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Monday, January 31, 2011

Van of the Dead Movie Review: Dolla Morte Reissue

Dolla Morte reissue
2010 Wide Eye Releasing
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

I was nine come the fateful day I was barred from the neighbors of my cousin's house when I played with their daughter on the stoop and I took my full-size Chewbacca action figure and pumped my friend's Barbie up the wazoo. Yes, I even made Chewie's warbled ralfing while doing so. Honestly, I didn't think I was doing much wrong considering my femme playmate had used the word "shit" in my presence and besides, I'd already learned about sex courtesy of a stray Hustler magazine on a coffeetable. I'd been told sex wasn't harmful when you loved the person you were doing it with and that sex felt good. So why shouldn't my overworked Chewbacca figure, already having stamped down Darth Vader and stormtroopers galore, get a little respite? Yeah, Chewbacca maybe be deathly loyal to Han Solo, but I'd decided then my Wookie pal was in love with Barbie, since she was rammed in my face every time I saw my little friend of yesteryear. Hey, walking carpets need nookie too.

Now come on, this isn't that outrageous. Kids over time have made their toys have sex with each other. It's natural. It just happens. Normally nobody gets offended because kids are smart enough not to get caught. I just happened to be a showman at heart and yes, I got caught.

That being said, I understand where guerrilla director Bill Zebub (aka "Professor Dum Dum") was coming from with his dastardly Dolla Morte, originally released in 2006. You have to see enough of his brackish comedies and disturbing horror flicks to get this guy, because one film isn't going to make you forgive him. By all means do not start with Kill the Scream Queen unless you have Metalheads, Dirtbags: The Armpit of Metal, Skits-O-Phrenia and Assmonster: The Making of a Horror Movie in your reach. Otherwise, you'll think the guy needs the death sentence in 20 galaxies handed down upon him. Better yet, have Zebub's low-budget metal documentaries on-hand as well, to tell yourself the guy can ground himself, just a little. How will you stomach Jesus Christ: Serial Rapist and how will you get over Dolla Morte, Bill Zebub's most over-the-top film using nothing but action figures and dolls?

Between his magazine The Grimoire of Exalted Deeds and his button-pushing films, we've come to know Bill Zebub is most fond of the following: death metal, black metal, gore, laughing at stereotypes and course, tits. It's also evident he's most at home in the woods, where a lot of his films are shot--aside from the Jersey suburbs and the Dingbatz rock club. While this writer finds nudity in the woods to be an exhilirating form of art when handled with class, you can forget class with Zebub. The woods are a hidey hole for his perversions and Dolla Morte is his own escapist club where everyone from Jesus to Barbie and Ken to Osama Bin Laden are ripe for the raping.

We can also say Bill Zebub has a disturbing affinity for naked chicks strapped to crucifixes. Refer to Kill the Scream Queen, and most assuredly Dolla Morte, where every nefarious thing that's crossed his mind to film is fleshed out, pun intended. While Zebub would never subject his real-life actresses to impalement through the crotch (think Cannibal Holocaust), a Barbie doll permits him to act out with deliberate gross misconduct. Known to hover on certain scenes for long minutes as shock establishment, the opening credits to Dolla Morte lingers nearly five minutes of its 70-minute running time on the sodomized and crucified remains of Barbie dolls with felt-tip nipples and sardonic hair patches glued to their pelvic regions. Victims of a serial rapist who has his way with another doll beforehand, gratuitously shown and detailed with penetration and a cum shot. Seriously, Dolla Morte is that fucked-up.

Nobody is safe in Dolla Morte, as Zebub goes out of his mind tormenting his plastic cast with screwing, beating, torturing and shark biting. His Ken dolls are complete bastards, setting afire to another doll believed to be a witch. Dracula (featured with massive facial hair and implied to be Bin Laden) squares off against Bush, the Pope has a hit put upon him and Jesus masturbates to his own crucified image. All blueprinted by Hitler, who is hovering obstusely in space. Jesus, hypothesized by Dolla Morte to be the first true vampire, also gets chomped by a toy shark that lunges preposterously out of the creek Zebub uses in his rafting sequences. You've been warned.

Everyone's trying to bring up Robot Chicken and Team America by means of comparison to Dolla Morte, but those films don't have The Big Boss Man (eighties pro wrasslin' figurehead) in action figure form whirling racist taunts (the film uses a classic Superman joke to push the N-word by means of roasting pigs) and they're better off without them.

Do not, I repeat, do not watch Dolla Morte if you're sensitive to religion, politics, sexuality, race issues or you were offended by The Beatles' infamous butcher's block cover. Dolla Morte, which should be taken as seriously as a french fry dipped in peanut butter, is the sick and twisted playground of a trash mogul whose intent is really nothing more than to dick around and have some laughs.

Bill Zebub is the penultimate locker room ass clown; no matter how lowbrow he has to dip in order to gain laughs, he'll go there. Dolla Morte really is wrong in every single frame, a cross between Andrew "Dice" Clay and Make Them Die Slowly. Nothing is taboo, all gloves are off, pick your cliche. When the Pope is raped by his own clergy, I can't stress it've been warned. That being said, another cliche comes flying to mind: you have to see it to believe it.

Rating: **

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Van of the Dead DVD Review: Dead Space: Aftermath

Dead Space: Aftermath
2011 Anchor Bay Entertainment
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

In most cases, film ventures connected to games are not only suspect, they're dreadful. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation comes to mind, as does Super Mario Brothers and Double Dragon. The Tomb Raider films have their fans and detractors and um, the Dungeons and Dragons movie? Yipe. Normally the protocol in the modern era of film and video game enterprising is to whip up a game in conjunction with the movie's release. In the case of EA's award-winning Dead Space video game series, the game serves as inspiration for the film, even if these direct-to-video animated gorefests hypothetically serve as gamer pre-launch PSA's.

2008's Dead Space: Downfall was a surprisingly well-exected sci-fi/horror hybrid taking inspiration from the Alien and Predator films with a tweak of the core haunted galaxy tale in Event Horizon. The bloody fate of the spaceship Ishimura in Dead Space: Downfall was actually pretty memorable, as an undiscovered race of mutants hosted by human DNA diced up a nervy animated cast believing they'd found an ancient artifact linking evidence to God.

For Dead Space: Aftermath, the folks at EA zip together a linking tale which is connected to Downfall, as well a trade paperback self-contained "beginning" story, Dead Space: Martyr, by B.K. Evenson. All in preparation for the Dead Space 2 game. Also keep in mind there are two other Dead Space novels, the most recent being Salvage, not to mention an associated comic book series and the Dead Space: Ignition mini-game. You have to appreciate their moxy, because EA is building themselves a a slowly-evolved empire from the concept.

Dead Space: Aftermath, a bridge story between both video games aside from a logical sequel to Downfall, is told courtesy of both CGI and standard animation.

In this film, a new ship, the USG O'Bannon (yes, they do love those Alien films, since there's also a character named Ripley in Aftermath) is sent out to the same coordinates as the Ishimura and Isaac Clarke, both having lost contact from Earth. Naturally, if you've been following this series, both ships' crews were chewed to pieces by augmented killing machines, known in the series as Necromorphs. In fact, this is how Dead Space: Aftermath opens up, with torn body parts floating in space around the decimated O'Bannon, discovered by another Marine craft, Braxus.

