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Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Hoardefest: The Bride of Frankenstein

Some movies speak for themselves, so I won't waste time blathering with a full synopsis of James Whale's 1935 Bride of Frankenstein. It simply might be the best sequel of all-time outside of The Empire Strikes Back, and Bride of Frankenstein does its business in nearly half the time!

I'm not sure what I find most outstanding about Bride, the fact Elsa Linchester effectively pulls off a dual role as a fictitious representation of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, plus the titular monster...the inherent sarcasm Whale sprinkles throughout his film, subtly swiping at both the horror and romance genres...the always-hilarious Irish character actress Una O'Connor, who brought comedy relief in every single film she appeared in...the elaborate Gothic infrastructure of Baron Frankenstein's (Colin Clive) home...or simply the fact Boris Karloff presents the most humanistic creature in this film the genre has ever seen.

I mean, take into consideration what honor the man had to have felt when he was billed simply as "Karloff" in this film. Not even Lon Chaney, the undisputed master of ghouls was largely heralded by his last name only. For today's audiences, it might come off slightly hokey that Frankenstein's monster learns how to speak in this film, but going by Mary Shelley's original source, it's accurate and do remember we're talking about reanimated human flesh including the brain. Karloff's vocal strains and grunts make Frankenstein come off like a toddler pushing out singular words with initial difficulty--accompanied by the expected frustrated rages--to the point when he speaks a bit more fluidly, you actually care!

Bride of Frankenstein is part comedy and part tragedy. Karloff's lumbering gesticulations and weepy facial expressions provoke immediate sympathy. The fact he just wants to pal around with someone who won't run like hell from him instigates the sorrowful finale when his newly-created "bride" ironically shrieks in terror at him, never mind she is one of his own breed. Frankenstein makes the last-minute decision to let the baron and his beloved Elizabeth (Valerie Hobson) go free after kidnapping the latter, and then topple the castle down upon himself, the bride and the gin-tugging megalomaniac Dr. Pretorius (Ernst Thesiger, who really makes the most of his daffy role). Shelley, Shakespeare, Whale...cut from the same mold.

This film is ingenius with its timing, its settings, its deeply-plunged humor. It even makes use of early-on high tech in the lab of Dr. Pretorius, who we learn has bred miniature doll-humans under glass in the form of a king, a queen, even a ballerina. It's quite persnikkety of Whale to introduce Pretorius (assisted hilariously by Una O'Connor in the doctor's initial scene) as an even more demented foil for Baron Frankenstein. When the baron refuses to cooperate with Pretorius, he of course is compelled to assist in the schizo scientist's experiments...not to mention having his own living monster coerce him into making a mate against his will...ugh, as Jackie Chan would say, bad day! bad day! bad day!

When you get down to it, Karloff's sympathetic Frankenstein is a by-product of hatred and arrogance. His creator twice learns the folly of playing God, while the monster himself finally comes to realize his unwelcome stature in society simply leaves him no room for peace. The briefest moment when Frankenstein's monster has quietude comes courtesy of a blind hermit (O.P. Heggie) who patiently waits on him and teaches him skills and language. Funny back in '35 how hard smoking was pushed, for the record, as the hermit schools Frankenstein in cigarette pulling!

Regardless, you can hardly do better than Bride of Frankenstein in measuring up to an existing classic...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

CD Review: Living Colour - The Chair in the Doorway

Living Colour - The Chair in the Doorway
2009 Megaforce Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Though it's nearly cost them a career, you have to admire Living Colour for being true to themselves. This is a band which vaulted to notoriety on the eye-popping blare of social disorder in the late eighties with their legendary rock pounder "Cult of Personality." The subsequent "Glamour Boys" off of Living Colour's reverential debut from 1988 Vivid managed to prolong public interest, while the subsequent release of the snide "Elvis is Dead" and "Type" from the group's next album Time's Up kept them on the daily blip. Still, when you examine the course of Living's Colour's strange but prolific career, you have to make strict note this group has always lived under the temptive muscle of their breakout hit where Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the Kennedys speak and die.

Living Colour has bravely shunned replication over two decades and now five albums. Their adherence to shying away from writing another towering radar beacon like "Cult of Personality" shows a dedication to staying out of the sellout court, yet they have paid a price for their individualism. 1993's Stain is strictly for Living Colour's devout as it remains their fiercest, cloutiest and most venomous album to-date. Consider this point in time their public breakoff despite Stain's ballsy raw power.

Thus to certain latitudes Living Colour, a band once sadly held to the status of novelty when they emerged, have become underground toasts even after a lamentable layoff. The fact Living Colour (who did gain a fair chunk of notice in confusion alongside the Wayans family's landmark comedy-variety show In Living Color) could shred as hard as any of their white metal and rock contemporaries made them dangerous. Was there a Hoover-esque air of market control back then, or did Living Colour piss off too many powerful folks in Graceland?

Whatever the case, the fact remains Living Colour houses four of the most talented musicians the modern age has ever seen. It was a thing of glory to see them return in 2003 with their post 9/11 analysis Collideoscope, even if the masses weren't listening. Six years later following numerous tours and Corey Glover's run as Judas in a traveling troupe for Jesus Christ Superstar, the Living Colour ensemble is back.

Boy, are they back! Dialing in some of their most motivated music since Time's Up and hedged with a refined maturity of elder lions, Living Colour have become self-controlled officers and orchestrators of funk 'n blues-peppered metal. At one time, Living Colour's destiny appeared to be a more cross-cultural shadow of the Bad Brains--and if anyone covers the Brains better than Living Colour, I'd be interested to hear! Yet their latest album The Chair in the Doorway is nearly as confident and swaggering as Vivid and certainly the best-polished they've sounded in ages.

Corey Glover has always provided an energetic though calming vibe through his gospel-tinted vocals, even when screeching for all of his worth as he does on the loud and pumping "Out of My Mind" from The Chair in the Doorway. For this writer, Glover's voice has always been engaging, confrontational when the moment arises, but overall like the cat is sitting next to you and giving a personal oratory. No different here.

Glover gets right into his heart and mind on the opening track "Burned Bridges," a deeply-cut confessional for him and perhaps the band as a whole where he delivers these brilliant lyrics: "toss my keys in the river, now I can't go home again, burned up my phone book, now I have to make a real friend, threw away my watch and wallet, now I have no time to spend, gave up my vices to stop the voices, and now they're back again..."

The torment expressed by Glover on "Burning Bridges" is given musical voice by a reserved, anticipatory build-up following the intro of an ethereal digital beat and haunted bass lines from Doug Wimbish. Vernon Reid plucks out a weave of nervy clean and scraped guitar notes. Even as Will Calhoun steps on the beat, "Burning Bridges" holds its thumb on the trigger, keeping the tune thrumming on a steady minimum until Reid jerks out a nimble-fingered solo which naturally elevates into a shrieking climax. Masterfully-executed.

Living Colour keeps things deep down and dirty on the following song "The Chair," one of their meanest ever. Will Calhoun's lumbering polyrhythm on the verses keeps "The Chair" street tough and wily while Reid pulls out wah-tugged alarm beacons overtop the chorus. All as set up for the truly ferocious "DecaDance," a beastly cut which allows Glover to snarl his accusatory tirade "in the ugliness of beauty, and when pretty is vicious, you thought you were a voyeur, but the irony is the access of excess the pigs are in the trough, you thought you had your fill, but enough is never enough..."

"Young Man" takes on a humorous dance-funk shuffle where Glover calls out mimicking step slides while commenting on the deadened march of society. One of The Chair in the Doorway's finest moments comes with the bumping electro groove humming beneath Living Colour's sly drift on "Method." If this song isn't made to be a Bond theme, then let the folks at MGM take note at once! You're letting a suave sleeper hit for Daniel Craig's next vehicle go utterly wasted...

Reid especially sparkles with Robert Johnson-loving scat and screech on "Bless Those (Little Annie's Prayer)" and "Not Tomorrow," a pair of pure blues jams which operate in very little mimicry of trad blues. "Not Tomorrow" is purely addicting even with its abbreviation, given Calhoun's slippery beat pattern, Wimbish's laid-back finish and Glover's dreamy throat twirls. Reid is comfortable enough to pick away in the background here, while he's the undeniable showcase of "Bless Those (Little Annie's Prayer)."

Few bands actually sound like they give a damn not only after a couple of decades hanging about the business, much less those who have suffered extensive periods of downtime and break-up. In the midst of a more straightword alt rock sway like "That's What You Taught Me," this is a group finally at peace with their multi-faceted identity. Furthermore, for Living Colour to emit such focused thunder all over "Out of My Mind" in 2009 means they're more dangerous now than they ever were...

Rating: ****

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 10/28/09

Man, nothing like waking up to the sound of nature jitterbugging on your roof... Despite the downpour falling outside, discovering by the site reports your traffic has nearly doubled within a week's time is more than enough sun to counter back!

A hearty welcome to my new readers, assumedly ushered by my post at Fangoria Musick! This week I began there with a review of Suicide Silence's latest album and I have three forthcoming reviews for the site of The Company Band, Andreas Kisser and the Melvins. Do drop in at and by all means return here to The Metal Minute afterwards; very pleased to have you all aboard!

