Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Playlist

It's Halloween! What am I listening to today, hmm?

To start things off today, I picked Necrovore. Not a terribly frightening band or album, although it is extremely aggressive, powerful, and deals with death and the occult. Necrovore is the original Texas black metal band and has influenced countless other bands, including Thornspawn, Averse Sefira, Absu, and other gritty, dirty sounding bands from the state. The band also had a huge influence on the development of death metal and American black metal. Not bad for a band that only released one demo made up of four songs. This is a potentially unofficial bootleg of that demo and the band's rare recordings and live performance.

In my car, I have the EP from Danzig playing. Danzig has always been one of my favorite more ghoulish metal acts. The occultism in his lyrics is clear and the music is dark and forbidding. This EP featured the live version of "Mother" which turned out to be Danzig's biggest hit in mainstream music. It's not his best song, but it definitely won over a ton of fans. Many of whom remain fans today. Unfortunately, Danzig was never really able to match that success again and his music has declined a bit since his first three albums.

Metal's ultimate costumed fiends. Gwar has built up quite a story behind their stage show and characters. The band even features frequent celebrity "executions" on stage, including Paris Hilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The band seldomly appears in public out of character. Good stuff.

I had to get this one in, it had been awhile since I have had a chance to listen to it and it is one of the ultimate scary albums to listen to this time of year. I've written about it earlier this week, so I will refrain from going much further into it.

Again with Danzig. As mentioned earlier, this is pretty much perfect music for Halloween. Dark sounding with Danzig's trademarked vocals which sound like a demented, evil Elvis or Jim Morrison. Plus the occult lyrics fit in well.

This was discussed at length on Sunday. The horror movie references are too much to pass up.

This was also discussed last weekend in my post on frightening albums.

This one's new. Death metal the way it should fucking be. Thornafire is one of my favorite newer bands and they play old school death metal in the vein of Morbid Angel, Incantation, Immolation, and Death. The dark atmosphere and frightening album cover make this a must-play on Halloween.

Friday, October 30, 2009

In Honor of Halloween: Metal Horror Music Videos

Here are some fun music videos to watch in honor of Halloween tomorrow.







Huh, Weird

In an unlikely turn of events, apparently Chuck Biscuits is alive after all, according to most metal news outlets. I am not a metal news outlet, I just comment when I see things. Welcome back to the land of the living Chuck, sorry about the mistake.

Dusting Off a Cassette Pt. 33: Despair: Beyond All Reason

Despair is another band that is fairly obscure. They formed in the mid 1980's and lasted until the early to mid 1990's. Despair was an early band on Century Media Records, when the company was just starting out and had very few bands on its roster. Nevertheless, Despair is the least well-known of these bands. The band came from Germany and played technical thrash/speed metal, in the vein of groups like Heathen and Believer.

The music is fairly standard and comparable to the above bands. Despair does not really offer anything new, but it is nonetheless an engaging album. It does tend to carry on a little too long, however. The riffs, which at the time were probably somewhat innovative, but now sound a little stale are delivered with effective precision. The drumming is powerful and drive the speed and rhythm of the music. The vocals are fair, late thrash-styled yelling and occasionally out of tune wailing. It's a little tough to get used to, but anyone who listens to 1980's thrash bands (like me, and very much unlike my fiancee) probably would have no problem with them.

All in all, the album is okay, but ultimately forgettable. All of the band members have gone on to record with other bands, none of whom are particularly well-known. There's probably a good reason for that.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ahh Christians

Interesting news day.

It's funny really. Apparently, some people are getting all up in arms that The Black Dahlia Murder and Toxic Holocaust are playing at a Christian teen hangout, referring to the bands as "satanic metal" bands. I'm not totally sure of either band's religious leanings, but I can make a pretty good guess that they are NOT satanists. Honestly, some of their lyrics are a little questionable and possibly a little violent, but for the most part, both bands are a bunch of goofy metal fans that formed bands to pay tribute to their influences. They're people having a good time doing what they love. They're not sending any messages with their music.

Ultimately, I look at metal music for the most part the same way I look at horror movies. It is entertainment, no more, no less. Some bands may have beliefs that they try to push on other people, but the vast majority do not have an agenda.

Parents are free to tell their children that they don't want them going to a concert just as they have the same right to tell them not to see a movie, but in the end, it's probably the choice of the teens to go or not. Protesting concerts for some reason has become somewhat normal in Christian communities. You don't hear too many examples of them protesting movies like that though, probably because it wouldn't make any difference. Why is music different then?

R.I.P. Chuck Biscuits

Sad news today as it has been reported that Chuck Biscuits has passed away at the young age of 44 from throat cancer. Biscuits was an incredible drummer for Danzig among many hardcore bands. I used to say that drummers were only really noticeable when they were really bad, but Biscuits was one of the drummers that changed my mind, based on his stuff with Danzig. R.I.P. Chuck.

In Honor of Halloween: Live Bands

Today, I am looking at groups with horror-themed live performances. They may either utilize props or costumes. These videos pretty much speak for themselves, so I will save commentary this time out.







Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In Honor of Halloween: Songs About Monsters

Today, we have a list of songs about monsters. Good monsters, bad monsters, monsters, monsters, monsters. I decided not to list songs from albums that I have recently discussed, which is why there are no songs by Iced Earth, Denial Fiend, and Force of Evil here. The monsters are either movie monsters, or monsters from literature, or even completely made up.

Metallica: The Thing That Should Not Be: This song is influenced by the H.P. Lovecraft story The Shadow Over Innsmouth.
Fearless Wretch
He watches
Lurking beneath the sea
Great Old One
Forbidden site
He searches
Hunter of the Shadows is rising
In madness You dwell

Pro-Pain: Rawhead: Clive Barker's Rawhead Rex
Beyond the realms of death
Lies beneath the earth a beast
And all is well
As he rots in hell
But he's soon to be released
In myth made by man
He's dismissed but not deceased
And to the church he came
He saw, he maimed
And pissed upon the priest

Slaughter: The Dark: Alien movies, I think. There are no lyrics available as this song was previously unreleased but the lyrics pretty clearly deal with the Alien.

Lich King: Predator: Self-explanatory, again there are no lyrics available, but it's pretty obvious this is referring to the Predator movies.

Arch Enemy: I am Legend/Out for Blood: Vampires/zombies, or something. It may be a reference to the story/movie, but the lyrics aren't clear.
I will get to you
And take you down
Tear your insides out
Crush your soul

I am out for blood
Out for your blood

Black Sabbath: Iron Man: A man transformed into a monster while trying to save mankind. This has been adapted to the Iron Man comic/movie, but it really is not related.
He was turned to steel
in the great magnetic field
When he travelled time
for the future of mankind

Nobody wants him
He just stares at the world
Planning his vengeance
that he will soon unfurl

Now the time is here
for Iron Man to spread fear
Vengeance from the grave
Kills the people he once saved

Dark Angel: Hunger of the Undead: Zombies
Eternally black
In limbo I'm trapped
In silence I sound a plea
Light is no more
I feel not a thing
Undead, I need to break free
The silence deafens all the unheard screams
The darkness rips away all the unseen dreams
Numbness shrouds my soul I'm left to roam
Paralysis now my only home
Spiritual planes do not exist
Life in this realm I will resist
And break these bonds - These chains that lock my soul
Watch my growing fire burst through the wall
I need to grasp the earthen world again
Onto the realm of humans I'll ascend

Dark Fortress: Cohorror: This one is pretty original. Seems to be some sort of parasite.
Even in this gruesome revelation
The bottom drops from abyssal unreallity

Wrenching revulsion
Cracks my skull, kills me again
I know this epiphany
Wearing my own face
Who are you

Cohorror has laid its eggs in me
Parasitic larvae from beyond existence
Raven the remnants of my decaying humanity

Death Breath: Flabby Little Things From Beyond: Lovecraftian monsters from potentially any story.
Vile beyond conception
Floating in the air
Made visible by science
They're around you everywhere

In loathsome profusion
Archaic and arcane
These jellyish monstrosities
Are fucking with your brain

Cathedral: Hopkins (The Witchfinder General): Based on a Vincent Price movie wherein the title character hunts witches.
She rides to the sabbath
Veiled under silver light
To make love to the devil
Necromancer of nyte
Within the mystic forest
She sets your world alight
Her coven conjure the demons
Herald the sacrifice yeah

Lucifera Vampirella
She bares the mark of the devil

Devourment: Unleash the Carnivores: No idea.
Rising, from the depths of filth
the worms will grub this fucking world
Scavenging for flesh
Creatures stalk consume the dead
Rabid beasts will tear the skin of
all the scumbags that dwell among us
Spewing spit from savage jaws that tear
the limbs from tortured bodies
Screaming masses destined to be strewn among
splattered seas of entrails
Feasting are these ruthless beasts that crawled
from the darkest pits of hell

Helloween: Reptile: Possibly some reference to 1970's horror movies about gators in the sewers.
Coming from the sewerage creepin' thru the pipes
Born from modern chemistry a thing that is alive
Growing in this rotten crap at places no one wipes
Eating rats and stinking shit and all it needs to thrive

High on Fire: Cyclopian Scape: Again, no idea.
Reptile race crossbred down through the golden age, human haze
Lemurian throne taken and usurped by the alien drones, controlled and honed
Atlantian keys sunken and destroyed by catastrophe, left wandering
Bloodline kings slither down through society's reptoid dreams
Cataclysm to the elder tribes
Anunnaki have survived
Continents underwater shrine
Ocean vaults holding time
Say ye grace unto the serpent line
Unveil curse and their lies
Contemplate the lengths they'll go to rule
As their fangs dig into you

Impetigo: Breakfast at the Manchester Morgue: About a man becoming a zombie.
The bleak sun rises through the smog stained clouds
The day begins in a very somber way
The stench of the dead in the Manchester morgue
The stench of sterilized deacay...
The hideous signal...
I open my eyes, livid with sweat
Obnoxious film... but where have I been?
Strapped to the table, burning fluids course within my veins
Mortific eyes cannot dissuide that I see...
My plight is realized, I am dead but I see...
I feel the pain of the rush of formaldehype,
The brittleness of my bones
And they said I would never live again

Iron Maiden: Fear of the Dark: Just a general story about fear of the dark.
Have you run your fingers down the wall
And have you felt your neck skin crawl
When you’re searching for the light?
Sometimes when you’re scared to take a look
At the corner of the room
You’ve sensed that something’s watching you.