The O'Bannon's primary purpose is a clandestine assignment motivated by greed and the inherent suspicion of the same power which drew the Ishimura in Dead Space: Downfall. Aftermath takes us a little deeper into EA's long-drawn concept as the O'Bannon's crew meets the same fate as the Ishimura and Isaac Clarke. However, the difference in this story is it's told through the perspectives of four survivors, security officer Kuttner, Borgas, an engineer who has lost his arm, Cho, a psychologist and physician, and Stross, chief scientist and ultimate linchpin to the destructive finale of Aftermath, who happens to be cheating on his wife (brought on board the O'Bannon with their infant son) with Cho. They are interrogated with brutality set on a seven-hour timetable by an emperor-like sovereign called The Overseer, and their recollections edge out the tale in sequential order.

Drifting down to the uninhabitable planet in the vicinity of all the previous carnage, Aegis VII, the crack team of geolosists and accompanying grunts are ordered to the planet's surface to retrieve samples which are reported to be worth millions. As Aftermath unravels its tale, we learn the planet is host to a shard inhabiting a higher intelligence which corrupts most who come into contact with it. We also learn it reanimates the dead with sinewy extendables and projectiles, the Necromorphs. Shall we consider The Thing (or its original writing title, The Thing From Another World) a part of the brain stew pot for Dead Space?

The key sends Kuttner, a former Marine, onto a killing frenzy by playing on a psychosis stemmed by the loss of his daughter. Soon the shard will exploit the susceptible Stross into a homicidal rage of his own and, slave to the shard's power, sets off the germination effect triggering the Necromorphs onto their limb-tearing death march.

Perhaps not as spectacularly bloody as Dead Space: Downfall, Aftermath opts for deeper storytelling--once it gets past an interminable series of blatant cursing designed to connect with its teen and early-twenties demographic. The dialogue takes too long to establish a point until the survivors are coerced by fragmental illusions of their worst fears and then they begin telling the film's story. At that point, Aftermath becomes a more engaging film, even if the video game-esque CGI sequences unfortunately do little justice to the hand-crafted anime. Fortunately, a large chunk of Aftermath is done in standard animation, so it's more digestable overall. You do remember EA is pimping a game at you with the animated switchovers, so take that caveat as you will. With Dead Space: Downfall, it was so self-contained to its purpose you forgot it was a 74-minute commercial.

Regardless, this second Dead Space film does show EA has a lot more lurking behind its bloody mayhem in space premise. As Aftermath concludes with two survivors who have come into contact with the key, you just know there's going to be a lot more coming. If they expand upon this course, the Dead Space franchise ought to be worth staying on top of, though doing a little research, the diehard gamer and sci-fi fans are holding it to a higher standard with each new product. If you're EA, you can't buy better press.

Rating: ***

Saturday, January 29, 2011

CD Review: Twisted Sister - You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll Reissue

Twisted Sister - You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll Reissue
2011 Armoury Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

This could just as easily be a Metal Louvre installment here. As basic as the cover for Twisted Sister's You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll, may be, it's an identifiable leather 'n metal emblem that was perhaps the most replicated band logo in the eighties behind only AC/DC and Iron Maiden. Come on, Gen X'ers, how many textbooks did you deface back in the day with the Twisted Sister logo? They knew, most assuredly, if you recall the "I Wanna Rock" video.

Very few albums can get away with minimalism on their covers and still attract an audience. Okay, The Beatles had The White Album and Metallica The Black Album, but the measure of worth relies more upon what lies inside the packaging. It just helps the cause if an album is kickass and so is its cover.

As Armoury Records takes a stroll through all of Twisted Sister's main releases except for Under the Blade, we come to You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll, one of the declarative hard rock albums of the eighties. While this reissue of You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll is the exact version Spitfire Records put out awhile ago, complete with three bonus songs not released by the Atlantic pressing, the objective is to corral newcomers and oldsters who sold their vinyl ages ago. It's about rediscovering the joy of Twisted Sister and heavy metal.

Does it get much better than "The Kids Are Back?" Cue it from your memory banks, the classic intro march, the aggressive, punchy rhythm, the humming bass line from Mark Mendoza and the sneer veneer of Dee Snider. Ahhhhhhh, fists up. One of Twisted Sister's calling card songs, "The Kids Are Back" is what it's all about if you dare approach the crossroads and step over to the other side. It's one of the finest lion's pride anthems Twisted Sister boasts in their arsenal (and they wrote plenty), even just a click more chewy than the famed title song, another for the ages.

While Under the Blade retains its title for most venomous (and many say best) album in Twisted's catalog, You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll might be their most refined. Sure, Stay Hungry is their most popular and at times most over-the-top, but there's something about You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll that pushes it beyond 1983 when it was first released. If ever there was a timeless album conjured from Hairball Heaven, this is the one.

If you've never heard this album, seriously, people, get with it. Guaranteed you will be snarling along to "Like a Knife in the Back" (one of this writer's venting tunes straight out of his teen years and beyond) and wishing you had a Harley purring between your legs on "Ride to Live, Live to Ride." "We're Gonna Make It" is the pro empowerment cousin of "We're Not Gonna Take It," and honestly, it's a bit more fun to hear the former in your own privacy than the latter at hockey arenas when the opposition scores.

"The Power and the Glory" is one of Twisted's faster songs with faboo shredding by Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda and Jay Jay French. In fact, most of their solos on this album carry a free spirit, wisely released by producer Stuart Epps. Versus the chunky, nastier riffs and searing solos on Stay Hungry and Come Out and Play, French and Ojeda are far more relaxed on this album and the songs sway instead of tear. Even a ballad like "You're Not Alone (Suzette's Song)" has a metal-grounded oomph to the misty breeze of the un-metal melody.

And, kids of all ages, "I Am (I'm Me)" is the rally cry against authority most people missed back in the day because Motley Crue came along with "Shout at the Devil" with inherently the same message and were crucified for it. Of course, that was before Theater of Pain and Girls Girls Girls brought them into boys' locker rooms and the girls' pajama parties. "I Am (I'm Me)" is a pure hook and it will remind listeners of the first time they defied their parents as teenagers. Yes, you can do it without an expletive.

The bonus tracks on You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll are mostly fun, the best of them being the speedy "Feel the Power," a kindred song in title and flow to "The Power and the Glory." "One Man Woman" is a noncommittal rock jive, the extra dab of mustard to a meaty metal pastrami Twisted Sister slapped together from Long Island on their way up the totem. Hoagie, anyone?

For historical purposes, You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll is Twisted Sister's catharsis. All the years they'd pushed themselves through the rock underground and they couldn't get domestic interest despite their best efforts and their best word of mouth. By the time Atlantic scooped them up after Under the Blade was first delivered from the UK, you can hear Twisted Sister making the most of their moment as newcomers to the majors. In a sense, You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll is equivalent to the backup quarterback getting his first start and he tosses a breakout game. Atlantic gave Twisted the ball and they nailed the end zone immediately. Sad that the band stumbled upon the chewed turf of the metal gridiron the later the decade progressed. Yet You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll will forever be the Hail Mary longball we'll all be talking about like those in the know. Everyone knows Stay Hungry, but we know the real deal and yes, the kids are back...

Rating: ****1/2

Friday, January 28, 2011

CD Review: Gniyrg Gnaarg - From Mother Sun

Gniyrg Gnaarg - From Mother Sun EP
2010 self-produced
Devin Walsh

Gniyrg Gnaarg is the last band you would expect to come out of Finland. They are a psychedelic retro mind trip back to the days of Black Sabbath. Gniyrg Gnaarg seems to conform to none other than themselves as they sludge and pound their way through your speakers. Their newest EP, From Mother Sun, is not for those looking for a simple radio hit, as each of their four songs clock in at the 10 minute mark. While only having four songs, I really like the fact that it is as long as, if not even longer, than many full length albums.

