Imperial Triumphant // Goliath
Prepare your ears for this one. Goliath is the new EP from Manhattan black metal trio Imperial Triumphant and this giant is positively apocalyptic. Following their 2012 debut album Abominamentvm, the band has stepped up their technical approach to unorthodox black metal to an almost mind-numbing degree. Calling this straight black metal might even be a stretch because these guys throw in components of death metal and the result is simultaneously chaotic and controlled. Simply put, the stuff that these three guys are able to accomplish on these two tracks seems almost inhuman. And all this from a black metal band from Manhattan, no less.
Oh and if you need any further reason to check this thing out, know that the EP was mastered by Colin Marston and the metal demigod even shows off his guitar soloing chops on “Sodom,” the first of the EP’s two tracks. Yeah, I’m sold.
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The Tone // Songs
Following his great demo tape last month, Mike Kriebel is back with another EP of unbelievably sweet melodies wrapped up in apathetic garage rock as The Tone. Needless to say if you are still sore over Philadelphia sweethearts The Eeries calling it quits then The Tone should act as a crusty band-aid for your scraped knees. Apparently the spirit of The Eeries followed Mike to Los Angeles and is still alive and kicking in these Beatles-worshipping rock and roll numbers. Happy.
Pay what you want for both of Mike’s EPs on his Bandcamp page and keep an open eye, I have a feeling he’ll be unceremoniously dropping more new material like this over the coming months.
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THE FRIEND: Tyler Hanan - lost boy at Nothing Sounds Better
THE FILM: Trick ‘r Treat (2007, Michael Dougherty)
I’m not the horror buff I wish I was. I adore horror movies, but between (long list of excuses), I haven’t seen a number of the genre standard bearers, sleeper hits, cult classics, and horror movie maven favorites. That said… damnit, I love horror movies. They can be great in so many different ways: fun, creepy, scary, gory, tragic, disgusting, filthy, terrifying, artful, and many more, in many different combinations. I happen to love movies that can be described by the first, and that’s why my favorite horror movie is the modern day cult classic Trick ‘r Treat.
It may not even qualify for that soon. The movie is beloved that a sequel was recently announced at a screening. It’s unsurprising, though, and thoroughly deserving. Trick ‘r Treat has a tremendous balance of scares and gore, fun and wit, and it’s the rare anthology that thoroughly works.
Unlike the uneven V/H/S’s, the bloated ABCs of Death, and the two dated Creepshows, Trick ‘r Treat is a horror anthology that looks tremendous and is consistently effective throughout.
The way the smaller stories weave together to construct the greater movie around them is done fairly seamlessly, given the level of difficulty involved, and the way the movie plays with time is done with a hand that just light enough.
Best of all, there are few better movie mascot than the pint-sized Sam and his chomped-on lollipop.
The movie’s just so much fun. The open is a fantastic little vignette all it’s own. Dylan Baker is fantastically creepy, and every little twist and reveal inspires an “aha!” rather than a groan. The designs throughout are a Halloween wet dream, and that may be the most important part. The movie’s that take place on Halloween are often the most fun end-of-October watches, and we can never have too many of those.
I don’t know if Trick ‘r Treat 2 will confidently waltz across the tightrope as well as the first film, but it’s certainly earned the right to give it a shot.
THE FRIEND: Christa Palazzolo - fearless leader of Boy Friend
THE FILMS: Carrie (1976, dir. Brian De Palma) and The Descent (2005, dir. Neil Marshall)
I don’t have a crazy extensive library of horror movies in my viewing past - partly because I get scared VERY easily - but there are a few that have always stood out for me aside from the classic Argento’s & Hitchcock’s.
First of all - did any one else grow up watching “Unsolved Mysteries” in the 80’s/90’s?…because I think I’m permanently damaged from watching that with my sisters. All those rhetorical questions Robert Stack threw at the viewers; “What if I’m the person that has to solve a mystery?!”, “What happened to the ghost - is he going to come kill me?!”, “ALIENS?!”, etc. Still I have to admit, that show really got my imagination going as a kid, even if it went a bit too far at times.