The past week was a whirlwind as we baptised our boy and had a nice party thereafter which indirectly continued well into the night. We're grateful for our friends and family who came at one point or another, particularly our out-of-town and local friends who stayed with us and eased the workload tremendously.

The new eyes are adjusting and with Halloween right around the corner, yours truly is excited as hell. For the upcoming days, look for a review of Living Colour's latest album The Chair in the Doorway and then Halloween Hoardefest will resume straight through Saturday. More goodies are planned in the upcoming weeks with guest interviews and even a guest writer or two. You know where the entrance door is here; drop in and make yourself comfortable.

Spin-wise, because of all the high-octane action of last week, the list is limited again, however I'd have to say I practically had a duel between Rammstein and The Company Band for most spins. Though I gave the new Rammstein a 3.5 rating, I'm a bit addicted to Liebe Ist fur Alle Da. It's one of their more complete and sound efforts, so give it a spin! I'm gearing up for upcoming interviews with Rammstein and Pelican for Hails & Horns mag, so I expect a future heavy lean of both on the sound system.

Ba-ba-boom! To the tune of the Silver Shamrock jingle... three more days to Halloween, Halloween, Halloween...

Rammstein - Liebe Ist fur Alle Da
The Company Band - s/t
Pelican - What We All Come to Need
3 - Revisions
Andreas Kisser - Hubris I & II
Bauhaus - The Sky's Gone Out
Bloodhound Gang - Hooray for Boobies
Suicide Silence - No Time to Bleed

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Halloween Hoardefest - Cathy's Curse

Okay, seriously, even by 1977 standards, this one's a stinker. Can you scream cash-in! with me?

Take your pick which one Cathy's Curse rips off more: Carrie, The Exorcist, The Possession of Joel Delaney, Burnt Offerings, The Omen, The Other, hell, even The Bad Seed!

You can take your assurances when you buy one of those mondo packs of horror or sci-fi films you're going to have sit through more than your share of slop. In this instance, I found a 50-pack of films which I grabbed strictly for the inclusion of Peter Jackson's late eighties gore romp Bad Taste and the classic Deep Red, plus a few others including I Bury the Living.

The gentleman I am, I handed over the set to my wife and invited her to pick the inaugural viewing from this mega package. She's real keen on haunted houses, possessions and children-from-hell flicks, which is exactly what we got with Cathy's Curse.

First off, shame on the manufacturers of the more-recent single release of the film on DVD and its grossly misleading cover. Don't expect to find a subtly-hot Goth chick ala The Craft or even Return of the Living Dead 3 in this film. No, you get seventies hair bobs and a freaky-ass blond preteen (though written as a seven-year-old), Cathy (Randi Allen) who gets possessed by the aggrieved spirit of a pissed-off aunt who was killed in a car wreck at a young age herself. Funny how Cathy and auntie look hauntingly the same, eh?

It turns out Cathy's daddy George Gimble (Alan Scarfe) was abandoned by his own pappy and sister, both of whom, as previously-stated, get snuffed in the film's intro. Years later, an adult George returns to his family estate with his nerve-shattered wife Vivian (Beverly Murray) and his otherwise happy-go-lucky daughter. Why? Hell if I know, either, since he has an important construction job, so you can't use the last-minute destitution ploy.

Cathy explores the European-thatched cottage-mansion and stumbles upon a beat-up rag doll which, guess what? Contains the cheesed-off spirit of her aunt! You can figure out what happens next as various cast members (including the Doberman "bitch" which is smarter than anyone else in the movie) bite it or get scratched and threatened with gross bodily harm. At least Cathy's Curse introduces a psychic into the plot, which is one of the earlier attempts to bridge mediums into horror yarns. Still, her inclusion is almost pointless here.

Also known as "Cauchemares," Cathy's Curse simply reeks from flaky performances, faux shocks including Cathy's potty mouth (the most famous being "your mother's a slut!") and terrible synthetic sound effects to convey floating telekinesis. You can picture some bored sound man dragging his finger dumbly across a keyboard as the wires hoist Cathy's dolly across the room, Jesus wept...

And that slight tilt of the doll's head? Amateurish, but kind of effective. The glowing eyes in the auntie's picture? Creepy for its time, assuredly. The sequence where Cathy gets the caretaker drunk and imposes a nightmare of snakes and tarantula upon him is shivery, but stupidly out-of-place. In other words, director Eddy Matalon tries too hard to mingle different elements of horror films before his and it comes off terribly disjointed. It's to the point you really don't care if you doze off at the end, even if there's a Father Karras to bash through the door with a golden crucifix in his mighty paw.

Randi Allen is the highlight of the film as she's genuinely annoying. Her stone face is downright unnerving, particularly if you're already parent to an unyiedling, stubborn child. Her possession is, well, equally unbending yet cardboardish. This one may be better than Exorcist II: The Heretic, but that's saying nothing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

CD Review: Rammstein - Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da

Rammstein - Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da
2009 Universal Music/Vagrant Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Sixth time around and Berlin exploratory metal pundits Rammstein are back in the saddle with a new studio slab following a four-year layoff. Delivered mostly in German, Rammstein’s latest offering Liebe Ist Fur Alle Dais hell-bent on engaging their audiences with updated schools of thought to their frequently dance-oriented stamp metal. Some have been wondering if Rammstein ever intends to match the full-on chug-strut of their breakout hit “Du Hast,” much less the shake-your-nu-metal-groove-thang of “Engel” or even the steadily-thumped antipop of “Amerika.” Well, not exactly on Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da, but the album is entertaining at times.

Parts of this album deliver energetic, pounding industrial metal, which should satisfy longtime devotees such as the heavily throbbing “Waidmanns Hell” and the stoic march ode, “Ich Tu Dir Weh.” Other parts are commendable left-of-center tryouts such as a two-step tempo and cabaret piano twinkling on the verses of “Haifsch,” a song bellowing with pure bravado once it reaches the choruses. Rammstein even takes a plucky stab at a swirling ballad, “Fruehling in Paris” which might’ve made fans cringe if not for a booming chorus and cacophonous electronics clanging atop Till Lindemann’s petitioning croons. Yes, folks, it works like a charm.

Have fun trying to figure out what “B*****” stands for. Guitarist Richard Kruspe states the intended phrase isn’t what you’re thinking; rather, it’s the Germanic “Buckstabu,” translating as “whatever you want.” One thing’s for sure, it swings with plodding mass and snarling vocals as the heaviest tune on the album, along with the angry-as-fuck “Weiner Blut” and the trigger-happy title cut, the latter of which grows thicker and faster with each bar, ala KMFDM at their meanest.

The opening number "Rammleid" is perhaps Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da's only real weak moment. It begins stoically with a blaring choral sample along with rousing intro call from Lindemman, yet it plods in so-so fashion with cliche riffs and astray keys. Afterwards, Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da becomes consistently entertaining.

Though nowhere in the same league of issuing dense tonal crushes as their previous albums, Rammstein now appears more interested in expanding beyond the band’s expansive frontiers tapped on Reise Reise and Rosenrot. Then again, don’t expect things to be a full departure from Rammstein’s button-pushing past, most especially from the brainless yet undeniably hooky “Pussy.” Blatant, juvenile shenanigans from a band previously squirting audiences with pretend jizz from Till Lindemann’s waggling dildo; makes you wonder how they’ll encore such groined shock tactics this time. Of course, he might not need a gimmick here, since "Pussy" speaks for itself with its insanely perverse chorus, which will have you repeating it stupidly in your head hours after play.

If you gander at the sprawled nudity and fantastical nihilism of the album's foldouts, you'll understand Rammstein is here to push the envelope as far as society will sustain it without getting jailed for common indecency. Alienating a broad audience with their album title alone, Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da is nonetheless a largely fun, thumping record with more than a few changeups to their militant-sounding metal stamps.

Rating: ***1/2

Friday, October 23, 2009

Balzac - "Nowhere # 13" video

Freakin' hilarious clip from Japanese horrorpunks, Balzac! This one's a must-watch...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Halloween Hoardefest Poll: Which Halloween II Do You Prefer?

I figured pitting Rob Zombie versus John Carpenter for dibs to the original Halloween bragging rights would be a bit of a landslide, so let's ante the stakes higher (or lower, depending on your point of view) and pit the two directors' sequels instead.

The facts about Carpenter and Zombie's Halloween II's: both were done on shoestring budgets and both recouped their investments, albeit neither raked in according to expectation. Zombie's film took in over $16 mil on its debut weekend this year, while Carpenter's raked in more than seven in 1981. Carpenter's inaugural weekend take was Zombie's first day take, albeit you have to adjust for inflation and nearly triple the cost of a movie ticket today versus '81.