For a band formed by two bass players, their love of the low end spectrum comes through loud and clear with a very bottom heavy performance. Unlike modern mainstream metal, the bass really grooves and creates the thick atmosphere that stays true throughout the entire EP. For those who are fans of stoner/sludge metal, this is certainly one worth checking out. Each song flows smoothly into the multitude of different parts, but at the same time, it leaves the listener guessing what they might throw at them next. Gniyrg Gnaarg describes their particular style of metal as dungeon metal, and I could not come up with a better name myself. Their music evokes the feeling of being in a cold, dark, and damp dungeon with no hope for escape. If I lived in a dungeon, this would be my permanent soundtrack.

The EP as a whole is reminiscent of old school Black Sabbath by providing the vibe that these songs were crafted spending countless hours jamming and really letting the music take them where it needed to go. It is a solid performance all around by each band member as they lock in tight with each other and are certainly on the same musical page. With the bass and drums woven together to create the gel that holds them together, the guitar work compliments the essence of the songs very well. The vocals have a droning type feel to them which does not fit well with all kinds of music, but it fits the Gniyrg Gnaarg mold. While the vocals stay on key, at times they could use a little variation by straying from the music’s rhythm, but with time on their side, vocal growth will certainly come.

From Mother Sun by Gniyrg Gnaarg is a strong effort that will please fans of this particular genre. You have to be ready to sit back and let them take you on a ride through their musical time machine. As long as you are mentally prepared to take this journey, you will most definitely enjoy a spin on the Gniyrg Gnaarg coaster.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 1/26/11

Not much time this week for banter as I have to get out and doze my way to the office through the snow, but again I would like to welcome Devin Walsh aboard to The Metal Minute. Tomorrow he debuts here with his first review, huzzah!

Everybody have a safe, warm and loud kinda week. Cheers...

Daft Punk - Tron: Legacy soundtrack
Long Distance Calling - s/t
Korn - III: Remember Who You Are
Korn - Untouchables
Korn - Take a Look in the Mirror
Sodom - In War and Pieces
Big Business - Mind the Drift
Jesus and Mary Chain - Darklands
Doro - Fear No Evil Ultimate Collector's Edition
Elvis Costello - Ten Bloody Marys and Ten How's Your Fathers
Mudhoney - My Brother, the Cow
Psychedelic Furs - s/t
Sonic Youth - NYC Ghosts & Flowers
Lords of the New Church - Is Nothing Sacred?
Mongrel - The New Breed of Old School

Monday, January 24, 2011

CD Review: Sodom - In War and Pieces

Sodom - In War and Pieces
2010 SPV/Steamhammer
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

To say Tom Angelripper and Sodom have been on an odyssey over the course of more than 25 years is like saying gasoline costs too goddamn much these days. Nobody would've given Sodom a chance in hell when In the Sign of Evil and Obsessed by Cruelty were released in the mid-eighties of becoming a refined speed-thrash band that has won the hearts of many speed junkies over the years. Persecution Mania and Agent Orange quickly changed that perception. Sodom swiftly developed prowess from clunk, and like Destruction, Running Wild, Kreator and Warlock, they hefted some German might into the eighties underground. In all cases save for Warlock, each has enjoyed lengthy if not entirely prolific careers.

Sodom, like Destruction and Kreator, quickly fell into the schisms of befuddled experimentalism through the nineties, even if Sodom took the more brutal route on 1992's Tapping the Vein, 95's Masquerade in Blood and '99's Code Red. Unfortunately, only the devout were dialing in.

2006's self-titled Sodom was something of a return to favor for Angelripper, largely by benefit of a reawakening of metal in North America. Global interest produced a pretty worthy album in 2006 and even though Angelripper took the ill-advised opportunity to re-introduce Sodom's early din via new recordings on 2007's The Final Sign of Evil, we've been waiting to see how he would follow-up Sodom.

If The Final Sign of Evil was an indication Angelripper and his current Sodom cohorts Bernd "Bernemann" Kost and Konrad "Bobby" Schottkowski were opting for a cop-out return to the ear-scraping chaos of Obsessed by Cruelty, forget that. No, Sodom instead keeps to the scripts of what won them notoriety via Agent Orange, which is to say, they mosh and blitz with a passion on their latest work, In War and Pieces.

Following the death of original Sodom drummer Chris "Witchhunter" Dudek a couple years back, it's no surprise Tom Angelripper has taken his time getting In War and Pieces laid down. Yet, he could've made this album a vat full of unyielding screech if he wanted to. That might've been an appropriate coda for Witchhunter, but it hardly would've served Sodom's purposes for continued public interest.

Instead, Sodom goes to the Slayer playbook and dials up some steamrolling tunes like "Hellfire," "Nothing Counts More Than Blood" and "Storm Raging Up." It's no secret Angelripper has a tendency to replicate Tom Araya, and the whirlwind riff structures are pure doppelgangers. Ditto for the solo placements. No slouch in the shredding and soloing department himself, Tom Angelripper may be a click behind Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King, but that doesn't mean he can't peel the paint off.

If Sodom didn't change up the game plan on this album, it would be easy to dismiss it as a Seasons in the Abyss wannabe. But never forget Sodom has been a metal household name for years as well, even if on a tier below Slayer. The title track issues the album's declaration with a steady double hammer bob and later swerves from its Slayer-cidal tendencies on the well-written "Feigned Death Throes," one of the most signature-swapped efforts on the album. Unafraid to mix power metal, mid-tempo thrash and doom, "Feigned Death Throes" is one of In War and Pieces' statement songs.

Ditto for the neck-snapping thunder groove of "Soul Contraband." Yes, it has Slayer stamped all over it, but Sodom dabbles a clear hook into its straightforward pogo trip and some snazzy bridges as well. Opening "God Bless You" with a delicate acoustic intro, the song maintains a confident stride even as one of the slower songs on the album. Angelripper bleeds his guitars into this one, so stick around. By all means, stick around, because Sodom picks up the pace on "The Art of Killing Poetry," a steady pounder which switches gears from fifth to fourth to fifth gear. You want to talk some slick transitions and choruses, this one is masterful in its nut-busting business.

The German-sung "Knarrenheinz" is one the album's fiercest payouts, and "Styptic Parasite" rounds In War and Pieces on an agreeable toe tapper, which leaves for a mostly-satisfying bit of old school mayhem. No, this is not Persecution Mania and Agent Orange, but who cares? It's a damned fine metal album unafraid of its more recent past and it hardly betrays the confusion of direction ol' Angelripper suffered through during the nineties when blistering didn't always equate into respect. In War and Pieces should easily win his band some of that back.

Rating: ****

Sunday, January 23, 2011

CD Review: Doro - Fear No Evil Ultimate Collector's Edition

Doro - Fear No Evil Ultimate Collector's Edition
2010 AFM Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Doro, we love you.

The love gets amped infinitum with this boxed re-release of Doro Pesch's 2009 Fear No Evil album, her best-selling work in two decades. Despite the tinny production that robbed some of the album's integrity, the masses have spoken its approval and with that, AFM and Doro Pesch bring you the Fear No Evil Ultimate Collector's Edition.

