CANNIBAL CORPSE/OBITUARY/CRYPTOPSY/ABYSMAL DAWN

(February 24, 2016; READY ROOM, Saint Louis MO)

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It’s not often that a quality Death Metal package makes it’s way through Saint Louis, MO. With the recent influx of mall-dwelling deathcore imitations, it seems that true old school death metal has been eschewed for a watered down derivative that often relies on hokiness and over the top antics rather than the brutality and true musicianship reflected in the DM acts of yore. On the morning after a blustery February snowstorm descended upon the Midwest, four bands pulled into the Gateway City to lay waste to any notion that true Death Metal is dead and gone. This is their story.

Abysmal Dawn (Charles Elliott) (photo credit: SOPHIA ZUCKER)

Abysmal Dawn (Charles Elliott) (photo credit: SOPHIA ZUCKER)

Abysmal Dawn kicked things off with the title track to 2008’s PROGRAMMED TO CONSUME. Their signature blend of crunchy riffs and brutal blast beats bring to mind acts such as Malevolent Creation and Hate Eternal. Vocalist/guitarist/band mastermind Charles Elliott was especially impressive as he riffed his face off while simultaneously belting out Cookie Monster-esque growls in what proved to be an above par opening performance.

Cryptopsy (Chris Donaldson, Matt McGachy) (photo credit: DUSTIN ENDICOTT)

Cryptopsy (Chris Donaldson, Matt McGachy) (photo credit: DUSTIN ENDICOTT)

Next on deck for the evening were the French-Canadian tech-death marauders known as Cryptopsy. Fresh faced vocalist Matt McGachy wasted no time as he immediately whipped the crowd into a fervor amidst a blend of new and old material. The band’s drummer, Flo Mounier, had been seemingly shot out of a cannon as he rhythmically pounded out tunes such as “Crown of Horns” and “Mutant Christ.” I must say that the highlight of the set was the absence of tracks from 2008’s nausea-inducing (and not in a cool, gory, Death Metal way) deathcore outing, THE UNSPOKEN KING. Also included were two tracks from the band’s most recent EP, entitled THE BOOK OF SUFFERING, which is available digitally from all major media outlets. Closing out the set was the fan favorite “Phobophile” from 1996’s NONE SO VILE.

Obituary (Donald Tardy, 2012) (uncredited photo)

Obituary (Donald Tardy, 2012) (uncredited photo)

Naturally, a band performing songs entitled “Slowly We Rot”, “Chopped In Half” and “Bloodsoaked” must be devoid of any sense of compassion and kindness, right? WRONG! I had the chance to sit down with Obituary co-founder and drummer extrordinaire Donald “DT” Tardy before the show; he seemed more than happy to discuss a passion other than the Death Metal he’s been churning out for over 30 years: A cat rescue he co-owns with his wife. “I just got tired of seeing dead cats in my neighborhood,” he explains. “I thought, ‘It doesn’t have to be this way.'” And, when prodded about his favorite horror films, DT ambivalently admitted, “Eh, I don’t really watch movies too often anymore. Sure, when I was younger, ya had, ya know, the Jasons and Freddies but, I honestly haven’t stepped into a movie theater in 15 years.” Who says all metal-heads are the same? This dude loves cats and doesn’t like horror movies… Awesome!

Obituary (Kenny Andrews) (photo credit: DUSTIN ENDICOTT)

Obituary (Kenny Andrews) (photo credit: DUSTIN ENDICOTT)

As for Obituary’s set, the Florida quintet was nothing short of spectacular. Kicking things off with the instrumental onslaught of “Redneck Stomp” (from 2005’s FROZEN IN TIME), the boys weaved their way through a blistering set of chaotic viciousness that can only be described as truly phenomenal brutality. Vocalist John Tardy menacingly stalked the stage while bassist Terry Butler (ex-Death, ex-Six Feet Under) laid down fat slabs of measured savagery. Rhythm guitarist and co-founder Trevor Peres is a bonafide riff monster, while the addition of Kenny Andrews on lead guitar brings back the high end ferocity that was absent while the band performed as a four-piece. Closing out the set with the title track to 1989’s SLOWLY WE ROT, Obituary proved once again why they are the undisputed kings of Florida Death Metal.