Neither film won over the press and both films have suffered their share of indignity from fans. I caught Zombie's film this year in preparation of my interview with the reigning Michael Myers, Tyler Mane and expecting nothing from it, I came out reasonably entertained. I have a thousand gripes about Zombie's Halloween II which I don't need to elaborate upon, but there was more to be happy about despite its abundant quirks. In fact, I've even relented my previously harsh assessment of Zombie's Halloween remake, just a bit, mind you. His sequel features an unleashed Michael with more humanity and aggression than anyone's attempted in the past, and a lot of scenes were really well-done and beautifully shot. At times, Zombie's Halloween II dances the razor's edge within striking distance of his nimbly horrific The Devil's Rejects.

Carpenter's version pissed off a lot of folks, largely due to its embracement of shock tactics and amped up gore overtop the unnerving suspense of his landmark original. Granted, Carpenter's Halloween II is a walk in the park for terror fans, as it is for Mikey (Dick Warlock in this case) himself. It does cheat and it does skip on pliability in many spots. However, I've always had a soft spot for Halloween II for its setting.

How many people fret over going to the hospital out of fear they're not going to come back out? Introduce a silent, skulking serial murderer into the zone and oy, that's freaking frightening! I've always enjoyed that dimension to Carpenter's Halloween II, which Rob Zombie saluted in his own film, albeit only as part of the introduction in an extensive dream sequence. Granted, Carpenter's hospital is so barren, actual patients are actually inferred to.

Both directors' interpretations of Dr. Loomis are as far on the spectrum from each other as possible in their respective Halloween II's. Donald Pleasance is the elder knight in a trenchcoat attempting to clean up his dirty business and save a still-sympathetic Jamie Lee Curtis (sorry, Scout), while Rob Zombie spirals Malcolm McDowell into a reprhensible profiteer who only does the right thing at the very end. Both Loomis' bite it in the end, though McDowell takes a chewier way out. Pleasance, we know from later films, re-emerges for a few more stakeouts. McDowell? Who knows what's coming for his Loomis other than a second book deal perhaps...

You can even duel the two directors' choice of nudity in their films if you so desire. Zombie flings the ta-ta's galore in a lengthy party sequence featuring his psychobilly discovery Captain Clegg, plus a very brutal scene in the strip club The Rabbit in Red where Tyler Mane mauls a bare-assed stripper into the glass. Zombie uses a lot of shadow to tease his audience in the latter scene, which in my opinion, is a toast to Carpenter's Halloween II featuring the scorching-hot Pamela Susan Shoop and her ill-fated hot tub facial plunge. Point to Carpenter in this avenue, as Shoop remains to my eyes the numero uno horror nude ever shot on celluloid.

If you dare, readers, which of these Halloween continuations do you prefer?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 10/21/09

How's it hanging, droogies? Welcome to another midweek checkpoint session at your favorite drop-in, The Metal Minute!

Exciting stuff over on this side of cyberworld, most importantly being given the gift of sight, courtesy of a generous gift from my folks. Though I'm still in the sharpening phases, when you've spent 32 of your 39 years in glasses, seeing the world unshackled is one of the most exhilirating life experiences one can have. I've always been one to take time and examine the little details of our world around us, but it's twice the spirit of exploration under healed eyes, I assure you...

This week I had a nice sitdown with Ace Frehley, which is always fun getting to talk to an original member of Kiss. God bless Peter Criss as well, who I'm sure you've read managed to catch breast cancer in time and get it cut out. Take a lesson from Peter, guys; don't think yourself a pussy for squeezing your pecs for lumps. It could save your life.

I'm also pleased to announce I'll be joining the team in their Musick department, so a big-time thank you to that esteemed crew for the opportunity...

Because I took the weekend out to attend to my eyes, the listening sessions were limited, so my playlist this week is very slack. Doesn't help I got stuck on the new Pelican album for much of the week, either, ha!

More insanity prevails upcoming with dear friends from out-of-town crashing with us and our boy's baptism this weekend. Stay tuned for upcoming goodies and plenty of Halloween Hoardefest as we get into the final ten days of the month.

Unlocking the wolves over here, I am yours as always at The Metal Minute...

Pelican - What We All Come to Need
Naam - s/t
Living Colour - The Chair in the Doorway
Ace Frehley - Anomaly
Depeche Mode - Sounds of the Universe
Anvil - Past & Present: Live in Concert
Fireball Ministry - The Second Great Coming
Black Cobra - Chronomega

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Halloween Hoardefest Poll: Which "Thing" Do You Prefer?

Since having corrective eye surgery this past Friday, I've only had the chance to watch one horror flick straight through, the 1951 sci-fi spookfest The Thing From Another World. As my copy of John Carpenter's 1982 redux is finally out of its shrink wrap (yes, I'm a busy boy...), I anticipate getting to that likewise classic before Halloween arrives.

I love both films on different levels; the original for its suspense, stylishness, fabulous sets and gentle humor. Carpenter's remake is obviously heralded as one of the genre's showcases of gore, yet I'm drawn to its icy hellscape as much as the blood and guts.

I recall reading about someone having a heart attack in the middle of Carpenter's Thing, while others simply walked out in revulsion. I was age 12 when I saw Carpenter's on cable t.v. and Howard Hawks' masterpiece many times over from ages 8 on through courtesy of our local Ghost Host Theater. If you're 35 and above, don't you just miss those weekend horror romps every Saturday night? Life just isn't the same these days...

Which leads me to posit Carpenter's version as one of the very few redos deserving the rare honor of being worthy of the original, unlike most of the remake tidal wave insulting our intelligence these days. Many who ventured into the theaters in 1982 disagreed, but horror history has been kind to Carpenter, much as it now embraces Stanley Kubrick's version of The Shining as an iconic fright film of its time. Consider the fact Kubrick's Stephen King adaptation was vilified by the author himself as well as critics lambasting it as a colossal bore.

Personally, I've always loved both films for their atmospherics above their inherent violence. All the twisty, sinewy red stuff of the 1982 Thing may be eye candy if you're a horror freak, but can you not grant how impactful James Arness (later to go on as the immortal Marshall Dillon of Gunsmoke) is in The Thing From Another World, particularly when he's standing on the other side of the door and lunging forward within seconds?

Today's audiences might yawn due to its predictability by modern gauges, however, there's no denying Arness as The Thing is just as cleverly monstrous as a torn-up Siberian husky housing a tentacled badass inside.

That being said, readers, which Thing do you prefer, the 1951 version or 1982?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

CD Review: Anvil - Past & Present: Live in Concert

Anvil - Past & Present: Live in Concert reissue
2009 Metal Mind Productions
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Without a doubt, the unexpected success story of 2009 is Anvil. What Steve "Lips" Kudlow and Robb Reiner have managed to accomplish this year courtesy of a well-done and affectionate bio film of themselves is possibly going to be replicated down the pike. Of course, the reason Anvil! The Story of Anvil has become such a smash hit in the metal and rock underground is due to its sheer honestly. Plus, when you get down to it, everyone appreciates a story about working class underdogs finding their comeuppance or in this case, re-emergence.

Finally seeing their latest album This is Thirteen (a rather recommendable slab) emerge upon the market, God bless Metal Mind Productions, who have been on a resounding tear in ushering past heavy metal releases from around the world. No indie label out there has been so attentive in reissuing some of the coolest product the genre has seen in previous years.

An interesting selection for Metal Mind to re-introduce Anvil's Past & Present: Live in Concert from 1989, however, they did quite well thusly. Though this live album was released in 1989 after Anvil had flirted with a commercial breakout on '87's Strength of Steel, most would attest the band was on a downward spiral after this album, coupled by the likewise tempered Pound for Pound.

Considering only 3 of the 11 songs of the setlist presented on Past & Present: Live in Concert are represented by Steel and Pound (the best of them being the gnashing "Blood On the Ice"), you can tell even Anvil at this point were fully aware of their questionable future. Lineup changes being part of their whacked-up schism in the late eighties, Anvil went straight for the meat of their back catalog Metal On Metal and Forged in Fire with this live show, which is why you'll want to scarf it up.

Though opting away from their debut Hard 'n Heavy, Past & Present: Live in Concert is a highly entertaining live album which capitalizes on Anvil at their thrashiest and looniest. Though never the most precise band who ever stamped down the beaten trails of heavy metal, it should be always said these guys were leaders of the pack of their time and place.

"Jackhammer," "Motormount," "666," "Mothra" are all staple Anvil classics if you were around to enjoy them back in the eighties. "March of the Crabs" is the band's celebrated Iron Maiden saluting instrumental which gets the boost of a pretty decent drum solo from Robb Reiner in the middle here.

By the time Lips cranks out the opening chugs and shreds of Anvil's calling card cut, "Metal On Metal," you can begin to understand why we all cared back then, much less openly embrace them a second time today. Reiner really has a field day with his tom rolls and hi-hat slides on "Metal On Metal" it really feels more of an event than it probably was in 1989. All Lips has to do is woof out "Keep on rocking!" and you're stupidly hooked. Today "Metal On Metal" comes off utterly goofy and nostalgic when heavy metal was still more simplistic than complex.