Fear of the dark ,Fear of the dark
I have constant fear that something’s always near
Fear of the dark, Fear of the dark
I have a phobia that someone’s always there
Iron Maiden: The Wicker Man

Kreator: Storm of the Beast: Not real specific.
Down darkness all around
The beast is leaving its bloody home
The smell of death is in the air
People die if he wants the throne

And they fall down, down down to their knees
Mercy is a word he doesn't know

Krisiun: Minotaur: The Greek beast and inhabitant of the Labyrinth
Howls of a demon queen, seduced to an enslaving desire
Inhuman passion to an animal lust, bathed on sperm, scorpions and snakes

The offspring of an aberration was cast, to unify god and man
Mighty child, half man, half beast, shall be thrown into the twisting maze

Lair of the Minotaur: The Hydra Coils Upon this Wicked Mountain: Another Greek monster.
Nine giant, monstrous snake heads
One of them, immortal
In a cave, beneath a dead tree
Lie mass graves, as far as you can see

Lord Belial: Succubi Infernal: Demons that have sex with men.
Obsessing succubi silently walks through the dark
Allure them holy men into depravity and lust
Stare into the haze- behold the creature of the night
Beware of her eyes which swallow your sight
Grotesque yet beautiful visions glorified by creature of the night
Succumb for the fatal beauty of the temptress of darkness

Megadeth: Hangar 18: Alien Roswell Conspiracy
Foreign life forms inventory
Suspended state of cryogenics
Selective amnesia's the story
Believed foretold but who'd suspect
The military intelligence
Two words combined that can't make sense

Moonspell: Wolfshade: Werewolves
You nightly birth. A requiem God can't forget.
For your life is just a celebration of his death
Without his thorns in her heart. She wears a shadow as face.
A werewolf masquerade. In her eyes the wolfshade.

Morbid Angel: Chapel of Ghouls: Ghouls attacking a church.
Ghouls attack the church
Crush the holy priest
Turning the cross towards hell
Writhe in [sings "with"] satan's flames

Crush the priest
The feeble church

Dead - your god is dead
Fools - your god is dead
Useless prayers of lies
Behold satan's rise

Naglfar: Feeding Moloch: Demon
Moloch, oh Moloch I call upon thee
I bring you gifts of atrocities
The sound of breaking bones
And the grinding of teeth
Moloch has awoken to feed
Devourer of infants come forth and bless me
With this killing spree I aim to please
Your spiritual essence now embodied in me
The blood of babies smeared on my cheeks

Necrodeath: At the Mountains of Madness: Another Lovecraftian creature, taken from the story of the same name.
The Creature appears from darkness
Breaking the ancient gates
Their minds are twisted with fear

Comes? Death?
They will die!

Ozzy Osbourne: Bark at the Moon: Werewolf


The Black Dahlia Murder: What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse: Reference to Castlevania video game about zombies and vampires, and other baddies.
Into the tower never go the horrors multiply
Gears can mince the strongest
Ones leaving heroes paralyzed
The rivers flow with poison
The sands swallow you whole
The ghouls that roam this darkened wood
Are thirsting for your throat

Unholy inversion of hope twisting the faith of the meek into hate
Driven insane by the dark one to bring forth the foul biddings he speaks
The undead are among us at dawn they shrink back to their silken beds
They dance by night and drink the blood of a child's broken neck

The Gates of Slumber: Ice Worm: Not sure if this is an actual reference or not.
Ancient terror, of the snows.
Wyrm of ice, where the north wind blows.
Hollow song, and alien form.
Frozen death, its primeval storm.

Not Sure How I Forgot This

I somehow missed this cover last week. Tribulation is a Swedish death metal band similar to the early 1990's bands such as Entombed, Grave, and Dismember. This cover is horrifying.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In Honor of Halloween: Mercyful Fate and King Diamond

King Diamond, a.k.a. Kim Bendix Petersen, of Copenhagen, Denmark is one of the most interesting vocalists in metal. King has been the vocalist for both Mercyful Fate and his self-named band, oftentimes simultaneously. King's vocals are very distinctive as King frequently sings in the falsetto range, occasionally coming back down to emphasize different voices, as the song requires.