Mandatory for diehards, this attractive box set of Fear No Evil offers an expanded version of the album with alternate artwork and two added tracks, "All We Are 2007" and "On My Own." That's only getting warmed up. Also included are two maxi-singles for "Celebrate" and "Herzblut," plus a sticker and a dual-sided small poster. For all of you harboring crushes upon the Queen of Metal (as this writer once did), the close-up spread of Doro Pesch is an instant reminder why it's easy to get smitten by the lady--and on a personal note, having interviewed Doro many times now, her gentle speaking voice alone could melt even the harshest winters.

Fear No Evil, despite hollow output betrayals on a few songs, has been so welcomed by the metal public because Doro and her merry men consisting of Johnny Dee, Nick Douglas, Joe Taylor, Oliver Palotai and Luca Princiotta at least put in a sincere effort. The songs themselves are amongst the heaviest tunes Doro's signed her name to. For more elaboration of the album itself, feel free to kick up the original review of Fear No Evil in this site's review archives, but suffice it to say, songs like "Night of the Warlock," "Caught in a Battle," "Running From the Devil" and the powerful "Herzblut" are as stout as they come in metal. Lift the stein and hail "Prost!" or "Zum Wohl!"

Each of the maxi-singles contain recurring versions of the songs including multi-lingual takes on "Herzblut" (which also need to be listened to for the arrangement variations, particularly the French version, "A Fond le Coeur") and modified takes of "Celebrate." The latter song is interesting to revisit with the vocal mixes of Saxon's Biff Byford only and then the femme posse version featuring the bevvy of metal starlets and wolverines such as Sabina Classen, Angela Gossow, Liv Kristine Espanaes-Krull, the Girlschool posse, Veronica Freeman, Ji-In Cho, Floor Janssen and Liv from Sister Sin. The gang choruses of "Celebrate" with Doro's Dream Team presents a smile-producing mix of gusts and growls you'll no doubt want to hit the playback just to take it all in.

Both maxi-single contains a new track, "Rescue Me" on "Celebrate" and "Share My Fate" for "Herzblut." "Rescue Me" is the better of the two and the more polished. Dreamy and romantic, "Rescue Me" is further proof positive nobody can field a power ballad with ease as Doro can. Not far off from her "Let Love Rain On Me," (or even "Walking With the Angels" on Fear No Evil) this one draws Doro's flock in with its passionate yearning. Whenever Doro Pesch settles upon a mate in this life, said partner will be the recipient of some heaven-sent wooing, bank on that.

"Share My Fate" has a raw, slightly unfinished tone to it, yet it has a prototype hammer down power edge that has a foreseeable future in Doro's live sets. Fists up, willya?

Tack on the extra half star from the original review of Fear No Evil for a spiffy package, some worthwhile bonus songs and a gorgeous fold out featuring one of the finest and classiest ladies in all of show biz revealing her resplendent joy. The pop divas should stop a minute and see how it's done before the proverbial pan sears finality in their eyes. This is why Doro Pesch has enjoyed longevity over the course of three decades. All we are, all we are we are...we are know the rest.

Rating: ****

Saturday, January 22, 2011

CD Review: Korn - III: Remember Who You Are

Korn - III: Remember Who You Are
2010 Roadrunner Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Alright, so I'm a little late to the party with this review, but Bugs did warn me about that turn at Albuquerque, crikey...

Not that Korn needs mega press to sell themselves, still being one of the top live draws on the rock and metal scene today, there's nevertheless something a bit off in the way their latest album III: Remember Who You Are has been received. In general, journalists have welcomed this album with fine accolades and forgiveness for the confused miasma of what-the-hell that was the 2007 self-titled Korn. Still, don't you get the feeling this album came and went without the normal fanfare of a Korn release?

We're to assume at this point the numeration oddity behind III: Remember Who You Are is to thread the band's first self-titled album with the 2007 guerilla release and now this one, which happens to have a subtitle to it. Semantics. The most important facet to III: Remember Who You Are is to judge it on its merits. And yes, there are plenty of merits to this thing.

Certainly the good folks at Roadrunner are pleased to have one of the modern era's giants in their fold. You can almost picture the scene of the label's top brass, having already resurrected Dream Theater and Megadeth, then corraled Rob Zombie over, sitting in glee with the playbacks of "Oildale (Leave Me Alone)" and "Pop a Pill." Machine Head, Dez Fafara and Slipknot have been this label's bread and butter, but consider Korn their marmalade. Smack your lips if you like it.

If there's any bonding yarn of connection for Korn's purposes, who have been without Brian "Head" Welch a considerable amount of time now, it might be from Life is Peachy to Untouchables to Take a Look in the Mirror. Or rather, III: Remember Who You Are is an overview of those albums. There's hardly any commercial blow-ups on III: Remember Who You Are and without Head's presence, Korn has lost much of its dense projection. Still, James "Munky" Shaffer is a single-handed driving force, Reginald "Fieldy Snuts" Arvizu still packs a wallop with his bass vibratum (more like, he delivers one of his personal best performances on this album) and Jonathan Davis still sounds like a kid trapped inside a hedonist--a hedonist within a snapcase flash of giving himself up to the strait jacket.

III: Remember Who You Are isn't quite so much about the self-destructive case of the go-die blahs that has marked most of their albums as much as it is a rant session from a group of men who've grown up some. They've slipped out of their wicked transistor modes and gotten to business here. Not that See You On the Other Side isn't a fine album; in fact, much of it is damned addicting like most Korn albums, but this time, Korn sticks to what gels, which is groove after groove after meat-gnawing groove. God bless.

With new drummer Ray Luzier, Korn really connects with themselves on III: Remember Who You Are. In fact, with Luzier, they've gone on a crash diet of sorts. Take his hi-hat dance shimmy on "Fear is a Place to Live." While Davis growls and trembles over always getting "fucked in the end," Luzier dials the song a bobbing slide which carries only so long instead of dallying on for another stanza. If anything, Korn have gotten smarter with their music on this album. Untouchables has moments of greatness and Take a Look in the Mirror likewise, but each could've lost some their girth. Remember why Issues was such a good album? Despite having a long track list, for the most part, Issues' tunes catch flight then change course before getting too adrift in airspace. Like Issues, this album doesn't loft.

In a sense, Korn balances the expansions they tapped into with Untouchables and Take a Look in the Mirror and hold themselves in check with the, er, remembrance of why Life is Peachy is so killer. III: Remember Who You Are hardly carries anything from their grinding debut album, but it does get a finger on the pulse of why people were interested in them in the first place. Remiss of Head's fills, Korn has learned to adapt to their cruising weight and III: Remember Who You Are is more disciplined as a result. "Lead the Parade" could've been a cumbersome mess if recorded a few years back, but it delivers a raw stomp and then dips into a psychotic tiff, only just enough to make its point. In the past, we would've gotten another minute of wallowing and self-flogging. Not that Jonathan Davis doesn't belch and ralph his afflictions into this album; he just remembers other people are laying witness to them and he cuts his tirades down. Grasshopper learns well...

"Oildale (Leave Me Alone)" and "Pop a Pill" quickly re-establishes the pound and push drive of Korn at their best, while "Fear is a Place to Live," "Are You Ready to Live," "Hold All These Lines" and "Let the Guilt Go" keep the album on a near-perpetual jive. "Move On" could've been five-plus minutes of oh-woe-is-me, but Davis lets his demons free and lets his band handle the rest. The collective chops all of it down with more efficiency. "The Past" may bear an inherent reflection upon everything Korn has faced in their long career, but there's a strange meeting of Blue Oyster Cult and The Cure with a Korn stamp pressed to the tone of the song that makes it a compelling listen.