Then again, Anvil know how to show off a few mathematic chops by the time "Winged Asssasins" and "Mothra" roll into motion. NWOBHM to the core, Anvil mastered the power metal punch with "Winged Assassins" and even "Mothra," which closes this album off with plenty of gusto, including a tastefully abbreviated guitar solo by Lips following his playful and prolonged shred duel against Dave Allison.

"Toe Jam" from Pound for Pound gets kicked off with a funny toast to The Beverly Hillbillies, which makes you forget the sluggish "Concrete Jungle" from Strength of Steel opening this otherwise motivated concert. Perhaps Anvil was sick of playing their hit "Mad Dog" at this point, but certainly "Straight Between the Eyes" has a more deserving place of honor in this set than "Concrete Jungle."

For longtime fans, Past & Present: Live in Concert is a wonderful howdy back through the time tube, while newcomers arriving to Anvil courtesy of their terrific film or strictly by word-of-mouth will do perfectly well to begin here. Each will get a slavering of Anvil's metallic blades sharpened by a well-captured audile whetstone featuring a band with more to offer in '89 than most people realized.

Rating: ***1/2

Friday, October 16, 2009

Halloween Hoardefest: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

October, 1988, when Halloween films were still released during the appropriate season instead of at the end of summer... Apparently the Saw franchise bought Halloween dibs from under the Akkad family's noses. I had just graduated high school, then in my freshman year of college. It was ten years following the release of John Carpenter's horror masterpiece which got the entire Michael Myers ethos rolling. Man, to think Carpenter's film is 31 years old now, much less the fourth installment hitting 21!

In 1988 one of the big to-dos in the horror business was reports of Michael Myers resurfacing to the big screen after taking a seven year powder and skipping an in-between sequel belonging to an Irish mask maker bent on destroying children as homage to the Druids. Happy were many of us terror addicts back then. Of course, it's hard to appreciate what a big deal Michael Myers coming back was in '88, considering there's been seven more Myers specials since with Halloween 3-D on its way... 21 years ago the character of Michael Myers wasn't yet thought of as saturated. At least not until the final credits rolled on Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.

I'd gone to see Halloween 4 with one of my long-running buds of the day. We'd survived middle and high school, teen dance clubs, multiple car breakdowns and countless horror flicks together. Already set free of our 12-year undergraduate shackles, we already looked and felt older than most of the crowd sitting in the theater. Good times, since we were the big hotshots nobody dicked with, even as our sudden juniors tormented one another before and throughout the film as we ourselves had done at the appropriate time in our lives. My buddy couldn't yet hang up his varsity jacket, however, nor could I hang up the parting of ways with my onetime deadly-serious girlfriend. I'd forced her into a fair chunk of the eighties horror flicks and in a way my balls were missing the abuse they'd taken during A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors when she'd jumped out of her seat and shredded my nads with her sprung reflexes. Tom Cruise and Matthew Broderick were more her speed; I had it coming, obviously...

Halloween 4 is not that bad, actually. Director Dwight H. Little begins Michael's re-emergence with an effective opening segue of autumn gloom and dusted Halloween decorations amidst the Illinois farmlands before shifting into his story. A nice, creepy preface. We learn both Michael (this time handled by George P. Wilbur, who also returned briefly in the sixth movie) and Dr. Samuel Loomis (the enigmatic yet obviously worn-down at this point Donald Pleasance) have actually survived the detonation which was supposed to have crisped them to cinders in Carpenter's Halloween II.

An ill-fated transport of a comatose Michael to the federal asylum he originally sprung out of, Spring Grove, resuscitates him back into action, particularly after hearing the medics discuss facts about his unknown niece. In this film, Jamie Lee Curtis is acknowledged via photographs as she and her storyline husband have been killed in a car accident, thus tracing Michael's bloodline now to Danielle Harris, playing the sweet and vulnerable Jamie. No coincidences there, right? The character was reportedly first named "Britti," for what it's worth.

Little keeps the pace moving pretty good as Loomis manifests on the scene yet again upon learning of Michael's transfer, which of course results in the latter's bloody escape. The scene of the capsized ambulance with the steel bridge in the background is very ethereal and well-chosen by Little.

Back to Haddonfield we go for another round...

Poor Jamie is tormented by her classmates who are fully aware Michael Myers, aka "The Boogeyman" is her uncle. On top of it, she's persecuted by dreams of Michael, wearing his mask, no less--where does her frame of reference come for those chilly and admittedly effective scare scenes in the beginning of the film? She's a foster child in the Carruthers' family home where the eldest teenage daughter Rachel (Ellie Cornell) is in a hormonal state of agitation trying to pin down the hot stud in her school, Brady. Forced to babysit Jamie on Halloween night, Rachel loses Brady to the sheriff's buxom daughter while also losing Jamie on the streets with a prowling Michael Myers who is set on carving up his little niece on Halloween night. Uncle Mikey, you heartless bastard...

Suffice it to say, Michael tallies another lion's share of victims including most of Haddonfield's police force (done off-camera with an affixed later scene showing the chewy remains of one officer) and the catapaulted execution of a power engineer (the only one on duty, derrr) into the electric works. Meanwhile, Michael has a posse of bar rednecks on his tail who object to the town order of closing down early because of the state of emergency. They do more harm than good, naturally. A group of idiots surrounds Loomis and the new sheriff (Beau Starr) while wearing Michael masks, and there ya be...Haddonfield's finest looking dumber than dirt while its most unwanted pest has his way about town once again.

By the time the smoke has cleared with Michael allegedly dispatched in an abandoned mine shaft, everyone believes the day is won, yet oh, Lord, what are those familiar piano tones and what is that camera doing with a mask's eyeholes covering them? Why is Jamie's foster mother screaming her lungs out? Why is Loomis crying on the steps with his gun raised? Why, it's because Jamie, who held Michael's hand for a fleeting second in the finale apparently grabbed a psychic link which caused her to stab foster Mommy and thus tie herself (in clown gear, natch) to her only living blood. Oy...

Danielle Harris (who has the distinction of being in as many Halloween flicks as Jamie Lee Curtis at four) later went on to dirty up her mouth and flash her yabbas in Rob Zombie's 2007 remake of the original Halloween and his sequel from this year. It's one of the few times I personally felt squeamish at the sight of bare flesh onscreen because Danielle Harris is so effective at her job in Halloween 4 and 5 her waif-like imploring to Michael to remove his mask in the fifth film is almost as deep-cutting as the late Heather O'Rourke whimpering over her dead bird in Poltergeist. Seriously, I felt a little creepy watching the older Danielle (playing Annie from the original set of characters) pull her boyfriend between her legs and command him to say how much he wants to fuck her.

The entire premise of Halloween 4 and 5 is just as irresponsible and mean-spirited as the third film since Michael's obsession in these two jaunts is to dispatch his little niece--and of course anyone getting within slashing reach. Yes, children are afraid of The Boogeyman, which is the foundation to creating Michael Myers, but over the course of two movies, is not just a bit sadistic to have his continuously-chased protagonist of elementary school age?

One of the few itches about Halloween 4 I have is the structure of Michael's mask in this one. It was reported Little and his production staff originally wanted to use the vintage Shatner mask but it had worn out to a delicate state, hence a replica store mask was purchased and touched up for this film. That at least jives with the scene here where Michael walks into the five and dime and slips his new death vestige on, even if it's hokey he can go about his business unimpeded. Nobody at least saw the pale ghost face in the broken mirror shards after Jamie meets her uncle for the first time in the store and shatters it in fright?

Still, no matter how ghoulish Michael's death shroud is in every single Halloween film he's appeared in, doesn't it sometimes look bloated in this one nonetheless, as if Michael jacked a cream puff stand along the way home? He looks more menacing in face bandages and a hospital gown when he impales a mechanic to procure a new set of coveralls. In contrast he's laughable standing erect like a kid's punching dummy and waiting for Ellie Cornell to plow him down with the truck--even funnier when he launches from the impact instead of falling kersplat beneath the steel wheels. He's almost like a cardboard standup raised by the effects crew when he rises up for a final lunge at Jamie before the rednecks blow him apart. Ahh well, we know damned well this isn't the end of Michael and we know his mask takes on a different mold in the next chapter, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers.

When push comes to shove, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers was escapist fun back then and easygoing mindless entertainment today, albeit that thumb-pressed boring into the medic's forehead during the ambulance sequence is hardly easygoing. Not one a top dog of the series, but it was fairly stylish, sharply filmed and a lot of nonsensical glee back in '88. Just getting to watch Michael do what he does best--this round in a pudgier mask and hockey pads beneath the jumpsuit to bulk George P. Wilbur up--it was easy money for the Akkad clan who only invested five-plus million into this vehicle and recouped almost three times that in the total box office draw.

No wonder Michael just won't die...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Demon in the Chelly," a Halloween-spirited poem by Ray Van Horn, Jr.

You can't quite see it in this copy, but my piece "Demon in the Chelly" was inspired by a breathtaking image of the Canyon de Chelly, photographed by Ansel Adams in 1948...and quite possibly a keen love of Halloween two months before its due arrival...