Both bands have been cited for being a major influence on the development of thrash, death, black, and gothic metal. The two bands, though similar musically, are nonetheless a little different as far as creativity involved in the songs. For the most part, Mercyful Fate is more of a song band, allowing King and company to focus more on the songwriting aspect of music. King Diamond on the other hand, is more involved in the storytelling side of things. In addition, lyrically, Mercyful Fate deals with occult themes whereas King Diamond tells horror stories. Currently, King Diamond is still active while Mercyful Fate remains on hiatus.

From a visual standpoint, King is very memorable. He was among the first in metal to don makeup, a look which eventually lead black metal bands to apply "corpse paint". King also typically dressed like a heavy metal Dracula, wearing a black and red cape with his hair black and slicked back, although this look occasionally switched to a black trench coat and a top hat or bowler. King's microphone onstage was a cross made of bones hanging from the back of the microphone. He also once had a skull that he sang to, named Melissa after one of Mercyful Fate's early albums/songs.

The important thing for this Halloween-related blog today is that the songs by both bands were often spooky. King also has a gift for concept albums. I will cover each of the albums I own by both bands and discuss the concept or lyrical themes. If the album is not a concept album, I will look at some of the individual songs.

Mercyful Fate's debut album was a large success and still is the most well-known album from the two bands. It featured songs about a witch who was murdered ("Melissa"), witchcraft ("Into the Coven"), and in general songs about Satanism and evil ("Evil", "Curse of the Pharaohs", "Satan's Fall").

This album found the band settling on a style strongly influenced by Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, but dealign again heavily with the occult. Notable spooky songs include "Desecration of Souls", "Night of the Unborn", "Welcome Princes of Hell", and "Come to the Sabbath".

Abigail is to King Diamond as Melissa is to Mercyful Fate, the most well-known album in the band's very strong catalog. The story to this album is about a young couple who moves into a mansion that the husband inherited, but are warned by seven horsemen to avoid the place. The husband is visited in his sleep by his ancestor who shows him a casket with an stillborn child inside and tells him that his wife is now carrying the spirit of the unborn child and must be killed to avoid the child becoming reborn. The wife is clearly pregnant the next day and progressing rapidly, but before he can do anything about it, she throws him down the stairs and Abigail is born, although the wife does not survive childbirth. Abigail is alone as the seven horsemen return to the mansion to kill her.

King is the main protagonist in this story as he deals with his mentally ill grandmother who has recently returned from an asylum. King sees her having a tea party alone after investigating due to hearing strange voices and sees teacups and kettles floating in the air. Grandma later wakes him and tells him that she will tell him about Amon, her house, and takes him into his mother's room where Grandma cuts King's sleeping mother's hand and pours her blood into the teapot. King becomes catatonic as does his mother. His sister Missy tries to wake him to try to help their mother. King refuses to help and cuts the phone line. Missy breaks the teapot out of anger, but the ghosts in the house become enraged and chop Missy up with an axe and throw the pieces into the fireplace. King snaps out of it and leaves the house where he is able to understand the prior events. He lures his grandmother out of the house and kills her. He is convicted of the crime and sent to an asylum, but upon returning home finds that the voices and Grandma are still present.

This album is not a full concept album, although the second half of the songs do tell a story. The first half contains songs about ghosts ("The Poltergeist"), serial killers ("Killer"), and cursed children ("Moonlight"), among other things. The second half tells the story of a man afraid of spiders. The man finds a psychiatrist who claims to specialize in curing phobias. The man is placed into a room with a wolf spider. He complains of bites and pain but the doctor does not help him. Later, he is found dead in his room and cocooned in a spider web. After his death, spiders began using his empty eye sockets as nests.

A brother and sister are waiting for judgment in the afterlife. The brother is sent to Hell as a mistake has lead the Thirteen Judges to the wrongful belief that he had committed suicide, when in fact, both children were killed by their father before he committed suicide. The girl decides to find a new soul for her brother so that he can come to Heaven with her. She haunts King, the protagonist of this story as well. King contacts her via black magic and she tells her story, but she finds him too full of sin and he pleads with her to leave the house and find another soul before sunrise. She leaves King and comes to "THIS HOUSE", implying that she is coming to the home of the listener.

Dusting Off a Cassette Pt. 32: Lethal: Programmed

Lethal is a little-known band from Kentucky that perhaps arrived a little too late to the genre. The band formed around the late 1980's and played into the early 1990's. This album in particular was released in by Metal Blade in 1990. Unfortunately, as implied, the band was a little too late. If they had formed a few years earlier, it would have been possible for them to achieve some sort of notoriety, instead they will go down virtually unrecognized. It's a shame because this band was truly talented.

Lethal played a style of progressive power/thrash metal that brings to mind luminaries such as Queensryche and Nevermore. Musically, they are probably most similar to early Queensryche classics like The Warning and their self-titled album. The band is extremely melodic with occasional thrash metal influences showing through. The guitar riffs are fairly standard and again harken back to Queensryche. The lead guitarist though is capable of some blazing solos.

Vocally, again the band calls to mind Queensryche's Geoff Tate. The vocalist has a very strong, powerful tenor voice and is able to portray a lot of emotion.