My forever fave romantic/thriller of all time is Brian De Palma & Stephen King’s 1976 Carrie. I remember feeling incredibly drawn to Sissy Spacek’s character as a teenager. The only horror movies I had seen up to this point always involved some beautiful damsel in distress either getting saved by men or being completely massacred by them. Here was this strikingly fair/slightly strange looking young woman playing this tortured soul with an unharnessed telekinesis power & ruling everyone. Everyone pays! Even her. *see photo - Halloween 2010, me as Carrie*
Finally, the scariest movie I have ever seen in my entire life - Neil Marshall’s 2005 The Descent. I had no idea this was a scary movie. I’m pretty sure my roommate was watching it & I got sucked in immediately. It was insanely amazing & thrilling up until about halfway through & then it took this CRAZY turn & I had nightmares for weeks. The absence of big cinematic music made the terrifying moments 100x more intense. I love a movie that can completely grip you, and then morph into something you could never imagine! Caves, babes, darkness & creatures. #insanity
THE FRIEND: Tim Draut - word wizard for The Bay Bridged
THE FILM: Suspiria (1977, dir. Dario Argento)
My first experience with Dario Argento’s Suspiria came when I was about 11 years old, as I was making my way through the “25 Scariest Movies of All Time” in a 1999 edition of Entertainment Weekly magazine. Having experienced Aliens at 3, A Nightmare on Elm Street at 6, and The Exorcist at 10, I felt it was time to dive into darker, or at least more obscure horror territory.
Since I had read the magazine article, I already knew Suspira was about a ballet school run by a coven of witches, had a scene involving maggots, and included a particularly grisly murder sequence complete with a close-up of a knife stabbing a beating heart. While witches were present among a few of my favorite movies from childhood (The Wizard of Oz, The Witches, Hocus Pocus), I had never before associated their youth-loathing magic with graphic, bloody violence. Suspiria was also my earliest exploit into anything Giallo related, setting me up for a colorfully disorienting experience when I popped in my VHS rental of the film.
I actually didn’t remember many details from my first viewing of the film, with my young impressionable mind being fully enchanted and absorbed by the sensationally creepy Goblin soundtrack and colorful, almost psychedelic imagery. It wasn’t until I reached early adulthood when I realized that this was one of the strangest, most incredible horror movies I had seen as a kid. I ordered the DVD from Amazon so I could relive the experience again and again. While Profondo rosso is generally regarded as Argento’s greatest film, there is something about the surreal spectacle of Suspiria that keeps me coming back for more.
With murderers, maggots, witches and bats, this dark fever dream of a film continues to mystify with its spooky sense of style and experimental use of sound, color, and story structure. Suspiria's soundtrack is really what makes it stand out as a true horror masterpiece, from Goblin's sinister score to Helena Markos' remarkably creepy snoring. After all, the tagline for the movie's American release was “the scariest movie you've ever heard.”
While the plot is definitely a little scattered and convoluted, the film engages the viewer in a visceral sense, much in the same way a movie like Mullholand Drive does. That great quote at the beginning of Suspiria sums up the experience so well. “It all seems so… absurd. So fantastic.”
On a related musical note, I recently got the rare opportunity to witness Goblin perform the “Suspiria” theme live in concert, which was incredible to say the least. Goblin, backed by big screen projects of clips from the film, even brought a ballerina on stage during their performance of its iconic theme. While they didn’t play “Sighs”, the Italian band did play “Tenebre” among other hits.