Demon in the Chelly
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

maybe it was Pezazu
that puke-inducing hellraiser from The Exorcist
maybe it was Lilith
compulsory guardian of this craggy wasteland
or maybe it was that tetchy pile of rubble
Rockbiter from The Never-Ending Story
but I assure you
as much as I know Kansas is flatter than hours-poured beer
there’s a demon in that otherwise impenetrable canyon

the wraith’s been shacked up there for centuries
I can tell by its stories-high,
wind-worn and perpetually pissed-off countenance
snarling an ecological caveat
to anyone spotting it amidst the majesty of the baking gorge it calls home

it likely devoured cowboys and Mennonites
before the Navajo chased the former into California, the latter into Pennsylvania
these days it likely inhales parasailers and climbers
and snacks on thunderbird-enamored tourists
invading outer rim reservations with soul-stealing digital clicks
freshening up at pueblo-styled chain hotels Custer would’ve found novel
and strapping on newly-purchased Canyon de Chelly souvenir shirts
suburbanerds straining their sedans into the steep gangways of sandstone chapels
genuflecting amongst the coyotes, antelope and scrub jays
and peeling off wonderstruck utterances such as
“Behold, the amazing work of God!”

while the demon, imprisoned within its coulee cell
takes iniquitous exception
and whistles odium down the barren chasms below
like the dubiously merged soundtrack
to a spaghetti western-meets-slasher film

it flosses its entrenched boulder teeth with rattlers
and it coughs up tarantulas
always parched amidst the choking aridness of its containment
with far-flung cactus juice ridiculing it from the ravine floor

woe be the unsuspecting American traveler
drifting by in steel wagons robed in travel-cracked bumper stickers
with Earth, Wind and Fire swooning soulfully
vomiting burger wrappers
out of rolled-down windows
obtuse to malignant possessors from the rocks
who threaten priests with gruesome avowals
and return the retching favor twofold

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Halloween Hoardefest: The Mummy's Tomb and Sorority House Massacre

A couple of flicks ranging from not exactly the best to outright horrid...

1942's The Mummy's Tomb is the middle piece of Universal's quintet of flicks featuring the shuffling Egyptian hitman originally made famous by Boris Karloff and likewise played by old-time cowboy star Tom Tyler in the film preceding this one, The Mummy's Hand.

Lon Chaney, Jr. takes the reigns--or wraps, if you will--in The Mummy's Tomb and while this one is entertaining on a basic level, even Chaney will tell you he wasn't fond of the title monster being reimagined from Karloff's immortal Ihmotep to the future--and long-standing--Kharis.

Nevertheless, Chaney does his job in this somewhat generic vehicle in which he is brought over from the Middle East (Kharis surviving his torching in The Mummy's Hand, natch) thirty years after to extol revenge on the Banning clan who dared "violate" his sacred tomb. Oh, wait a minute, isn't that the purported locale of this film?

If you want to count more than five minutes of hoisted footage from The Mummy's Hand in this flick, Chaney's "tomb" consists of a cemetery caretaker's cottage occupied by a new high priest Mehemet Bey (played by Turhan Bey). Bey inherits the consecrated position of watching over Kharis' remains and takes an oath bestowed by the terminally ill Andoheb (George Zucco) to snuff out the Bannings, thus setting the karma line into proper balance.

Chaney is set into lumbering action as he takes out the surviving principals of the previous story, Stephen Banning (Dick Foran), Babe Hanson (previously known as "Jenson" and fielded by Wallace Ford) and the matronly aunt. Turhan Bey sets his targets on Stephen's son Dr. John Banning (John Hubbard) to rid Kharis of the entire lineage. Only problem is, Bey gets spring fever in the loins and sets himself upon stealing John's fiancee Isobel (whom John proposes to inadvertently while getting a draft notice!).

Bey commands Kharis to kidnap Isobel, Babe's warnings of a rampaging mummy are taken seriously only after he's crushed in the city alley, and the townsfolk chase the still-shambling Chaney back to the cemetery with torches in an abhorrent ripoff of Frankenstein--and not very convincingly done, either.

The Mummy's Tomb is well filmed as always, but it does betray a lot of cheating, particularly the conclusion as Bey is dispatched by the throng by an off-camera gunshot as he issues his final utterances of mankind's doom. Kharis' chokehold killing of the aunt is nearly comedic (is he actually smiling in that frame where he barely tugs on her chin with his folded-up arm?) and the stalk 'n squash motif is relative to a lesser-fun Michael Myers romp. Otherwise...

Speaking of Halloween, it cannot go understated how frequently John Carpenter's vintage classic was (and still is, actually) regurgitated in droves in the years following. Friday the 13th reinvented Carpenter's vision, only Sean S. Cunningham slapped his nubiles in the woods and changed the sex of the unseen stalker. Of course, he converted the murderer back to alpha in his onslaught of sequels and now remakes.

One of the guiltiest take-offs from the original Halloween is 1986's Sorority House Massacre. Add hijackings of The Dorm That Dripped Blood, A Nightmare On Elm Street and Slumber Party Massacre, and what you get here is a faux psychological thriller which tumbles dreadfully into another carve 'em up T&A gig featuring awful dialogue and the biggest onscreen hair since Poison.

Ready for the plot? Oh, come on, admit it, you're curious...

A young co-ed named Beth (Angela O'Neill) takes up the offer to crash at a campus sorority house as she explores the possibility of pledging, not to mention finding a quiet space to deal with bloody dreams she's been having. Quiet, huh?

Okay, so maybe this isn't Animal House, but Beth is left with another threesome of sisters and their moronic boyfriends for a lame-o "party" in the sorority shack. Beth is a stick in the mud from her persistent dream haunts, while her girlfriends (amongst them actresses Pamela Ross and Wendy Martel) shirk their baggy astro-eighties clothes in the interest of raiding another sister's closet for a private fashion show, all as excuse by the producers to show off their goodies. Trademark stuff of the decade...

Okay, so why is "Beth" having nightmares of a chubby-faced bulldog repeatedly coming after her? Said goon is locked in an asylum and guess what? He breaks out! Then he walks into an arms store and stabs the proprietor with a knife he swipes. Then he jumps into a green woodie station wagon (oh, the thefts galore, even down to National Lampoon's Vacation!) and hightails it to the college and begins stabbing the shit out of our nonsensical cast. For the record, the only one you care about is Nicole Rio as Tracy because she flaunts a beautiful rack even with a blade rammed between them. Everybody else floats on the dead air of the script and looks atrocious as our killer torments them from the other side of the door... "I think he left!" one quips. Groan... I wonder how intelligent the ladies are permitted to be in the 1990 sequel. Maybe not, considering they reportledly consult a ouija board to fight their attacker in that one, double groan...

Here comes the utterly pathetic punchline of Sorority House Massacre: "Beth" is also known as "Laura," which is how she is referred to by the killer in her dreams, which actually are kinda nifty in the opening segments, if drawn out mercilessly. Our resident psychopath has "come home" to the sorority house as it used to be owned by his family, whom he dispatched 12 years prior. Problem is, he left one sibling behind and do you wanna take a stab (pun intended) who that sister would be? Ding ding ding! On the money if you said "Beth" or "Laura!"

How freaking stupid are we as the audience expected to be if we honestly accept Beth has come back to the house she spent her earlier childhood years in, having blacked out all that had happened to her family? Her blade-happy broski shares a psychic connection with her and somehow they rendezvous at the old scene of the crime. Jesus, at least Rob Zombie sold his psychic connection between Michael Myers and his punked-out Laurie Strode 2.0 in his own Halloween II more believably than this garbage.

I pulled this turkey from a shelf of VHS tapes filled with horror films I taped in my teens and early 20s. Why did Sorority House Massacre make the cut when I taped football and hockey games over most of them later on? Better yet, why did I watch it again this evening?

Because Nicole Rio flaunts a beautiful rack even with a blade rammed between them. Damn, how shallow...

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 10/14/09

Hails once again, listeners and readers!

Nothing spells relaxation like the beach, even in Delmarva October. Though our sojourn to the ocean this past weekend was brief, sometimes all it takes is a healthy day-plus of submitting yourself to the crashing tide with something smooth in your hand to take your troubles away. It was especially precious to watch the boy take his first official dip in the ocean and Lord, did that kid laugh a mile a minute! It inspired me to dive right in myself for a good 20 minutes in company with the surfers, cold autumn air or no...

Minus the ever-raging battle of the cat box, the week is going in accordance with the weekend. The other night I enjoyed the pleasure of chatting with Lita Ford and Jim Gillette, both of whom had me roaring nearly the entire time. The playback of that one ought to be a trip!

Last night I was paid a generous compliment from a local town administrator as I was doing beat reporting from their council meeting, and with the Lita and Jim chat, it all makes for an upbeat vibe carrying me into my upcoming agenda, which is considerable, but happily met.

Literally no time for the tube whatsoever as I've been either on the road or parked at my desk pounding out assignments. Life feels best that way, honestly. Even better when it allots for a gratuitous amount of tunes. I have to say AC/DC and The Dictators were as heavy as things got for the beach trip since I like a particularly different vibe down there, either alternative rock, classic rock, Beatles, Beach Boys, reggae or electronica. My playlist this week will bear that out.