Even though this review refers to Queensryche a lot, the band is not just some imitator of that better known group. They have their own voice and style that may be reminiscent of the band, but not so much that they are a direct copycat. I love early Queensryche and believe there should have been more bands like that, so I have no problems with the similarities.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dusting Off a Cassette Pt. 31: Trouble: Plastic Green Head

Trouble is a stoner/doom metal band that first came to the scene's attention in the 1980's. The band was originally on Metal Blade Records and played a style of metal highly influenced by groups like Black Sabbath, Pentagram, and St. Vitus. The band used a lot of Christian imagery and basis for songs, so much so that their record label began promoting them using the term "white metal" as an antithesis to the black metal movement starting with groups like Bathory, Venom, Sodom, and others. The band though did not claim to be a Christian band, alienating them from Christian radio markets.

This album came out in 1995, significantly after the band had become well-known. By this point, they really did not hold much of a foothold in the metal scene, although this album contained the minor hit title track. The band's strength has always been its ability to combine doom metal riffs with 1960's style psychedelic rock, the album even features covers of a Monkees song and a Beatles song. That ability is still strongly evident even here. This would be the band's last album until reuniting in 2007.

All of the elements that made the band interesting are present here: heavy guitar riffs, psychedelia, Eric Wagner's trademarked groaning vocals, slower and deliberate songs. Unfortunately, at the time this came out those elements were not enough to guarantee a band success, even though it was clear the band had influenced grunge bands that were popular at the time.

I first heard this band on the local rock radio station and saw them in an issue of Metal Maniacs. I always wanted this album, if only for the title track. Recently I picked it up on cassette. The rest of the album does not quite a hold a candle to the amazing lead track, but it is nevertheless a decent enough album.

In Honor of Halloween: Horror Concept Albums

Halloween is my favorite holiday. I have never been able to fully explain why, perhaps it is my fascination with things that are dark and disturbing (witness: my love of heavy metal and horror movies). Indeed, I believe it started with my fascination with horror movies as a kid. Of course, around Halloween, horror movies are shown all the time. I spent most of the weekend flipping channels between SyFy (Flu Bird Horror, Splinter, Snakehead Terror (which my fiancee lovingly recorded for me, thanks baby) and other atrocious films) and AMC's Fearfest (Return of the Living Dead, Alien movies, Dracula, etc.). I will probably watch over a dozen horror movies over the course of the week leading up to Halloween. Not all of them will be good, in fact the majority will not. Bad horror movies are almost as much fun as good horror movies I have found.

Where does that leave us here? Well, heavy metal has often found a way to deal with horror in its lyrical themes. Death metal is sometimes about slashers or zombies or some other such thing, black metal deals with the occult, even groups like Metallica and Iron Maiden have fashioned songs about horror subject matter. Sometimes, bands will choose to record entire albums devoted to horror. As seen yesterday, this may take the form of a tribute album to horror movie monsters. Other times, in a far more creative way, bands will formulate their album ideas around one central theme and essentially write their own horror story in the form of an album.

These concept albums are the topic of discussion here. I'm going to look at several such albums and explain what the storyline is. I will not look at the master of concept horror albums, King Diamond, choosing instead to devote an entire post to him alone.

Cradle of Filth probably deserve their own post as well, but I decided to not drag this out too much. The topic of discussion this time around is vampires, although they are often not mentioned by name. Most of the references are heavily inspired by gothic literature, a staple in Cradle of Filth's lyrics.

The band's sound is a little closer to gothic metal than the black metal that was heavily present on their previous works. This album deals mostly with the legend of Elizabeth Bathory, even featuring guest narration by Ingrid Pitt who portrayed the Countess in an old horror movie by Hammer films about her. Bathory, it is said, bathed in the blood of young virgin girls to remain youthful and was convicted for the murder of 80 people, with some estimates closer to 600. She is one of the inspirations for Dracula.

See what I mean? I am not even discussing a couple of the concept albums by this band. Midian is inspired by Clive Barker's novella Cabal, in which a man seeks answers to why he is drawn to a mythical city beneath a cemetary and the dark creatures that inhabit it. It's complicated, but it's typical for Barker stories.

Not a concept album per se, but all of the songs revolve around the theme of being able to see into the future and other psychic abilities.

This should be self-explanatory. Macabre, an early death metal/goregrind band, created this album based entirely around the life of Jeffrey Dahmer, noted serial murderer. It begins when Dahmer is a young man and extends to the controversy about what to do with the deceased Dahmer's brain. It's strange, unnerving, occasionally humorous, and utterly in bad taste. It's perfect for Macabre.

This album by progressive power/thrash metal band Nevermore is supposedly based on Warrel Dane's own experiences. Supposedly, Dane had a girlfriend who left to join a religious cult, who he never heard from again. However, Dane had dreams of her reaching out and screaming for help from him as she drowned. The album takes this backdrop and features a man descending into insanity after his girlfriend dies.