THE FRIENDS: Melissa Smith and Mark Arciaga - the gruesome twosome known as Outlands
THE FILMS: Somos lo que hay (2010, dir. Jorge Michel Grau) vs. We Are What We Are (2013, dir. Jim Mickle)
The family who cannibalizes together stays together. Horror fans experience a range of emotions when they hear about the inevitable mediocre-to-shit American remakes of their favorite foreign films. Ok, so it’s just one (skepticism) and an eye roll. It’s a rare thing when a remake betters its original. Which brings us to the 2010 Mexican film Somos lo que hay, a modern-day cannibal tale, where outré, traditional family values collide with a changing urban landscape. Opening up with a seemingly homeless man staring bulged-eyed at storefront mannequins like a zombified flâneur, the film immediately sets itself up as a vehicle for social commentary when the man dies, vomiting on the street, only to be promptly whisked up by a uniformed custodial crew, every trace of his presence tidied up. We find out pretty quickly that the man is the somewhat inept patriarch of a family of cannibals for whom he provided meals, but it’s never made clear what the motivations or desires for flesh needs and eats are. Each member of the family bears an intensely strained relation to one another but not in either a relatable or even understandable way. And herein lies the film’s weakness: sacrificing these plot points in favor of attempting to conduct social commentary. It’s even difficult to savor the film as a horror film, especially between criticisms of police corruption and the literally disappearing underclass. It’s the film’s refusal to be kitschy, save for the unintentional camp of the cardigan-clad matriarch rigidly smacking various victims with a shovel, which is one of its greatest failings. All it does is depict a dysfunctional family unraveling after the death of its patriarch. If this says anything at all, it seems to reinforce patriarchy, which is hardly a social commentary worth making.
So this is the perfect entrance for Jim Mickle’s remake, replacing Mexico City with a location and style more like the Ozarks of Winter’s Bone. It also makes up for Somos’ shortcomings by omitting social commentary in favor of rich gothic storytelling, making for a beautiful, brutal, and surprisingly campy coming-of-age horror film. The death of the family’s matriarch, during the family’s annual fasting period before the flesh feast, means that the two sisters are left to carry on tradition. The men of the family are weak (the father) or young (the brother), and outside male encroachment is met with death.
Unlike Somos, the two daughters are deeply conflicted by the family’s practice, going as far as refusing to eat the rich red, lightly chunky soup that seems to yield never-ending leftovers, refusing to kill an acquaintance locked up in a basement dungeon, or swearing that this season’s kill is the last, even if it means ending tradition. If we were feeling Freudian, we would talk about how the pain and trauma of drawing blood through killing for the daughters is akin to menstruation, but that’s all we’re gonna say about that.
We Are also introduces an antagonist in Michael Parks, a doctor who begins to suspect the family’s role in the disappearance of his daughter. And it’s fittingly Parks, near the end of the film, who plays a crucial role in diffusing the film’s weight as an observer to a gory good ol’ family tendon tearing. When we saw the film, it was at this precise moment (which we won’t spoil) when the film lost in spirit about 75% of its audience who thought that they were watching an adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel but got mad cred as a horror film for the remaining 25%. Oh, and Kelly McGillis.
As a final aside, we think that Ebert would have loved the shit out of We Are What We Are (he gave Stakeland 3 out of 4 stars).
THE FRIEND: Andy Hamm - AKA the twisted genius A. Crusher / former Local Native.
THE FILM: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) - Directed by Tobe Hooper.
I Have This Knife
Why do I enjoy horror movies? I’m not a serial killer, I don’t enjoy the thought of eating someone’s flesh and I certainly am not an inbred demented psycho (as far as I can tell). In fact, I would guess that most people who come across me would say I’m actually quite enjoyable to hang around. I like social situations, going to shows, going camping, meeting people and being surrounded by friends. Like a lot of us, I do my best to work hard, stay passionate, love others and in general be a normal person. Yet, if you visit my den on a weeknight, you’ll most likely find me either messing around on my piano or for some reason finding pleasure in watching someone’s head get split in two by an axe while leech-worms scurry out of it.
I am not alone.
For this piece, I was asked to write about either my favorite horror film or my favorite under appreciated horror film. I started by compiling a list of all my favorites and then going back through that list to see if I could find any odd-balls or hidden gems that could take the cake. The problems I kept finding myself running into were that:
1. Most of my top favorites were right in line with the majority of the rest of the world. Hence, I wasn’t gonna blow any minds by explaining the plot of The Exorcist.