Though they're not wholly metal per se, the new Powerman 5000 album is rather good in the manner it retreats back to the tech-driven cyberpunk sound of their breakout album Tonight the Stars Revolt. If you're heavier-than-thou, you might not be interested, but if you like hook-oriented rock with a step-heavy tone, check it out.

The new Slayer is of course another shredfest as you read about it here at The Metal Minute yesterday--you did, didn't you? Of course you did, hecklers and all. The new Pelican album is a slight step back to their first two and I'm looking forward to getting on the horn with those righteous dudes in the upcoming future.

Speaking of interviews, be on the lookout for a Take 5 special here on this channel with this month's album pick selection, Skyfire. Should be pretty rad. My review of their album Esoteric appears at Heavy Metal this week along with a look at the reissue of King Diamond's 1995 classic The Spider's Lullaby.

K? K. Buh-bye...

Slayer - World Painted Blood
Powerman 5000 - Somewhere On the Other Side of Nowhere
Pelican - What We All Come to Need
Lita Ford - Out for Blood
Lita Ford - Lita
Lita Ford - Wicked Wonderland
Skyfire - Esoteric
Fireball Ministry - The Second Great Awakening
King Diamond - The Spider's Lullaby
The Fall of Troy - In the Unlikely Event
The Dictators - Bloodbrothers
Anvil - Past & Present: Live in Concert
Depeche Mode - Music for the Masses
Depeche Mode - Songs of the Universe
The Beatles - Abbey Road
The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
The Cure - 4:13 Dream
AC/DC - Black Ice
New Order - Substance

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

CD Review: Slayer - World Painted Blood

Slayer - World Painted Blood
2009 Sony Music Entertainment
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Few bands are bound to a standard as much as Slayer. There's a reason their bloodthirsty fans are more loyal to their cause than New England Patriots fans. Slayer has consistently delivered a familiar--and largely winning--product now over the course of 26 years.

Of Slayer's thrash and death metal contemporaries who can at least match their tenure in the business, none can stand toe-to-toe with this group in terms of prolonged intervals of speed. Is Slayer the fastest band on the planet? Well, they were years ago but even S.O.D. stepped on the gas just a tad more, albeit never matching the finesse nor claiming dibs for the greatest thrash album of all-time as Slayer did with Reign in Blood.

Over the course of metal's evolution, we've seen everyone from Napalm Death to Morbid Angel to Cannibal Corpse to XXX Maniak spin the genre to dramatic revolutions nobody foresaw in the mid-eighties. Nevertheless, there's something enigmatic about Slayer's unyielding violence and aggression which has not only built their legend, it's shackled the group to an anticipatory level of intensity.

Seldom is Slayer allotted the luxury of deviating from a demanded script featuring 10-12 songs of sitzkrieging velocity, blaring throat scrapes and ear-shredding guitar solos. Consider the hefty price they paid in 1998 for tinkering with the plot on Diabolus in Musica, an album which doesn't garnish as much praise as it deserves for having the stones to experiment and still retain a bloody crush. In the nu-metal explosion Diabolus was released, yes, Slayer took a shot at mingling with near-rap (much to many fans' dismay), yet it was still hands-down heavier than any band gaining the spotlight that year.

Then again, Slayer has weathered storms of criticism from differing sides of the fence in both support and condemnation of Seasons of the Abyss and South of Heaven, classics depending on who you ask.

Since 1998, Slayer has unapologetically embraced a wherewithal to challenge the scene for title as the most exteme metal band on the planet. Consider the length of their stay in the scene and you have to give Slayer props--whether you dig them or not--for writhing their bodies to near-exhaustion in their dominant continuance of celerity.

Now that Slayer has won a pair of consecutive Grammys (both in connection to their 2006 output Christ Illusion), the masters stomp their pedals ferociously and slop down the production a bit on their latest thrash-o-matic clouter, World Painted Blood.

Business as usual if you're a Slayer junkie, albeit they seize the luxury to tinker intermittently while throwing slight nods to the past on less-thunderous parts of the album. Not that World Painted Blood ever slackens; if anything, whenever Slayer molds and shapes a few mid-tempo and even slow grinding sections, they immediately kickstart the thrash as if in atonement.

"Americon" is one of the few songs on World Painted Blood which assumes a steady bob from start-to-finish without the need for jettisoning away from its hellacool pump. Fans are easily going to single "Americon" out for its sheer distinction, even if the meaty hook of the cut is something they're well-adjusted to as bridge parts in older songs. They'll accept it nicely since Slayer wastes nary a lick afterwards ushering out their reckless speed demon "Psychopathy Red." There's something a bit fiercer with "Psychopathy Red" isolating it from Slayer's other skullcrushing clips on this album; even Tom Araya seems to lose his freaking mind woofing out his final exhalations of the song with everything he has. Something deeper than the norm was at stake during this song's recording.

"Playing With Dolls" is going to remind most fans of the title song "Seasons in the Abyss" with its skulking intro and verses which ring highly reminisncent of their ancestor. "Dolls," however, goes for a more tactful acceleration on its bridges, all of which strive for a climax, but instead withhold themselves. This strategic dallying sets up the venomous thrashing finale "Not of This God."

As proud of the band's Grammys as Tom Araya has gone on record as stating, World Painted Blood is conceivably a thumb bite. It's hostile, anti-social, grimy, ugly, pick your superlative. This album bears nowhere the same amount of veneer and enamel as Slayer fans have come to expect, albeit the same level of professionalism applies as ever on World Painted Blood. Jeff Hannemann and Kerry King are still the most fearsome tag team shredders your speakers will strain to emit. Tom Araya might have gotten even faster on the bass while his rasps and roars are planted with their customary ease. Dave Lombardo's chops are still largely on the dime (with only a few scattershod burps), even as their sound capture is more hardcore-punk prodded than death metal slammed.

This is the decided essence of World Painted Blood. Instead of a glossy death album featuring four of the industry's best, Slayer opts for a more punk-edged sludginess on cuts such as "Snuff," "Unit 731," "Hate Worldwide," "Public Display of Dismemberment" and the title track. The fast-as-Earnhart "Unit 731" and "Snuff" could've been recorded in succession with early DRI and Crumbsuckers as easily as Dark Angel, Bathory and Exodus. It's impressive how Slayer can take every bit of their well-known components straight down to the wah-tugged solos on "Unit 731" and regurgitate it all with a dirtier and slightly fresher perspective.

World Painted Blood throws in a few contemporary breakdowns (while never surrendering to a cheapo stop-start chug schism) as well as random moments of melody, daring Slayer's fans to call them out. As relentlessly dungy and occassionally minimalist as World Painted Blood is, it's still Slayer sliced down to their meanest riffs and quickest tempos, both of which will stave off the anti-Diabolus in Musica wolves without concern...

Rating: ****

Monday, October 12, 2009

Arch Enemy - "Beast of Man" video

Friday, October 09, 2009

Halloween Hoardefest - Creature From the Black Lagoon

One of the most striking elements to Universal's Creature From the Black Lagoon is its G rating. Granted, Universal was hardly gory in its monster masher business; the goons, vamps, wolfies and fishfaces were all the studio needed to evoke terror. Black and white especially made Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolf Man and the Creature From the Black Lagoon all the creepier.

Can you imagine audiences back in the day and their reactions to this stuff? By the time 1954 came around, Universal had already enjoyed a legacy of menacing moviegoers to the point the original Frankenstein and its sequel The Bride of Frankenstein had staked reputations for unnerving people in their seats.

Today you can watch Creature From the Black Lagoon and compared to all of the bloodletting the horror genre flings at will, this film should be rated G. By modern standards, it's a timid but still rather effective popcorn film where a stubborn ichthyologist (Richard Carlson), his girlfriend Kay (the luscious Julie Adams) and their expedition seek out further evidence of a land and aquatic lifeform upon the discovery of amphibious skeletal remains in a cliffside. Their lagoon-crashed obsession invites the slippery shenanigans of our water-gurgling antagonist, referred to as "Gill-Man."

You pretty much know the film from there. Two actors portray "Gill-Man," Ben Chapman for the land sequences and famed underwater cinephotographer Ricou Browning for the underwater stalks and scrums. The creature's webby paw emerges off camera frequently while he swims in cat and mouse fashion waiting for playmates to wrestle with. Having attacked expedition crew on land and taking a shot at tormenting on a shipwide scale, "Gill-Man" kidnaps Kay and sets us up for a lot of harpoons to the torso, though not before squishing the project financier Mark Williams (Richard Denning) underwater.

The biggest criticism fronted to Creature From the Black Lagoon is an inferred lack of believability because of the "man in the rubber suit" aspect. Okay, if you're going to try that stunt today, you're going to get laughed and relegated to a 48-hour film festival with the hopes of scoring in the comedy bracket. In '54, however, this was fairly alarming stuff, though keep that G rating in mind. I was but 7 years old when I saw Creature for the first time, via a film projector in my elementary school. I remember vividly sitting between a fellow dude and dudette and we laughed as much as we sat in awe. Maybe not as distressing for the fifties folk, but undoubtedly "Gill-Man" left enough of an impact to warrant two sequels.