Opeth is another band that has made a career out of doing elaborate concept albums. The storyline of this album revolves around a man who has died and become a ghost. The ghost becomes agitated when he starts to believe that his girlfriend did not genuinely grieve when he died. The girlfriend feels his presence and refuses to accept that he actually has passed.

This is a rather simple concept album. Opeth depicts a man in constant turmoil after he killed his own mother.

This album is based on the movie Re-Animator starring the immortal Jeffrey Combs, in which a young doctor has discovered how to raise the dead. The movie is loosely based on an H.P. Lovecraft story along the same storyline. The album sticks closer to the cheesy movie, although it is significantly more serious.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Three Fun Halloween Albums

Once again, in honor of Halloween coming up (I'm probably going to run out of ideas before I get there), I wanted to look at three albums that are especially fun to listen to this time of year. These albums are not scary at all musically (two are from power metal bands, the other a light-hearted death metal band). Instead the lyrical themes are old school horror movie monsters. That's what makes them a lot of fun. I love horror movies almost as much as I love metal, so albums that combine the two are great in my book.

Denial Fiend is a band formed by Kam Lee, the original singer for Death (well they were actually known as Mantas at that time) and also formerly of Massacre. Denial Fiend is a death metal band but the band strives for more of a fun sound influenced equally by horrorpunk groups like The Misfits as they are by death metal. This album mostly deals with zombies, but also tackles The Creature from the Black Lagoon and Frankenstein as well.

The musicians from Mercyful Fate had to do something while King Diamond was busy with his self-named band, so they formed Force of Evil with a new singer. This band is more of a traditional metal band with some occasional power metal leanings but it is driven by the masterful guitar work of Hank Shermann and Michael Denner. The horror movie monster references are more recent than the Golden Age of Horror icons that Denial Fiend and Iced Earth touch on and include: Candyman ("Cabrini Green"), The Omen ("Days of Damien"), Friday the 13th ("Voorhees Revenge"), Texas Chainsaw Massacre ("Dead in Texas"), and In the Mouth of Madness ("Hobbs End"). It also features a song referencing many of Stephen King's works ("Disciples of the King").

Iced Earth is a well-known American power/thrash metal band that is strongly influenced by groups like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. The band has been going strong for over 20 years at this point and sound as if they could continue for another ten years. This album, as mentioned above, deals more with Golden Age horror icons, with a couple of newer ones thrown in for good measure. Monsters with their own song include Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Wolfman, the Mummy, Jekyll and Hyde, and the Phantom of the Opera. Jack the Ripper and Damien from The Omen also have songs.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Scary Albums in Honor of Halloween

Okay this one is similar to the Scary Album Covers posts but a little different. This time we're talking about actual albums that are a little frightening from a musical standpoint, albums that curdle the blood and send chills up the spine, albums that are so complex that they sound as if they came from another world. Yes, there are a few, and I'm not referring to the latest from Lady Gaga.

Celtic Frost has always had some spinechilling songs, but on this album, they stretch things over the full course of the record. Even though the band utilizes some clean singing, the vocals are so desperate and cold, that they sound otherworldly. The riffs are typical Celtic Frost bass-heavy riffs that sound like the machinations of Lovecraftian beasts. This album is truly unnerving, taking hold of the listener for over an hour. Once it is over, it is like being able to see the sunlight after days trapped in a cave.

The cover image is frightening enough. Coffins sounds like an even more dark and possessed version of Celtic Frost playing a style of death/doom that is so morosely slow as to actually sound as if it were produced by the zombie-like monsters that so often appear on the band's album covers. The faster tracks sound as if they could have come from Celtic Frost themselves, while the slower ones sound as if they came from the pits of Hell.

That's the band's spelling not mine. This is a classic album from the Norwegian second wave of black metal band. It features the eponymous title track, one of the most well-known and disturbing songs about vampires in heavy metal. Everything else is minimalist, simple, one riff, classic black metal with an extremely dark atmosphere. Only the title track is in English and not knowing what is being said somehow makes the rest of the songs that much more frightening.

Demilich's only full length gives off the atmosphere of being trapped in a dark, dank, moist, cold cave. The music is ungodly complicated featuring numerous changes in time signature and speed as to leave the listener completely disoriented. Then there are the vocals, a sound that can best be described as the croaking of a dying bullfrog.

Incantation was one of the early bands that blended death metal with doom metal and achieved a Hellish sound in the process. The band's angular riffs, throbbing bass, and pummeling drums form the backdrop behind some of the most terrifying vocals in American death metal. The atmosphere is as dark as the Satanic and Anti-Christian subject matter. Most occult death metal bands have been trying to emulate this sound for years, but this is the original.

Quite possibly the quintessential black metal album. This album was recorded after the death of vocalist Dead and featuring Attila Csihar's chaotic vocal phrasing and shrieking. It was also recorded before the murder of guitarist Euronymous at the hands of bassist Varg Vikernes. The backstory alone makes it a frightening piece, then there is the cold music itself. This album, along with Darkthrone's above-mentioned album completely changed the course of black metal, changing the focus to simple riffs and dark atmosphere. I love to listen to this album with all the lights off during a thunderstorm at night.