Cannibal Corpse (Alex Webster; George Fisher) (photo credits: DUSTIN ENDICOTT)

Cannibal Corpse (Alex Webster; George Fisher) (photo credits: DUSTIN ENDICOTT)

Batting cleanup were headliners and metal legends, Cannibal Corpse. Firing off classic after classic, CC delved deep into their extensive catalog to present gems such as “The Time To Kill Is Now,” “Pit Of Zombies” and, my personal favorite, “I Cum Blood.” George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher (whose neck is thicker than his head), took an authoritative command of the crowd as he bellowed out his distinct growl while concurrently windmilling his head at breakneck speeds. By the time the band closed out the show with “Devoured By Vermin,” from 1996’s VILE, the entire crowd had been decimated into a puddle of black T-shirts, sweat, beer and blood that somewhat resembled what used to be roughly 800 metal-heads.

Obituary (John Tardy) (photo credit: DUSTIN ENDICOTT)

Obituary (John Tardy) (photo credit: DUSTIN ENDICOTT)

Overall, the night was fantastic, with Obituary stealing the show. The droves of moshers, headbangers and leather clad vixens only proves my previously established perception that Death Metal… and metal as a whole, is fully alive and well in 2016. Special thanks to Donald Tardy for the interview.


HORROR OF DRACULA

(HAMMER FILMS/UNIVERSAL PICTURES/WARNER HOME VIDEO (82 minutes; Unrated); 1958/2013)

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The power of atmosphere can not be overstated. The act of becoming immersed in a movie is one of the most rewarding and genuine aspects that one can experience whilst viewing a film. Director Terence Fisher realized this to the fullest when helming HORROR OF DRACULA (known simply as DRACULA outside of the US) in 1958, and it’s outcome paid off immensely, with critics and fans alike set to sing the film’s accolades for decades to come.

Following the path tread by it’s predecessor, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, the film possesses all of the signature Hammerisms that would prove to be the British production company’s lasting calling cards, IE: vivid color, eroticism, action and a quirky sense of British discernment. These attributes, combined with career defining performances from Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, propel the body of work to a preeminent level that very few vampire films have managed to reach. The set design, provided by one Bernard Robinson, is nothing short of breathtaking. Gothic and lavish, Mister Robinson walked a razor thin line between aesthetic beauty and the overwhelmingly grandiose. The artistry and tastefulness in which these pieces were created has, with no doubt, gone on to influence many present day films, not limited to THE OTHERS, THE WOMAN IN BLACK and CRIMSON PEAK.

HORROR OF DRACULA (Melissa Stribling, Christopher Lee) (publicity still)

HORROR OF DRACULA (Melissa Stribling, Christopher Lee) (publicity still)

On the negative side, the film falls prey to a fair amount of melodramatic excess, mostly in the form of overacted sequences from Melissa Stribling. And, while wholly majestic, the score can at times feel a bit forceful and overpowering. Altogether, HORROR OF DRACULA is a seminal horror film that should be able to find a home in any genre fan’s collection. It’s stylish and elegant imagery allow it to retain it’s place among the best the vampire sub genre has to offer.

4 FILM FAVORITES, DVD cover (WARNER HOME VIDEO)

4 FILM FAVORITES, DVD cover (WARNER HOME VIDEO)

HORROR OF DRACULA is currently available as part of a budget-priced DVD collection from Warner Home Video called FOUR FILM FAVORITES: DRACULAS, alongside DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA and DRACULA, AD 1972; these and most of the Hammer Studios horror films show up occasionally on the Turner Classic Movie channel (usually during October, as part of their Halloween celebration), as well as being available digitally.