One facet to Creature From the Black Lagoon most forget is it was originally presented in 3-D. Now that three-dimensional films are en vogue once again in American pop culture, is there room (much less an existing print) of Creature in 3-D? I mean, come on, if they're going to plant "Gill-Man" on a Broadway stage for real-life consumption, let's get busy, Universal!

I don't know about a dancing ensemble around a guy in a rubber suit, though...if he kicks out Rockette-style, I'll boo it on sight.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Teaser for the Uncensored Version of Hardware Coming to DVD and Blu Ray Featuring Lemmy of Motorhead

Previously issued an X rating then sliced up by the MPAA, the sci-fi horror flick Hardware, directed by Richard Stanley, makes its uncut debut on DVD and Blu Ray on October 13th. Here's a promo clip featuring Lemmy from Motorhead...

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 10/7/09

Hola, compadres...

As always, here's hoping life is going good for all of my readers. Love you all, even the hecklers.

Daddyhood keeps me on the run and the general schism continues to grind in a preventive manner so I get slowed down from a steady diet of posting, but your continued support of The Metal Minute--which has not dwindled one iota looking over the recent hit figures from last month--keeps me invigorated. I must prioritize between my obligations and some very hot leads, which inflates the production slowdown, but well know I'll be keeping y'all busy here in the upcoming days.

Halloween Hoardefest will resume, of course, and as I get my agenda board (yes, I really have one) cleared, be looking for more metal fun and frivolity in the immediate future. At the moment, I've posted motivation notes all around the house to keep me focused. I have a vivid picture of the future. Like Prince sings, "I've seen the future and it will be...I've seen the future and it works..."

Because of the mad dog pace of last week, my playlist is obscenely short, but those are the breaks. I was watching the MTV channels while working in the man cave this past weekend and I do have to say even though Pink is hardly metal, I was very impressed by her trapeze performance at this year's MTV Video Awards. Even Lady Ga Ga, who is a bit robotic in her gesticulations managed to get my attention with her blood smearing at the same event. Of course, such antics inspired me to get the latest Novembers Doom album fired up...

A hefty word of praise for the new Ancestors album Of Sound Mind, holy smokes. Grab that sucker, as it just dropped yesterday. Gimme some Floyd, gimme some Hawkwind, gimme some King Crimson, gimme some Neurosis, all in one organ-drenched stew, ahhhhh... My review of the album should be running this week at Heavy Metal.

K, time to bounce. Cheers, gang...

Melvins - Chicken Switch
Ace Frehley - Anomaly
The Boo Radleys - Giant Steps
Kitchens of Distinction - Strange Free World
Novembers Doom - Into Night's Requiem Infernal
Ozzy Osbourne - No Rest for the Wicked
Ancestors - Of Sound Mind
Powerman 5000 - Somewhere On the Other Side of Nowhere
Kurtis Blow Presents The History of Rap Vol. 2

Monday, October 05, 2009

Dark Funeral - "My Funeral" video

The uncut version for all you sickies...

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Halloween Hoardefest 2009: The Midnight Meat Train and Halloween III: Season of the Witch

It's that time again, readers...

As in years past, The Metal Minute celebrates Halloween all October long as it's just plain groovy...or gory, depending on your tolerance level... Be on the lookout for brief horror film writeups in-between the metal talk throughout the month. Are the blades sharpened? Is your mask nice and snug? Good, let's rock...

The Midnight Meat Train

Ages ago I read Clive Barker's Books of Blood Volume 1 and was impressed back then someone could stand toe-to-toe with the master Stephen King on the visceral scale, much less employ the same sharp-fanged storytelling.

Books of Blood opens with "The Midnight Meat Train," which may seem tame to today's seen-it-all generation, but no doubt when Barker originally penned this short story in 1984, he had to have felt he was onto something. Indeed, "Train" left a brutal impact in print.

Finally more than 20 years later, someone tackles this bloody romp about a luckless New York photographer chasing down a serial killer in a subway by circumstance. Obsession overwhelms our photog Leon (played here by Bradley Cooper) to the point he continues to stalk the silent herc in a boiler suit and gets far more than he bargained for--as you would expect, naturally.

Director Riyuhei Kitamura (also of Azumi, Sky High and Godzilla: Final Wars notoriety) keeps a lean and smoking gun pressed against The Midnight Meat Train's script. His astute aesthetics in capturing New York City (assumedly filmed in the downtown district of Manhattan if you're familiar with it, particularly at night) adds to the haunted essence of the story.

As the "Subway Butcher" (aka "Mahogany," brought to life by Vinnie Jones) routinely appears on a specially-designated subway and grinds up his victims with a steel hammer and a hook, The Midnight Meat Train is naturally a bloody affair. Unfortunately, there's far too many CGI gore effects, such as those used to show jettisoning eyeballs (a slinky worked perfectly fine in Friday the 13th Part III, thank you), but the implications are nastier than the blood geysers Kitamura douses his audience with.

Leon scores the opportunity of a lifetime to capture raw photos of New York's underbelly for a top-dog art dealer (Brooke Shields in a far-too-brief cameo) and he sacrifices sleep to win her favor. When in Rome... Sliding after a trio of gang members who corner and attempt to rape a fashion model in a subway terminal, Leon's world changes forever.

Upon reading of the model's immediate disappearance (we've already seen Mahogany take her out at this point), Leon's photos he'd taken of the scene unravels clues to her assassin, namely a large ring yielding the mark of Mahogany. Though life is on the ups with Leon and his fiancee Maya (Leslie Bibb), his determination to prove Mahogany's guilt sucks him directly into the killer's den of sin. Leon is submitted to the brutal show Mahogany puts on by hoisting his victims upside down like cattle and stripping them down as sacrifices for mutants living beneath the city. By day, Mahogany is a meat carver, for the record. The film's tensest moment occurs when Leon has traced Mahogany to the meat packing plant and after being spotted by Mahogany while shooting his picture, runs through an effective cat-and-mouse game amidst the slabs of beef.

Kitamura gets to the nerve of Leon's compulsion to the point his relationship with Maya dances a razor's edge equal to his night life on the prowl. After proposing to Maya, he bends her over a counter and roughly nails her from behind. In another sequence, Maya has begun to fear her boyfriend, particularly after she coaxes him to stop photographing the Subway Butcher. As she entices him to shoot her in a gradual stripping state, Leon cannot focus on her, continuing to see the evil his camera's eye has submitted him to like an addiction.

The Midnight Meat Train is smartly executed and keeps moving with a purpose. In today's American horror scene where remakes are sadly the norm, this is exactly what the genre needs.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Is Halloween III: Season of the Witch as bad as history purports?

Well, yeah, exactly, but there's something about this goddamn flick that still draws me to it, regardless of it being a flea-gnawed mutt.

More than likely it's the wonderfully annoying Silver Shamrock commercial jingle that's already had me singing out loud 36 days away from the holiday: "36 days to Halloween, Halloween, Halloween...36 days to Halloween, Silllverrrr Shamrock!"

Yeah, it's the most likely culprit for my infatuation with this dumb movie. Then again, there's something about John Carpenter and Debra Hill's eyes (along with director Tommy Lee Wallce) which keeps you involved. The Fog was pretty alright but not a gate-crasher, yet you can't take your peepers away from it!

Ditto with Halloween III. Okay, so there's no Michael Myers to be found here, so what? History has already seen fit to rescue the pasty Shatner facade seven times since 1982 with yet another romp for Mr. Sandman's playboy slated in the works for next year and in 3-D, no less!

So there's a bunch of automatons crushing skulls, ripping off heads and making life miserable for anyone getting too close to a megalomaniacal, child-hating Druid wannabe set on recreating a centuries-old bloodbath. Not even Maulin' Mikey could kill so many that fast, come on!

Alright, so the plausibility of stealing an actual pillar of Stonehenge, one of the most sacred manmade wonders of the world, is pretty much a queef. But in keeping with the plot of Halloween III, after losing one of his patients to one of those double-breasted machina meanies (I guess last night was theme for me...well-dressed killers...might as well get American Psycho off the shelf while I'm at it) Dr. Challis (Tom Atkins) allows himself to get sucked into the mystery surrounding this particularly nasty death. The victim in question is a toy store owner named Harry who sells Silver Shamrock Halloween masks. His misfortune was discovering the truth about the witch, skull and pumpkin head drapes, i.e., something truly hellish lurks inside them.

When she comes to identify her father, Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin) inadvertently lures Challis into an investigation of her papa's death. They find themselves in a sprawled burg called Santa Mira populated by Irish (?) which goes on full lockdown after 6:00 pm. The Silver Shamrock factory is the lifeline of the town, even when its frosty owner Conal Cochran (Dan O'Herlihy) refuses to hire certain locals into his service. If they bitch, they bite it. If the townsfolk don't produce for him, they bite it. If they don't kiss his hedonistic get the picture.