2. Under the giant genre cape that is Horror, most if not all of the films that initially received a bad rap or a lazy release have since garnered such a rabid cult following that nowadays they are often over appreciated. In a genre where regularly the worse a movie is the better, chances are likely that if a horror movie doesn’t have a fan base it must so bad that it is completely void of any creativity no matter what angle you come at it. Horror movies simply attract that type of fan and its just another reason why I enjoy them so much. The point is, I couldn’t find a single under-appreciated title that hasn’t already been picked apart, reviewed and dismantled by fans already. It comes with the territory.
So I came full circle and went with my gut…my all time favorite.
Having an older brother especially as a child automatically put you one step ahead of your friends in the categories of “New Cus Words”, “How To Get Girls”, “Obtaining Booze” and in general “Cool Older Kid Type Shit”. In my case I didn’t have an older brother, but most of my best friends did. I learned and lived vicariously through them. Michael Ratterman was the older brother of one of my best friend’s Nick Ratterman. He was also a gigantic fan of movies. He wasn’t always going out to parties or introducing us to Penthouse, but he was pushing Trainspotting or Requiem for a Dream at an age where I was still enjoying Exosquad cartoons on Saturday morning. Therefore, Nick’s house became the movie house. We’d inhale salad bowls of our favorite sugar based cereals, turn off all the lights and watch a flick or two. One particular Friday or Saturday night around this time of the year, Michael said he had a new treasure for our eyes to feast on. Something a little older, something scary, something called The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. At this point in my life I was already a fan of horror movies. Hell, I was already a fan of heavy metal, destroying things and drawing Pushead skulls on my backpack. In other words, I considered myself not easily disturbed especially by a film made in 1974. Now I am a firm believer in that the environment and setting in which you watch a good horror movie can easily make or break the film. When the lights were turned off in Nick’s basement, everything went dark and I mean pitch black. If I would wake up in the middle of the night because I had to pee, the only light in the whole room would be the repeating flash of the unset clock on the VCR/DVD player. 12:00 - 12:00 - 12:00. I hated that clock. His parents weren’t home all too much and most of the time it would just be Nick and I. The setup was perfect for watching scary movies.
I know that I’ve truly enjoyed a movie if when I finish it, I’m still not sure if I necessarily liked it or not, but that I can’t seem to get rid of its effect on me. As the two of us sat in that underground box completely void of natural light and eyes glued to the TV…I soaked up The Texas Chain Saw Massacre like a sponge. The grittiness of the 1970’s style film, the harsh and unbalanced sound effects and that overall feeling of unpolished and spasmodic insanity embedded itself into my mind. The usual ‘surprise scares’ or “Dude!…Holy Shit” grin gore wasn’t there. It didn’t make me feel excited to go get the poster or to go out afterwards and talk about it with my other friends. It simply didn’t make me feel good. There was something so blunt, unrelenting and actually believable about it. That bizarre family that we’ve all witnessed while on a road trip at that “last gas stop for the next 100miles”. That old lonely house that we’ve all seen at a distance way out in the deja-vu cornfield on mile marker no. 370. The fact that the main antagonist seems like a sick man with an actual mental retardation. This is not a killer who hunts you in a dream world, must be summoned from the depths of hell or can be reasoned with even if only for the purposes of inserting a good one liner. It’s as if he just doesn’t know any better. A mentally ill child stuck in a monstrous man’s body and surrounded by a long line of family members that have been stuck in a small town built around a slaughterhouse for way too long. This twisted feeling of realness clung to me and above all it absolutely terrified me. It was difficult to find that layer of cheesiness or that beyond belief scene that we run to and exploit to feel safe when watching a scary movie. Its lack of Hollywood production and low budget forced new creative ways to install anxiety and even if I didn’t know it at the time, that innovative and abrasive way of shooting was and still is why the movie is such a masterpiece. In the months following, Nick and I would laugh and have fun doing our best impersonations of The Hitchhiker scene.