Korn may have shed some pounds from their titanic din, but the exchange is a settled sense of their personal ideal which happily, features much more fluid tempo. Korn are no longer MTV2 and MTV-X darlings (nobody in metal is at this point) and Follow the Leader is already referred to as a generation piece. Right now, Korn has matured and found a nice hidey hole with Roadrunner. Love 'em or hate 'em, just give 'em their due, because this band was instrumental in ushering metal back to favor in North America. They've had the life, they've done their time and now Korn just is. Or rather, they are.

Rating: ****

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Metal Minute Welcomes Devin Walsh

Yeek, someone needs to cut a cuticle in that pic, blargh...

The Metal Minute officially welcomes new writer Devin Walsh to the team!

Devin brings to the table fresh perspectives as a reviewer, musician and video operator. He has been following the metal scene since 1995 and has a thorough knowledge of its history and a firm appreciation for where the scene's future is heading.

Be on the lookout for Devin's work here at The Metal Minute in the immediate future!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

CD Review: Mongrel - The New Breed of Old School EP

Mongrel - The New Breed of Old School EP
2010 self-released
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Though there's quite a few Mongrels out in the music world (and we're definitely not referring to the one comprised of former Arctic Monkeys members), the Boston Mongrel crew appears ready to kick up the dust once again with this practice session EP filled with re-recordings of songs from their Fear, Lies and Propaganda album.

Featuring a new overhaul to the Mongrel camp for The New Breed of Old School, particularly the addition of vocalist Jessica Sierra, don't dismiss this EP because it's a reboot of old material. In fact, if you've followed this metal-punk hybrid awhile (the group does boast a pretty sizable fan base), The New Breed of Old School is going to tickle your fancy with a bit more polish and Sierra's renditions of Betsy Bitch and Wendy O. Williams as she brings new life to Mongrel.

Only choppy on occasion, Mongrel does bring a spiffier rub to the shitkicking "West Memphis Hell," "I Refuse" and "The World Loves a Tragedy." "West Memphis Hell" still boasts a vintage, clumpy thrash roll culled from the old New Renaissance label years and even Metal Blade in its infancy stages, ala Deaf Dealer and Hallow's Eve. "Houdini Act" comes off like a lost L.A. Guns demo track with Jessica Sierra lending a hint of estrogen to her otherwise macho "fuck off" aural pimp roll.

Adversely, you buy more into the fallen angel story behind "Bound to Crash" as delivered by Sierra. While the song may go on a click or two longer than it should, it was a wise choice by the group to put "Bound to Crash" into her hands. She brings far more empathy to the muse and you almost wonder if she's kindred. She also handles the Suicidal Tendencies-meets-Plasmatics funk punker "Shut Up, Get Dead" with a rowdier kitsch, while Mongrel collectively amps "I Refuse" with a heavier step this time with gang choruses and a killer solo by Adam Savage. "I Refuse" now comes off somewhere between Nashville Pussy and Agent Orange. Have a good time getting sucked into those anti-poser, anti-reality t.v. choruses. Rawk...

In all, minus a handful of glibs, The New Breed of Old School sounds like what it's supposed to be: a warm-up for something potentially rude and boisterous on the next go-round. This time around, Mongrel has some serious firepower on the mike, so look the hell out.

Rating: ***1/2

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 1/19/11

Hidey ho, readers, from the natural skateland that is the east coast, USA!

Pino Donaggio's beautifully unnerving score for Carrie is swooning and screeching in my ears this morning as I write this. Anyone remember the first time they saw Brian DePalma's eerie adaptation of Stephen King's classic novel? Age 11 for me, and it was a censored version on a UHF station--you Gen X'ers and generations beforehand will know what I'm talking about there.

Still, we all jumped off the sofa from that ending in my house! Add Donaggio's hellish dirge screaming overtop, and ahh, the memories... How many metal bands have since lifted the melody of those haunted piano ostinato chimes Donaggio engineers to brilliant effect...think of Piper Laurie stalking Sissy Spacek with the kitchen knife and painting the air with the sign of the cross. Brrrr...

Can't wait to show my kid that flick at the appropriate age. He's already pointing at my racks of Stephen King books and questioning me, almost by instinct. Your turn's coming, lad, trust Daddy. Muah ha ha ha ha haaaaa...

King endorses the recent horror film Let Me In, which just arrived as a promo in my box this week, so I am looking forward to getting the barrages of life settled to an even kilter and see if it really is the best American horror film in the last 20 years, as King is quoted upon the cover art. Stephen King was the reason I ever picked up a pen and started an adventurous career in writing beginning with an electric typewriter--I'm really dating myself by bringing up the correction tabs you had to slide into the carriage and retype in order to zip out typos. Urgh. Typing ribbon and chalk all over the fingers; those were the days when you really slaved for your art.

I have a business and marketing background and know plenty about glittering testimonials, but if Mr. King glows on Let Me In, I'm pretty damned excited. Thank you to my publicist chums for sending it over, along with Dead Space: Aftermath.

Aaaaaaand stay tuned at here at The Metal Minute for future madness, as a friend of mine from across the pond would say...

Kraftwerk - Electric Cafe
Peter Murphy - Unshattered
Neurosis - Souls at Zero reissue
Stratovarius - Elysium
Massive Attack vs. Mad Professor - No Protection
Elvis Costello and the Imposters - Momofuku
KMFDM - Don't Blow Your Top
Doro - Fear No Evil Ultimate Collector's Edition
Badfinger - No Dice
Shadows Fall - Thread of Life
Pino Donaggio - Carrie soundtrack

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

CD Review: Stratovarius - Elysium

Stratovarius - Elysium
2011 Armoury Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

There has been so much prog metal whirled through our ears it's become less of a spellbinding resonance and more of a glut. That being said, unless you're a junkie of the Bachian Metal Overdrive that is prog metal, it's easy for some fabulous albums get lost in the electric fugue.

Helloween, Gamma Ray, Yngwie Malmsteen, Savatage and of course Dream Theater have, over the years, innovated the archetype that is prog metal. Sling on Helloween's The Dark Ride and Better Than Raw, you'll have the blueprints issued for all that you've heard in the prog realm since their issue. A heaping handful of standout prog metallers such as Angra, Mago de Oz, Hammerfall, Kamelot, Iced Earth, Cellador, Dol Ammad, Blind Guardian, Sentenced, Nevermore and Stratovarius have at least kept the faith alive.

While Stratovarius are two steps ahead of their competition having officially started in the early eighties before delivering their 1989 debut album Fright Night, the only thing getting in the way of their own progress (pun intended) has been lineup changes and a failure to capitalize on the strengths of Dreamscape, Fourth Dimension, Visions and Infinite.

Always the quintessential professionals, Stratovarius has unfortunately settled instead of pushed forward. Overused conscripts of metal neoclassicism have kept Stratovarius from elevating to the band they should be at this point. Their self-titled album from 2005 is solid but too cautious for its place in Stratovarius' career. 2009's Polaris stepped up the songwriting a notch, however, Polaris' weakness is its song placement; the album's energy and vitality is expended in the first half, then put to pasture for a prolonged sequence of demure songs, thus creating an unbalanced effort.

For 2011, Stratovarius gets it right with Elysium, a well-structured album chocked full of melody, power and a steady swap of mid-tempo and quick-step rhythms. The brisk "Event Horizon" and "Infernal Maze" are countered by quasi-ballads such as "Move the Mountain" and "Fairness Justified," but it's done the way it should be. Elysium is so even-flowed it allows Stratovarius to mastermind a beautifully-plotted 18-minute finale.