Upon confirmation Ellie's father had come to Santa Mira on business, she and Challis are foiled when they attempt to infiltrate the Silver Shamrock factory. Not before screwing a hundred times first, though. Jeezu... They learn about Cochran's foul plan to kill oodles of children who buy his masks. They have microchips ready to trigger death shocks coutresy of seismic waves produced by the aforementioned Silver Shamrock commercial, which hums to the tune of "London Bridges."

Where Halloween III works is its visual style, be it the condensed setting of Santa Mira and the looming Silver Shamrock compound which really gets to the guts of Carpenter's weird tale. Even the second sequence in the film where the steel assassin takes out Harry in the hospital then douses himself with gasoline in the parking lot and sets himself on fire works. Never mind it strongly resembles the fiery finale of Carpenter's Halloween II.

Carpenter playfully shows an advertisement of his original film in this one and likewise shows a scene of Jamie Lee Curtis skulking around the fateful house while Challis is strapped to a chair with one of the death masks on his head. A fun touch, but even when trying to distance himself from Michael Myers, you can tell there's a bit of a wish at stake for his famed deathstalker. Even Nancy Loomis (billed here by her married name Nancy Kyes) makes an appearance in Halloween III as Challis' ex-wife. Remember, she had her throat slit in the first Halloween and took a corpse cameo as Annie in the second film. Also remember she too appeared in The Fog along with Curtis. Carpenter and Hill kept in the family back then...

The closure of Halloween III really sucks the big one, save for the final frame when Challis has managed to get the t.v. stations to shut down the Silver Shamrock ad which is about to strike its killing mode during "The big giveaway at 9:00." Yet one station hasn't gone off the air. Challis' pulverizing "Stop it!!!" screams into the fadeout is actually quite brilliant. Never mind Challis has already had to suffer the indignity of seeing his sudden-girlfriend Ellie replicated as a machine. Worse, he has to fend off an attack by her--and her lopped arm! Blech. Also, I've never bought Challis' relatively easy dispatching of Cochran and his robots with the pesky microchips which also triggers off Stonehenge to exact its own vengeance. Puh-lease...

However, Halloween III is quite messy with its effects, a plus in this respect. The scene where Marge Guttman (Garn Stephens) accidentally triggers a "misfire" from one of the mask chips is one of the moistest kills the entire series has seen. The wretched offing of the Kupfer family is poorly realized, however, seeing Little Buddy lying on the floor with a smoking mask and insects and snakes pouring out is quite horrifying, if not preposterous.

Of course, the score to Halloween III is great (if you're a fan of early eighties synth) with Carpenter and Alan Howarth teaming up yet again. The Silver Shamrock theme is genius, as is the cerebral opening tones which accompaines the blipping computer grid during the opening credits.

I doubt highly I sold you on this one if you've never seen it. Even the current Michael Myers Tyler Mane avoided this one while boning up during his character study. Somehow, though, I can't get away from this clunker. I just can't. 28 days to Halloween, Halloween Halloween...

Thursday, October 01, 2009

CD Review: Ace Frehley - Anomoly

Ace Frehley - Anomoly
2009 Bronx Born Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

As a kid of the seventies, Kiss was my great obsession along with baseball cards, Star Wars, Get Smart reruns and my Fonz felt poster. No different than most of my susceptible peers growing up with Kiss. We all knew where Gene, Paul and Peter stood, but Ace Frehley was the dark horse we kids knew very little about other than his onstage persona as a rider of the nebula. The Spaceman, as Frehley eventually became known, was for all intents and purposes, the soul of Kiss, much as George Harrison was for The Beatles. The same case might even be made with Ringo Starr and Peter Criss respectively.

In the same manner as The Fab Four (though Kiss is hardly in the same league even at their finest hour), you had a core duo writing most of the songs, allotting here and there for penned and sung ditties from the other two members.

Let's quickly inventory some of Ace Frehley's songwriting contributions to his old band: "Cold Gin," "Shock Me," "Getaway," "Strange Ways," "Talk to Me," "Hard Times," "Rocket Ride," "Two Sides of the Coin" and "Save Your Love." Not to mention co-writing credits on a number of Kiss tunes, some of the best being "Parasite," "Flaming Youth" and "Rock Bottom." Ace also fielded the Stones' "2000 Man" with a more street-tough choke than the original source.

Need I go there with the Kiss solo albums from '78? The truth is well-evident and well-documented who ruled that exercise in futility which at least fetches nice duckets if you have the vinyl versions with the posters still inside. "Rip It Out" alone manhandled anything Ace Frehley's comrades issued by themselves.

Though bailing on Kiss the first time after Creatures of the Night (do the research if you want to know about the inner controversy of that otherwise booming album, along with the Alive II sessions turmoil) Ace came back to the scene during the eighties with his Frehley's Comet venture featuring his self-flogging metal confessional "Rock Soldiers." Add a snap-tight crew including the underrated Tod Howarth and soon-to-be David Letterman-bound Anton Fig, and Ace had it made for a moment. Seriously, the first Frehley's Comet album and his sadly-dismissed 1989 solo effort Trouble Walkin' stood toe-to-toe with much of their competition in the hairball sweepstakes.

After Trouble Walkin' The Spaceman went on sabbatical, resurfacing in his old Kiss duds during a vintage years reunion and a so-called "farewell tour" which is still going almost a decade later. We all know Ace and Peter Criss waltzed back out of the Kiss camp as fast as they returned, to be looking at their famed alter egos painted and platformed onto alternate players.

By all means Ace Frehley would have a reason to vent and gripe to his heart's content with his first solo album in 20 years, Anomoly. Instead, what we get from Frehley is a rock-solid howdy to his fans with more passion and occasional sweetness than might be expected of him at this point in his career.

Anomoly may skid to a meandering crawl in a couple of spots, but gol-dang does Ace Frehley sound motivated in 2009! God bless him, his voice has not aged one iota, nor has his dirty Strat scorches. While the songwriting of Anomoly keeps things mostly in a mid-tempo primer with repetitious beat patterns, you'll want to give Ace a great big hug for his bravado and his willingness to bare himself.

This is perhaps the most honest Ace Frehley has been with himself and his faithful audience. While the '78 solo album remains Frehley's most invigorated snapcase of rawk ecstasy, Anomoly is the work of a senior mind still playing in a young dude's body. You can already picture the smoke belching out of Ace's guitar during the wailing shred of his solo on the bang-dango "Sister." You can likewise fall into nearly the same dreamscape of electro-acoustic nimbleness on "Fractured Quantum" as Ace's original composition "Fractured Mirror," the latter being to this day one of his undeniable masterpieces.

The first two songs of Anomoly, "Foxy & Free" and "Outer Space" are hedged with classic glam and Aerosmith grooves plus spots of Ace's own "Wiped Out" and "Rip It Out." "Foxy & Free" is perhaps the most footloose and giddy tune Ace has written ("Dolls" from Frehley's Comet notwithstanding), while "Outer Space" pumps and pumps some more with absolutely gnarly distortion surf and an infectious chorus. If anyone has questions as to whether or not Ace Frehley still has affection for his far-flung character, consider "Outer Space" your answer.

With Anton Fig helping out yet again on 9 of the album's 12 tracks, Anomoly keeps a steady rhythm throughout. Fig gives "Pain in the Neck" some extra snap while keeping the stomp-jam instrumental "Space Bear" the necessary glue to hold it from going too wayward into Kiss-laden pastures, even if Fig gets slightly happy on the bass pedal. Otherwise, he remains one of the hardest hitters in the game.

"Ghenghis Khan" is one of the most adventurous songs Frehley's yet attempted and he turns largely to Led Zeppelin with complicated and frequently beautiful acoustic lines kicking the track into a blues-splashed stratosphere. You have to wonder who Ace's muse for this weighty cut is, particularly whomever inspired the chorus line "so long...Genghis you're gone, so long..." Hmmmmm...

As Ace tries to feed some of his spiritual ideals into Anomoly's tracks such as "Change the World," "It's a Great Life" and "A Little Below the Angels," they slow the pace down musically, save for "Angels," which is downright innocuous. Hearing Ace testify to his little girl how beautiful angels are, followed by a spritely gang of kids singing the chorus, these after Ace has lyrically purged himself of his past sins...irresistible.

What works for Anomoly is Ace's upbeat resolution on this thing. Even when talking about having difficulty finding which is the real him on "Too Many Faces," Ace keeps a laidback step to the song which makes the ripping solo come off more effectively. You can hear Ace practically cleansing himself with those tugs. His cover of Sweet's "Fox On the Run" is by-the-numbers but he's simply enjoying the moment and you can't fault him. Historically his vocal patterns have mimicked those guffed on Sweet's version. This was meant to be.

Not always perfect, Anomoly is nevertheless a golden nugget in Ace Frehley's personal catalog. It's both grounded and galactic and most of all, it's a fun-time shuttle ride into Ace's decidedly anti-blackened life. Who was the Star Child?

Rating: ***1/2