INTEGRITY: HUMANITY IS THE DEVIL/DEN OF INIQUITY/PALM SUNDAY

(MAGIC BULLET RECORDS/VICTORY RECORDS/DARK EMPIRE/SPOOK CITY RECORDS; reissues 2015, original releases 1995/1993/2006)

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Cleveland, Ohio’s Integrity have been crushing the masses with their signature brand of occult tinged metallic hardcore for nearly 30 years. Along with Earth Crisis and fellow Clevelandites Ringworm, Dwid Hellion and Company essentially created the metalcore sub genre (though all of those acts shun the overused term today). Naturally, when I heard that Magic Bullet Records would be releasing a remastered version of the seminal HUMANITY IS THE DEVIL, along with a collection of rarities and demos called DEN OF INIQUITY and a live offering from 1992 (which wasn’t unleashed upon the world until 2006) entitled PALM SUNDAY, I was beyond stoked.

Integrity, 1995 (photo credit TINA BRUGNOLETTI)

Integrity, 1995 (photo credit TINA BRUGNOLETTI)

HUMANITY IS THE DEVIL sees Integrity embracing their metal influences to the fullest. Crushing riffs are brutally weaved with dynamic drum beats, only to be crowned with Hellion’s maniacal growl and conceptually dark lyrics. The punk aspects aren’t completely absent from HUMANITY… , but they’re definitely overpowered by the metallic riffage and more complex song arrangements commonly found in the annals of mid ’90s metal. The real treat of this reissue is the clarity and cohesiveness of the remaster. The guitars are brought to the forefront, with the vocals being dialed back from their original overpowering state. Tracks such as “Hollow” and “Jagged Visions” have a much more dynamic feel, finding their true sound twenty years after their initial release. The album is brought to an end with an apocalyptic sermon narrated by Hellion, backed by an eerie soundscape that is creepy enough to make Damien Thorn piss his jam-jams.

Integrity (Dwid Hellion, circa 2011) (uncredited photo)

Integrity (Dwid Hellion, circa 2011) (uncredited photo)

Second up in this trilogy of Holy Terror is DEN OF INIQUITY. A collection of EPs, splits, live cuts and rarities, DEN… , by nature, is a bit of a mixed bag. Most of the songs here are solid, hiccuped with the occasional misstep. The problem isn’t the content itself, but due to being a compilation of songs spanning over a decade, the pacing, at times, feels wonky and disjointed; live tracks mingle amongst studio recordings, with stylistic changes laced throughout leaving the listener feeling a bit confused.

Finally, PALM SUNDAY is a live set recorded in 1992 at the now defunct Peabody’s in the band’s hometown of Cleveland. Antagonistic and vehement, Hellion whips the crowd into a fervor whilst belting out an array of tunes from the bands 1991 effort THOSE WHO FEAR TOMORROW, along with the rarities “Rebirth” and “Live It Down” (both of which are included on the aforementioned DEN OF INIQUITY collection).

Integrity (Dwid Hellion, circa 2013) (uncredited photo)

Integrity (Dwid Hellion, circa 2013) (uncredited photo)

Integrity are one of the most legendary acts in all of underground heavy music. They’ve influenced countless acts the world over and have remained a cornerstone in the aggressive music scene for nearly three decades. If you’re a fan of punk, metal or hardcore, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of this reissue of the iconic HUMANITY IS THE DEVIL, with DEN OF INIQUITY and PALM SUNDAY being reserved for die hard Integrity completists only. All three records are available at www.magicbulletrecords.com.


TWITCHING TONGUES: DISHARMONY

(METAL BLADE RECORDS; 2015)

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Twitching Tongues have been thoroughly polarizing listeners since their formation in 2009. You’ll be hard pressed to find a fan of heavy music that doesn’t have an opinion – positive or negative, – about this Los Angeles based quintet’s brand of groove infused hardcore brutality. Not only is this tradition of musical ambiguity continued on DISHARMONY, the outfit’s first for Metal Blade, the boys in Twitching Tongues methodically douse that fire in gasoline.