Sure, you're going to get plenty of whiz-bang guitar and keyboard solos courtesy of Matias Kupianinen and the legendary Jens Johansson, but this time on Elysium, they don't come at a cost. Leaner distributions make for much better songs. Elysium is focused upon harmony instead of grandiosity, albeit if you want to hear a grandiose guitar solo, hold your breath for Kupianinen's gorgeous flair on "Infernal Maze." His note scales catapult.

Simply exquisite, as are the choral supplements Stratovarius engineers on Elysium better than most. While there is still an element of the familiar to much of the album ("The Game Never Ends" has been written in theory by everyone from Helloween to Iron Fire), Stratovarius wisely refines and lets their music flex instead of showboat. "Lifetime in a Moment" may clock in past the six-minute mark, but it has a huge, swaying hook helmed by Lauri Porra's marching bass lines and it's textured by a gallant show of gusty synths, anticipatory guitar plucks, seductive vocals and a snap-tight bridge-chorus sequence designed to get those fists a-pumping.

Timo Kotipelto is money as usual, but it seems like he's more in the pocket by benefit of Stratovarius' tempered-yet-extended writing. While many might wish there were more thrashers like "Event Horizon," the sacrifice is well-worth it. This is a more memorable listening experience as a result of the group's discipline. In fact, "Event Horizon" becomes one of Stratovarius' more palatable speed demons because it's the Lone Wolf McThrash. Johansson and Kupianinen geek out all over "Event Horizon," and the decision to place it towards the end of Elysium is admirably patient. Sometimes it's nicer to hold the goodies until after the after main course.

Conjuring up an intelligent metal epic with "Elysium" that grinds, whispers and soars like nebulae in spots, Kotipelto is majestic (and in a dishy segue, vocally vulnerable) in front of his mates, while he's romantic and commanding on everything played beforehand.

Elysium conveys a much-used earth crisis theme with an upbeat idealism indicative of the title. For Stratovarius' purposes, they've reached their own Elysium Fields by bringing some much-needed equanamity and sustenance to a subgenre that's just about reached a dead end.

Rating: ****

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Metal Louvre: Black Sabbath - Mob Rules

The Hildebrandt brothers are best-known for sculpting fanstastical otherworlds in their art, or they frequently utilize a calliope color scheme to their subjects, which are likewise drawn from the realms of fantasy and science fiction. From fairy tales to Star Wars, the Hildebrandts have left a sleek, colorful imprint upon their paintings, turning their Metropolis and German industrial spirited constructs into self-contained worlds of fabulous.

Lest we forget Greg Hildebrandt's chilling artwork for Black Sabbath's Mob Rules. As one of Sabbath's heaviest albums, it's appropriate the artwork is expressively brutal, much as many of the songs are inherently thus. The synth tone strikes on "5150" alone seem to activate the flogging horror depicted on the Mob Rules cover. Is it the bloody tarp, the brandished whips or the fact this peasant-garbed execution squad are faceless which makes Hildebrandt's mini-apocalypse the most fearsome?

For me, it's the unknown; what did their victims look like after receiving this brand of street justice by ghouls? Were they mauled to death or simply humiliated and brought down in spirit? Were they upper crust or commoners? Worse, is there a trail of carnage hinted by the mind's eye and were they left earthside to rot or given proper burial?

You be the judge. All I know is the first time I saw this album in a Kmart at age ten when Mob Rules was released, I was scared out of my mind, much like that frightening robot assassin on Queen's News of the World, which was actually depicted by Frank Kelly Freas as having child-like "What did I do wrong?" traits. Hard to receive the intent at a young age with Queen, and that image was actually tweaked from a similar painting Freas did for Astounding Science Fiction, but there's no question about it with Mob Rules. It's scary as shit and intended thus.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Metal Louvre: Candlemass - Ancient Dreams

I'm fortunate to be in close proximity to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. It being one of the finest of the many art museums I've been to, it's beauteous to have an original Dali and Heironymous Bosch in my back yard, so to speak, but also because the National Gallery has been home to Thomas Cole's "Voyage of Life" series. Or rather, it now contains half of the series in conjunction with the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, New York. At one point, the entire quartet of paintings occupied four perpendicular walls in a walkthrough at the National Gallery. I'm blessed to have seen them many times in their entirety and I've sometimes spent up to a half an hour moving from painting to painting studying them intimately.

Cole's "Voyage of Life" series focuses on the various stages of humanity ranging from birth to old age utilizing a boy-to-man journey aboard an exquisite river craft forged of spiritual descent. The allegory Cole used with the craft and the accelerating periods of his muse's lifespan is also accented by backgrounds ranging from exotic to tumultuous to hopeful.

If you've followed metal a long time, you know this artwork splashed across the spread of Candlemass' Ancient Dreams. It is the second of two albums Candlemass used from Cole's "Voyage of Life," the other being "Old Age" on the cover of Nightfall. This one is the second painting in Cole's set, "Youth," purposefully sprawled with fantasia and decorum to bring out the subject's vibrance and imagination. A brave new world lies ahead of our muse, though Cole's next two paintings "Manhood" and "Old Age" take the muse into his adult trials and ultimately his soulful transition into Heaven.

Musically, Nightfall is the superior album, yet Ancient Dreams stands as a visual masterpiece by benefit of Cole's triumphant work. No bet needed if you owned Ancient Dreams back in the eighties as Candlemass was just cultivating a worldwide doom audience, you were lured by the "Youth" painting on its cover. Ancient Dreams remains a decent though beatable recording for Candlemass, yet there was a mission accomplished by utilizing Thomas Cole's artwork. It was strangely easy to get lost in the somber tone of Candlemass' dirge odes while basking in its apposite, bright visual.

Mind rape, but gloriously so.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 1/12/11

Greetings, fellow tuneheads...

Welcome to another Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday from a snowy east coast and a few bumps, aches and blahs from a week of feeling pretty rough. Christmas is over and it's never any fun putting all the holiday gear away, but at least my boy was strong through the dirty deed, even if my cat went into a two-day funk. We're a humble family growing humbler by the day.

Best of luck to all the teams left in the NFL playoffs and I think we're all still in awe of Seattle's big win over the Saints, particularly that touchdown run that ought to make highlight reels for the years to come. It was the first time my three-year-old hung with his old man for an entire football game, even if we also had to play the drums, Mickey, Goofy and Donald do the hot dog dance in Mickey's Clubhouse and Buzz Lightyear Saves Woody from the Evil (and rather lazy) Tuxedo Kitty. As I said, we're a humble family, yadda yadda...

Otherwise, I hope to have a new announcement regarding the future of Retaliate forthcoming (I'm personally very excited) and with that, I wish everybody a loud 'n proud week ahead, bada bing...

Twisted Sister - Club Daze Vol. 1: The Studio Sessions
John Williams - Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace soundtrack
V/A - Fast Times at Ridgemont High soundtrack
Prince - Purple Rain soundtrack
Bruce Springsteen - The Promise
Sodom - In War and Pieces
Daft Punk - Homework
KMFDM - What Do You Know, Deutschland?
Dakrya - Crime Scene

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

CD Review: Twisted Sister - Club Daze Vol. 1: The Studio Sessions Reissue

Twisted Sister - Club Daze Vol. 1: The Studio Sessions Reissue
2011 Armoury Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

If there's one taint upon the legacy of Twisted Sister aside from their sad breakup in the late eighties, it's the general public's lack of knowledge of just how long this band's been around.