The music cannot even be described, it is so off the wall strange. Portal pushes the boundaries of metal, and indeed music in general as far as possible. The riffs are chaotic, the drumming seemingly out of nowhere, and the vocals are tortured screams. Portal is one of the most original metal bands to come out in years. I cannot even tell if I enjoy their album or not, it is so strange. All I know is that I feel uneasy whenever I listen to it, and that makes it a prime candidate for this list.

Satan's Host is a unique band. They hail from Colorado and formed in the mid 1980's when they played power metal with occult lyrics. They didn't last long though and broke up. They reformed in the last few years playing a style of blackened thrash and upped the ante on their lyrics. The band is clearly Satanist and feature many invocations to Satan in their albums. This one is no exception. Musically, they are pretty good, though not as good as other blackened thrash groups, it's when they see fit to add in an atmospheric track that they really get strange.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Strange Album Covers Pt. 4: Horror Finally the End

Finally the last entry in this series. So, let's get it done already:

The great Emperor appears here on their last great album. The band broke up a few years and one more full length later. This cover features a war between angels, that is if you can actually see anything here thanks to the incredibly dark shades of green and black. An amazing album that was the final culmination of the work the band had been leading towards since they formed.

Bloodbath is a supergroup from some of Sweden's finest death metal bands and has featured a revolving door of members from groups like Opeth, Katatonia, Edge of Sanity, Hypocrisy, and more. This is their latest album that has a cover featuring either zombies or ghosts, tough to say, although the artwork is incredibly macabre.

Merciless Death is one of the many bands from the new trend towards of classic thrash metal. Merciless Death is closer in sound to Dark Angel's heyday than bands like Metallica or Megadeth though. This album cover features a malevolent spirit attacking a priest in a church.

Yes, zombies! Zombies are fucking awesome and everyone, even doom/death bands from Japan like Coffins, know it. I chose this one, even though the cover to their previous album is even more grotesque and awful.

See above, more zombies! Woo hoo! Atrocious Abnormality is a brutal death metal band from North Carolina that I previously reviewed on this blog.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Strange Album Covers Pt. 4: Horror Again, Only One More After This

I promise, tomorrow will be the last one of these, I just wanted to cover some of my favorite scary album covers.

Decrepit Birth is a technical death metal band in the vain of Origin and Necrophagist, with perhaps better songwriting ability. This is another cover that reminds me of H.P. Lovecraft. I can't tell if that thing in the middle is supposed to be alive or not, somehow not knowing makes it even more unnerving.

Nifelheim is a Swedish band very similar musically to Dissection, in that the band plays a blend of death and black metal. The band utilizes tremolo riffs and blasting drum beats similar to their mentioned countrymen. The band is also blatantly Anti-Christian as shown on the cover featuring the Reaper (not my dog, the Grim Reaper) entering the gates of Hell.

Paths of Possession is a death metal band with an emphasis on some melodic ability. The band is much more similar musically to groups like Amon Amarth and Dismember than other Florida death metal bands. The band features Cannibal Corpse's Corpsegrinder on vocals. The album is a concept album about a soldier coming back from the war and slowly losing his sanity from the horrors he witnessed and participated in while at war. I can't even explain the artwork, but it is incredible.

The Black Dahlia Murder is a band from the metalcore movement, that is perhaps unfairly labeled as such. Having heard the band, I am not convinced that they are not more of a melodic death metal band similar to At The Gates. There is not much hardcore present in their sound. The cover is reminiscent of second wave black metal bands such as Emperor and Dark Funeral. It is atmospheric and cold and a little forbidding.

I can't even explain this artwork or this band. All I know is that musically and visually, this band is strange. That's really all there is to say about this.

Cryptopsy: Canadian Death Metal Royalty

Cryptopsy is one of the greatest death metal bands of all time. The band formed in the very early 1990's in Canada and immediately made an impact on the genre. The fact of the matter is that the band is largely responsible for several innovations in the genre, including brutal death metal and deathcore. Cryptopsy had a large hand in the addition of diverse musical styles such as jazz fusion finding their way into death metal.

The Canadian metal scene is largely known as a fairly experimental scene, featuring such diverse bands as Voivod, Gorguts, Strapping Young Lad, and others. Cryptopsy is well at home with these other bands.