Twitching Tongues (Taylor Young, Colin Young) (publicity photo)

Twitching Tongues (Taylor Young, Colin Young) (publicity photo)

The record kicks off with a creepy haunted house-like intro, just prior to assaulting the listener with the group’s signature sound of rhythmic chaos. The Tongues have meticulously refined their style, which is easily apparent throughout the duration of DISHARMONY. Tracks such as “Disharmony,” “Asylum Avenue” and “Insatiable Sin” don’t stray from the band’s signature style, but are, nonetheless, offered in a much more stylish and polished form. Vocally, one can’t deny the influence of late 1980’s east coast hardcore heavyweights such as Only Living Witness and Life of Agony. The lyrics, while rigorously dark, can at times come off as a bit kitschy and over the top. On the musical side of things, the riffs aren’t dissimilar to late era Sepultura, albeit a bit more punchy with the thrash element absent, while the drums are reminiscent of the urgency you’ll find on the first Slipknot record, courtesy of Joey Jordison.

Twitching Tongues (Taylor Young, Colin Young) (publicity photo)

Twitching Tongues (Taylor Young, Colin Young) (publicity photo)

If you’re tired of the same old tough guy hardcore or Hot Topic groove metal drivel, DISHARMONY might be the breath of fresh air you’ve been looking for. The eclectic blend of crushing riffs, unorthodox vocals and dark imagery is a welcome contribution to a heavy music scene that is growing ever more exhausting in it’s contrived tendencies.


ABIGAIL WILLIAMS: THE ACCUSER

(CANDLELIGHT RECORDS; 2015)

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It’s been close to a decade since Abigail Williams exploded onto the scene with their debut EP, entitled LEGEND. In the years since, Ken Sorceron and company have garnered contrasting positions from critics and fans alike. Many of the more cynical listeners have dismissed the band as “poser black metal,” going as far as to lump them in with acts such as Dimmu Borgir or, even Cradle Of Filth, while fresh-faced metal scenesters touted them as the kings of the new wave of American black metal. On THE ACCUSER, the outfit not only silence their sardonic detractors, they slam the coffin lid shut on the unearned skepticism.

One of the most engaging aspects of THE ACCUSER is how well the album is paced. Playing out like an auditory film, the offering wanders through eerie soundscapes and blistering metal compositions while managing to avoid feeling like a mixed bag. Tracks such as “The Cold Lines” and the closer, “Nuummite,” are ladened with melancholy atmosphere and dark moodiness without feeling separated from the other, more straight forward black metal tunes. Chock full of feedback, noise and dissonance, THE ACCUSER weaves black metal, crust and even moments of space rock together exquisitely to form a cacophony of dark matter that truly feels fresh amidst a sea of “true kvlt” clones.

Abigail Williams (Will Lindsay, Ken Sorceron, Jeff Wilson, Charlie Fell) (publicity photo)

Abigail Williams (Will Lindsay, Ken Sorceron, Jeff Wilson, Charlie Fell) (publicity photo)

Generally speaking, when a band states that they’ve reinvented themselves with their latest release, it’s a load of horse shit. Abigail Williams have managed to not only remain innovative on each of their albums, they’ve continued to grow sonically, with THE ACCUSER the band’s most cohesive work to date.


PUPPET MASTER, VOLUME 1: THE OFFERING

(Shawn Gabborin/Michela Da Sacco/Yann Perrelet; 67 pages; ACTION LAB: DANGER ZONE; 2015)

PUPPET MASTER VOLUME 1

I’ve never been a huge fan of Charles Band’s PUPPET MASTER movie franchise. Ever since my first viewing at age seven (yes, I watched rated R films as a seven year old child… thanks, Mom), I’ve always found the series to be overtly desperate without providing much quality to back up the undeniably ambitious plot. So, naturally when Unka D asked me to review the recent continuation of the PUPPET MASTER mythos from Action Lab’s Danger Zone mature readers imprint, my expectations were thoroughly embedded beneath the soles of my Vans sneakers. Luckily for me, I was pleasantly surprised.