You don't hear it directly on "I Wanna Rock" nor do you on "Burn In Hell," "Captain Howdy/Street Justice," "Under the Blade" or "Come Out and Play," but Twisted Sister was initially direct descendents and co-inhabitors of the New York Dolls, MC5, Slade, Sweet, Alice Cooper, Brownsville Station, The Dictators and The Beatles. The aforementioned songs are pure heavy metal cuts, lineage of the Big Eighties boom in which they were produced. Left unattended, Twisted Sister was on the hair's edge of becoming as heavy as Armored Saint before Stay Hungry elevated Twisted into the commercial ranks.

Doubtful most fans got it when "We're Not Gonna Take It" ushered the ungodly sight of muscular madams into their living rooms that Twisted Sister were heirs of the seventies glam rock boom that fizzled once Kiss turned their kabuki trick and made get-up rock 'n roll a commodity.

By now, the Twisted Sister faithful know the score and it's a sheer delight to see Armoury Records come to the rescue of the band's catalog with a bevvy of reissues coming your way in 2011. Along with You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll, Come Out and Play and Love is for Suckers, the crown jewel of the Armoury reissues is Club Daze Vol. 1: The Studio Sessions.

Missed by virtually everyone who didn't follow Dee Snider to his post-Twisted entity Widowmaker, Club Daze Vol. 1: The Studio Sessions is a critical slab of lost tunes no serious rocker should be without. Originally released in 1999, it's not just an essential Twisted Sister time capsule; it's an engaging examination of a grease-lickin' rock 'n roll band comprised of roughneck dandies evolving into a world-capturing shock rock unit.

Humble beginnings, as the adage goes, yet the early years of Twisted Sister, as revealed by Club Daze Vol. 1, are as potent (if not more so at times) as the output extolled on their massive big label haunts. The Long Island days of Twisted Sister's ascension were obviously something to behold if you sample the teeth-cutting three-chord punk influence on "Can't Stand Still," "High Steppin'" and "Follow Me" from 1978. Could've just as easily filled CBGB's on punk Sundays.

From the '78 sessions, which included Kenneth Harrison Neill on bass until Mark "The Animal" Mendoza claimed his rightful spot in 1979, Twisted Sister had a lot going on sound-wise, and almost none of it hints at what they would become, at least until the early versions of "Under the Blade" and "Shoot 'Em Down" manifest at the end of Club Daze Vol. 1.

Well, let's amend that last statement, since "I'll Never Grow Up Now!" appears on this album and for all intents and purposes, it should've gone on to become one of Twisted Sister's legacy tunes. With more eat me snarl behind it, "I'll Never Grow Up Now!" is far more rebellious than "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock" combined. Perhaps it's best "I'll Never Grow Up Now!" never made it past a hidden track released by TSR Records, because the version here on Club Daze Vol. 1 is gloriously trashy, muddy and sloppy, yet so harmonious. Anthemic to perfection, you won't leave this album without that chorus echoing in your head hours after the album stops.

Beforehand, you get to hear some never-made-it songs Twisted Sister had recorded with Steve Bramberg and the group should give him a big hand for letting them flow to their hearts' content in the late seventies. "Come Back" is a biting charge out the gate, its chugging rhythm an instant endearment. The only fault to "Come Back" (and likely why it never surfaced beforehand) is due to its six-minute-plus length. A song with this powerful a riff should always be mandated to the three-minute mark in order to retain its potency. Still, hard not to get energized with "Come Back" ripping away in your ears.

"Pay the Price" (not to be confused with Twisted Sister's iconic ballad "The Price") is one of Dee Snider's first tunes ever written and its shuck and jive yells street fight but in a precursory manner. Twisted gets NWOBHM Saxon-style on their snarky anti-disco tirade "Rock 'n Roll Saviors." In 2011, this song produces a huge chuckle despite its well-serious chord stamping, particularly since we've now emerged into a disco revival in the pop scene. Looks like Dee and the boys might have to dust this one off for the honor in future sets.

One of Club Daze Vol. 1's savory nuggets is the hilarious "T.V. Wife" which merges Skynard, the Dictators and '50s rock 'n roll. Written in an age where housewives were considered posh, "T.V. Wife" is an isolated bit of pretend-chauvenism based upon soap addicts when UHF and VHF t.v. was all there was in the world. Even more of a riot performed by men wearing more stage makeup than Madge's Palmolive gophers. Dee Snider delivers this one with such vaudevillian huckstery (emulated later by Anthony Keidis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) you hardly know it's him.

Even funnier is "Big Guns," which rips on stage performers stuffing their spandex with socks, all as dickless overcompensation. Jay Jay and Eddie Ojeda really shred on this one, while Kenneth Harrison Neill lays down some wicked licks behind them.

While Twisted Sister would later be ridiculed for their cover of The Shangri-Las' "Leader of the Pack" on their Come Out and Play album, those who had been long following the group can attest Twisted were already performing this song years prior. A less-slick and more Hoboken-ralphed take on "Leader of the Pack" arrives on this album and it's the superior version.

Unfortunately, the scrubbed and polished version of "Leader of the Pack" was the harbinger of Twisted Sister's doom in the ears of the metal public, which brings their story almost full-circle once you've played Club Daze Vol. 1: The Studio Sessions through. Let the rest of the story lie like the proverbial sleeping dog.

Twisted's affiliation with reknowned producer Eddie Kramer would be instrumental towards their inevitable success, even if they first had trouble winning over American labels before vaulting across the pond for their fateful alliance with Secret label and the penultimate Under the Blade. It's a total blast hearing the crushing din of Under the Blade and all that preceded it on Club Daze Vol. 1.

Perhaps their makeup schemes and afros were even more hideous than their eighties freak flag facades, but Club Daze Vol. 1: The Studio Sessions is a reminder that Twisted Sister had tons to give their fans musically, earlier than most remember.

Rating: ****1/2

Monday, January 10, 2011

Van of the Dead Movie Review: Horno

2010 SRS Cinema
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Necrophilia is perhaps the last taboo left to a desensitized society where not even the threat of immediate evisceration at the hands of the general population in prison deters child molesters from crossing the line. Yeah, somewhere out there, a subspecies of corpse fuckers are getting it on with the dead behind closed morgues and before you can cringe, oh, how obscene, take a look at Terence Williams' (previously known for his 2007 indie film The Hood Has Eyez) lowbrow mess, Horno. If you dare, that is.

Frankly, this is a Bill Zebub wannabe vehicle that runs short on time and even appeal. The title sells itself, of course; Horno is a zombie-sex film in title, but really, its bigger purpose is to jump the tracks towards the charred side by opting for rudeness and now-passe stereotyping. Somewhere in the middle, boobies pop out in increments and some surprisingly decent low-budget gore splats the videocam capturing Williams' porn puppets.

Really, though, Horno falls short of delivering an impact for both flesh-slapping and flesh-eating, because you'll remember it more for the homosexuality roasts that start out bitchy hilarious then gets been-there monotonous. America's Top Model features less blatant, recurring flamboyance.

Not even an hour long, Horno's purpose for being is to jostle a bunch of mucky pups together on camera under the guise of titillation. While the premise of Horno is centered around the creation of a horror-porn hybrid for spoofing purposes, Williams' silly film is hardly titillating. If you want titillation undead-style, go directly to Linnea Quigley, who memorably serves up her zombified and demonized goodies in Return of the Living Dead and the original Night of the Demons respectively. For extra credit, sit with Silent Night, Deadly Night for plenty more of Linnea's bouncing yabbas.