The Canadian group first hit the scene with a demo, which was then mostly re-recorded for their first full length album. The music must have seemed like it came from another world, it was so different from what most other bands of the time were doing. The band combined death metal with funk style bass lines and elements from other diverse styles. The band is stunningly talented from a musical sense, which may be difficult to hear at first from the crushing brutality of their riffs. But, when one listens closer, the true talent of the individual members (such as drummer Flo Mounier and guitarist Jon Levasseur) begins to shine through.
After their first album, Cryptopsy released None So Vile, an album that quickly became a landmark in the death metal scene. The album is one of the best examples of technical death metal and hundreds of bands have tried to emulate it ever since. Unfortunately, after that album, vocalist Lord Worm left the band and the new vocalist was more of a hardcore singer than Lord Worm's brutal, guttural delivery.
A couple of albums and several years later, Lord Worm returned to Cryptopsy, though the band had gone in an even more significantly experimental direction. The resulting album was a decent comeback, though it was clear even then that the band would never return to their early style. Soon after, Lord Worm again left the band for good and Cryptopsy moved even further towards deathcore.
I only have the three full length albums from the Lord Worm years, but they are some of my favorite brutal death metal albums. I have not checked their work with other singers out, and I am not sure I will.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Strange Cover Art Pt. 4: Horror Continued Once Again

Still going on this, not too many more to go.

King Diamond will be discussed at some point on this blog, I promise that. This particular album, like many of the band's other albums is a concept album. The band specializes in ghost stories. I will discuss this one at a future time, but I won't get into it here. The cover is representative of the story, featuring a little girl in a bloody dress. The music is a fairly straightforward early 1980's melodic metal style, featuring King's trademark falsetto vocal style and haunting lyrics.

Evocation is an early 1990's Swedish death metal band that recently reformed in order to take advantage of the recent interest in that scene. This is the band's comeback album and it is very typical of the style, possibly one of my favorite albums from the genre. The cover art is extremely Lovecraftian, a big plus in my book. I'm not sure what we're looking at, but it's eerie.

Ravencult is a band from Greece playing a style of black metal mostly similar to the second wave black metal bands out of Norway with a little bit of typical Greek style added in for good measure, although the band does not sound at all like countrymen Rotting Christ or Varathron. The cover is simple, but effective, dark and intimidating.

The great Immolation of course plays occult death metal like Morbid Angel, Incantation, and others. The sound is somewhat technical, but brutally punishing and unrelenting. The cover is of an angel on fire, calling to mind such movies as The Prophecy.

This album is Celtic Frost's comeback album, and what a comeback it was. One of the spookiest, scariest sounding albums I have ever heard. Unfortunately, Celtic Frost has once again disbanded, making this the last album by the band at this point, unless they somehow reform again, which would be shocking. The cover is simply a profile picture of the band's singer, but is is frightening and disturbing looking. I can't describe why it is so disturbing but it is.

Testament-One of My Favorites

"Friday, you will have the chance to party down in the church basement to the Jesus rock stylings of Testament. That's on Friday, 6 p.m. sharp."
-Reverend Lovejoy

"[scoffs] All the best bands are affiliated with Satan."
-Bart Simpson
I love that quote from The Simpsons. Testament was one of my early favorite bands. I first heard them on the local hard rock radio station in my hometown. At the time, the album Low was new and fairly popular. The band was really one of the first extreme metal bands I had heard and enjoyed as that album combined several influences from various genres, mostly thrash, groove, and some death metal. Upon getting that album, I was very impressed with the band and gradually added most of their other releases. I was a little surprised at the changes the band made in its sound over the years.

Testament is a band from the Bay Area thrash metal scene, along with groups like Metallica, Forbidden, and Exodus. The music at the time was not the most extreme, however the lyrical themes were. Testament has always had fairly dark lyrical content, dealing with Satanism and the occult. Even when they branched out more, they still dealt with topics such as rebellion and politics. The music was obviously Bay Area in origin, somewhat melodic. The band's best feature was the guitar work by Alex Skolnick, a classically trained guitarist. Chuck Billy possessed vocals similar to other bands from the scene at the time.

Testament's first four albums were fairly typical Bay Area thrash, however the band felt the pressure that other thrash metal bands from that time period did, thanks to Metallica's Black Album. Testament also scaled down the aggressiveness of their sound at the time they released the album The Ritual. They lessened the thrash metal sound and went for a much more melodic basic heavy metal sound. I still enjoy their music on that album, particularly since the song "Return to Serenity" appears on this album, and as mentioned earlier this is my favorite song.

Testament returned to a more aggressive approach to metal music in the mid 1990's with Low. Alex Skolnick left the band, along with a couple of other members, and as they were the members trying to push the band in a more melodic direction, the band reverted to a harder edged sound. This album features elements of thrash and groove metal, along with one ballad, and one song "Dog Faced Gods" which was much more death metal-oriented than anything the band had previously done. The band's next album featured more and more death metal style.
The band also released an amazing live album during this time period. Live at the Fillmore features my favorite version of my favorite song.
And, of course, we have The Gathering which was definitely a more death metal album. The lyrical themes were evil, the music was heavy and dark, and the vocals were extreme. It was quite possibly the band's best album to date. But then, cancer struck Chuck Billy and the band would not release any new material for several years.

The caption here is a reference to a Testament EP. The band finally returned in 2008, almost ten years after their last album. Their newest album is a nice balance of all of their prior metal styles. It was a good comeback album, not the best, but by no means a bad album. It's just great to have such an amazing and influential band back finally after all these years.