground society's (known as "The Colony") interests more at heart than Dee's.

After Dee's husband Bill (Christopher Stone) is attacked by a werewolf following his rejection of advances from a carnivorous nympho (Elisabeth Brooks), he surrenders to his infused impulses and has sex with Brooks, as their tryst completes his transformation. In one of the film's creepier segments, the silhouette of their infidelity mutates into humping werewolves by a campfire. Here is where director Joe Dante bravely ushers the subgenre into a more erotic feel, which was unfortunately propelled to absurd heights in a series of non-essential sequels. Still, don't you sometimes wonder if Michael Landon wished he could've scored during the fifties-era I Was a Teenage Werewolf?

Bringing her detective friends (Dennis Dugan and Belinda Balaski) to The Colony for help as her world begins to crumble around her, Dee Wallace is brought closer to the gruesome secret that lurks beneath the beachside barbecues and a purported retreat for healing. She discovers to her dismay that Eddie Quist is alive and well after being shot at the beginning of the film; it's suggested that a silver bullet was not used, hence he survived to stalk another day. In an extensive transformation sequence that almost seems to throw down at John Landis' state-of-the-art effects in American Werewolf in London, Quist comes after Dee Wallace again--after she's been standing literally paralyzed through the entire mutation. She escapes her attack (but not without later repercussions) and Quist is later dispatched by Dennis Dugan, who has wisely consulted the werewolf rule book and uses a silver bullet to smite him.

Together, Dee and Dennis burn The Colony after a somewhat grisly revelation sequence that shows a chewed human carcass in a barn full of werewolves. At this point, we've learned there a new rule to the werewolf ledger book, or at least an exception clause for this particular cult. They're changelings who don't need the full moon to transform into werewolves, yikes!

This sets up the ending as Dee Wallace squeamishly returns to the t.v. station and broadcasts a warning about the werewolf clan and to prove her point, she mutes into a wolf on-camera before Dennis Dugan takes her out on live television with a silver bullet. The end posit of the film focuses on the viewers, who all wonder if what they've seen is real or a publicity stunt.

That ending is brash, intelligent and remains today a slick deneumont to a modern-day horror film. Would that it had remained untouched at this point instead of tainting its gut-poked impact with six sequels, the worst of the lot being Howling II: Your Sister's a Werewolf... Not even Christopher Lee (who should've known better) and the repeated exposure of Sybil Danning's tits could redeem that piece of celluloid trash. The fact that turd opens with the acknowledgement of Dee Wallace's death in the original film bastardizes the whole endeavor. Perhaps Joe Dante should've done a new film merging his famed biter fish against the fanged wolves: Piranha Vs. The Howling. Couldn't have been any worse than what came after the originals of each.