Williams wants us to roar ourselves stupid with an early sequence centered around a porn star named Dick Nasty (played by Williams himself) who gets his comeuppance by serving tainted drugs to his freakazaoid fuck buddy. She turns zombie and then rips his cock off. Nyuk nyuk. Irony this cat's supposed to show up in cameo for the lead director Ron's (Carlos Javier Castillo) breakout gore-jizz spectacular, which hardly turns out thus. Ron's directed some sleazy films bearing such gut-busting titles as Jehovah's Witness Anal Sluts and Children of the Cornhole, but of course, Horno is going to become a sheer disaster instead of the breakout success he pitches to his benefactor once Dick Nasty and his zombie gal come knocking and cockblocking on the set. Nasty subsequently runs about in a goofy mask combining attributes of an alien and a penis, and...he is subdued by a goddamn dildo. Are you serious?

There's not much else you need to know, since Horno is over as quickly as it gathers some steam. Forget full-on penetration. Minus a fake dildo strapped upon the not-so-secretly gay lead porn god, forget anything resembling actual pornography. The problem is that Horno milks the gay card relentlessly to the point of near-prejudice. Yes, we're only supposed to take it all with the seriousness of Killer Klowns From Outer Space, (a far superior B movie than this one) but after a gamey verbal showdown in the opening which actually is funny, the remainder of Horno becomes face-smearing homo vs. hetero humor with the occasional round of tits to keep every man watching honest.

Okay, so this is admittedly reading way too much into the whole endeavor, but Horno would've been more acceptable if it had run to the hilt with its advertised sanctions. It leans a heavy thumb on the trigger and expects its viewers to let the awful acting slide by because nobody's expecting a Brangelina sex tape here. Still, there needed to be gratuitous sex and over-the-top blood from this thing. As jugheaded a complaint as that may be, there's no denying Williams cheats his audience with far less than Horno promises at face-value.

Thus, the hypothesis remains the same: necrophilia is still taboo. You'll get more from spinning some old Misfits cuts, believe it.

Rating: *

Friday, January 07, 2011

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 1/5/11

Happy New Year to you all! Christ, another year gone and I'm happy to see much of it blow to the wind, honestly. New year, new perspective. Not sure why we all consciously make changes and resolutions at the new year instead of all year long, nor why it seems like a year change is cause for renewed optimism, but hey, whatever. A new vibe to 2011 and we'll see how it all plays out in the immediate months.

After getting drop-kicked by some wicked moonshine to ring in the new year, I'm strategizing everything in my life from top-to-bottom and now that the industry is back from break, things will rev up again at The Metal Minute and everything else I'm affiliated with. Right now, been flying pages on a new thriller-horror short story that I've left the chains off to see how excessive it intends to go. Every time I pull the document up and resume writing, I literally surrender to what comes out, so consider yourselves warned for the final output...

Been obsessing over film soundtracks this week as I've always had a daydream of being a music coordinator for movies. While writing my novel "Saved By Zero," I created my own "soundtrack" as I saw the story unraveling and it kept me to task accordingly. Being floored by Daft Punk's Tron: Legacy soundtrack, I'm literally submerging myself in various film scores and soundtracks while I write this current story and market "Saved By Zero." I daydreamed my entire teenage life about being a rock journalist and it came true, you know...

So expect my playlists to be heavy on the film tip for the upcoming weeks while I get myself limber (as in Rule # whatever in the hilarious Zombieland) for a hopefully productive year. As always, thanks for your patronage here at The Metal Minute. Let's rock this sucka...

The Ocean - Fluxion
The Ocean - Aeolian
The Ocean - Heliocentric
The Ocean - Anthropocentric
Daft Punk - Discovery
Tron: Legacy soundtrack
Raiders of the Lost Ark soundtrack
American Beauty soundtrack
Carrie soundtrack
Heavy Metal soundtrack
Fiddler On the Roof soundtrack
The Sound of Music soundtrack
Goodfellas soundtrack
Halloween II (Rob Zombie) soundtrack
Gladiator soundtrack
Psychedelic Furs - s/t
Talk Talk - It's My Life
Rolling Stones - Let it Bleed
Motorhead - On Parole
Texas Hippie Coalition - Rollin
Leadbelly - Goodnight Irene
Mudhoney - s/t
Sodom - In the Sign of Evil

Monday, January 03, 2011

CD Review: Texas Hippie Coalition - Rollin

Texas Hippie Coalition - Rollin
2010 Carved Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Picture an alterworld, if you will, where Motley Crue had parted with Vince Neil the first time a bit earlier than their self-titled collaboration with John Carabi. Picture then, one Phil Anselmo dropping by for a quick sojourn in the Crue camp at the time they recorded Dr. Feelgood. Sound mondo bizarro? Sure, but if you can get your head around that tip and hum a few phantom bars of Skynard and Bad Company on the side, you've got a taste for what you're in store with Texas Hippie Coalition.

Tramping through the hard rock badlands under their alias "The Band of Outlaws," Texas Hippie Coalition is not incense and peppermints; they're more like weed and whiskey. No love-ins, more like rude lap dances for this power posse, and don't be surprised if you frequent strip clubs to see the gals shimmying and slicking dance poles to the tune of "Flawed," "Cocked and Loaded," "Groupie Girl," "Saddle Sore" or "Jesus Freak" from Texas Coalition's sophomore album Rollin.

No lie, you will conjure up "Slice of Your Pie," "Sticky Sweet" and "She Goes Down" in your mind, not that Ryan "The Kid" Bennett is Tommy Lee or John Exall is Nikki Sixx. Nor do they need be. Rollin is not Dr. Feelgood verbatim or even a full-on recreation, but spin the two albums back-to-back, and there's a connection. Consider Dr. Feelgood and Rollin long-distance blood brothers.

There's plenty of Pantera riffage chunked from Randy Cooper and Anselmo-styled throat ripping courtesy of vocalist Big Dad Ritch, which combines for a party-up, party-down vibe which will get the heads shaking by those who wear denim and leather as well as polos and khakis. This is pure bar rock by a gang of Texas hellraisers looking to amp up a combined Crue-Pantera-Drowning Pool-Sabbath-Skynard attack with more chug-a-lug and cock-greasing rhythms tailor-made for weekend debauchery. Check in with "Pissed Off and Mad About It" and "Saddle Sore," for example.

Rollin calls attention to its shitkicking crusade with a precusory Black Sabbath stamp on "Intervention" and returns to an Iommi flavored two-step later in the album on "Back From Hell." Texas Hippie Coalition also tinkers with southern boogie frequently beneath their booming chords and agro yelping, evidenced on "Jesus Freak," "Rollin'" and "Flawed." Even though "Pissed Off and Mad About It" is the first official single from Rollin, "Flawed" should emerge as this band's signature sing-a-long since Big Dad Ritch really shows off some cool pentameter in his snide delivery.

Produced by David Prater (well-known for a diverse array of hard rock acts like Firehouse and Dream Theater), Texas Hippie Coalition follows up their 2008 debut album Pride of Texas with a pretty authoritative fuzz fiesta good for tossing back the Lone Star and punting scorpions to the sage with steel shanks. There's nothing fancy to Texas Hippie Coalition, and if that's your poison, then sidle up and get some.

Rating: ***1/2

Sunday, January 02, 2011