PUPPET MASTER Issue 1 cover, page 3 (Written by SHAWN GABBORIN, cover and art by MICHELA DA SACCO and YANN PERRELET)

PUPPET MASTER Issue 1 cover, page 3 (Written by SHAWN GABBORIN, cover and art by MICHELA DA SACCO and YANN PERRELET)

Familiarity settles in quickly as the story kicks off at the well known Bodega Bay Inn. For newbies to the series, the aforementioned lodge has become a staple setting in the ten film (yes, ten film!) franchise. After a quick intro sequence involving an unlucky vagrant who meets his untimely demise, we’re introduced to the protagonists of the tale, a group of horny college students who, in typical ’80s horror fashion, have decided to get hammered and spend the weekend at the abandoned inn.

PUPPET MASTER Issue 2 (Cover by MICHELA DA SACCO and YANN PERRELET)

PUPPET MASTER Issue 2 (Cover by MICHELA DA SACCO and YANN PERRELET)

Script-wise, these books are topnotch. All the recognizable puppets make their triumphant returns (Blade being my personal favorite.). The narrative is paced like a horror film, which really keeps you immersed in the overall linearity of the story. Ladened with genuinely creepy moments, the tone of the miniseries-within-a-series (this collection features the first three-issue story arc of the current ongoing series) walks the line between black humor and horror very well. The artwork, courtesy of Michela De Sacco, really captures the dark, yet kitschy vibe that is so identifiable with the franchise. Chock-full of brutal death scenes, there is more than enough blood and guts here to please the gore hounds, as well.

PUPPET MASTER Issue 3 cover, page 3 (Written by SHAWN GABBORIN, cover and art by MICHELA DA SACCO and YANN PERRELET)

PUPPET MASTER Issue 3 cover, page 3 (Written by SHAWN GABBORIN, cover and art by MICHELA DA SACCO and YANN PERRELET)

Shawn Gabborin has done an admirable job of taking a brand that has been contrived (at best) for the better part of the last decade and breathing new life into it. This reviewer looks forward to seeing where the story goes from here. PUPPET MASTER, VOLUME 1: THE OFFERING is available at comic shops everywhere, as well as the usual on-line places, including digital download outlets such as ComiXology. For more on the PUPPET MASTER movie franchise, as well as signed, limited edition comics and more visit: Full Moon Direct.


MALFUNCTION: FEAR OF FAILURE

(BRIDGE NINE RECORDS; 2015)

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Buffalo, New York’s Malfunction are back with their much anticipated debut full length. Following up the vicious “Summer Tape ’13” release, FEAR OF FAILURE is precisely what one might expect from these Flour City juggernauts… fierce, no frills hardcore in the vein of Merauder, Killing Time and Cold As Life. Metallic and crushing, the record kicks off with “Drained”, a dissonant jam laced with throaty growls courtesy of their vocalist, simply known as Zak. Other stand out tracks include the title track, “Fear Of Failure”, “Final Thoughts” and “Sonic”, the latter of which is a strikingly haunting tune with a stirring atmosphere not commonly found in this brand of hardcore.

For all it’s achievements, FEAR OF FAILURE isn’t a perfect record, and the majority of it’s flaws come from it’s production. The guitars are at times a bit over-saturated and the bass is virtually non existent. The vocals are thick and heavy, but at times lack any sort of a punch and tend to be buried in the mix through out the duration of the record. In whole, FEAR OF FAILURE is a solid debut from a very promising young act. Fans of the aforementioned seminal bands, along with newer heavyweights such as Expire and Dead End Path will no doubt be pleased with this.

Malfunction (publicity photo)

Malfunction (publicity photo)