"I have this knife…it’s a good knife."
His flanging arms while burning the photograph or the goofy juggling motion he makes while doing his best to take a good picture with his camera. It was funny because these all seemed like moments that would actually happen if you picked up a weird looking man hitchhiking on the side of a desolate freeway. There is a quote that I came across not too long ago from the late Roger Ebert that I feel hits the nail on the head.
"All a horror film need promise is horror — the unspeakable, the terrifying, the merciless, the lurching monstrous figure of destruction. It needs no stars, only basic production values, just the ability to promise horror."
Even if your a small fan or even an anti-fan of horror movies, most of us have a similar story. That movie and that memory from our childhood of genuine dread that still holds true to this day. For me it was The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
THE FRIEND: Brian Miller - head honcho at Deathbomb Arc / drum kit maniac for Foot Village, True Neutral Crew, and Stupid Future.
THE FILM: The Signal (2007) - Directed by David Bruckner, Dan Bush, and Jacob Gentry
Few films have left me with my entire reality shattered as much as The Signal. Perhaps the only other film to make me feel this way is eXistenZ. The Signal not only terrified me, but made me scared of my own very liberal, anti-establishment beliefs. This isn’t to say that I became a Republican after watching it, but in terms of horror films that rip apart everything you think is safe, The Signal hit right at home for me. On one hand the film is deceptively simple. Everyone suddenly goes crazy; chaos ensues. But there is something more going on here. Something more specific. This is a film about the psychological realities of humanity that allow for civilization to stay in place. This is a film about everyone suddenly losing their sense of Superego. Leaving only the Id to shape one’s sense of self, the characters that most immediately display this unique type of insanity are the hate filled ones. For them, violence erupts immediately. As the film unfolds, other characters that seem to be successfully fighting this insanity are revealed to be equally out of balance. Their essential emotional drives are different though. Rather than driven by anger or jealousy, they are defined by things like paranoia. Paranoia may not cause violence immediately, but ultimately does. For others it is even more subtle, with their emotional essence situated in forms of compassion. The stability of society requires compassion, but without a Superego / sense of reason, behaving solely based upon any singular emotion still shakes the foundation of civilization. The compromises we all are constantly making require us to put aside emotions. Without reason though, someone in love can certainly believe that murder is a right course of action. We read about it in the news every week. But imagine if all of us were beyond the ability to put aside emotion for even one second. Even the survival instincts of animals are more rational than that. Of course, this is why animals also have their own forms of society and cooperation. Human civilization, which no longer exists in The Signal, is this complex manifestation of our survival instinct; of our society instincts. The film begins with a question posed: We humans are capable of imagining an infinite number of ways of leading our lives, so why do we feel the need to play by so many rules instead of letting ourselves be truly free? The rest of the film is a brutally conservative answer. If we didn’t, we’d all be dead in a matter of days. Freud said that humans are doomed to unhappiness because we can never satisfy both our Id and Superego. This film proposes that we’d be even more unhappy if the Superego took a vacation. In a time when the fear of economic and ecological collapse is so common, this film is the perfect horror movie for our time. Even more twisted though than one that warns us to stop our bad behavior like Godzilla films did. It warns us to desperately maintain our bad behavior, because what awaits us if we stop is even worse.
Taking a break from sharing music this month to do something a little different. To celebrate the greatest season of all, I’ll be sharing a series of guest posts from some of my music-related friends. These posts will be about horror movies that are either their favorites or ones that they believe are under-appreciated, all leading up to Halloween.
I meant to start this sooner, but you know, life.
So check back every once in a while and see who and what winds up here. Should be fun.
Saintes // Horizontal / Vertical
Crash Symbols certainly like to keep things interesting. Not content to cultivate a singular sound or aesthetic, the label opts instead to keep their listeners on their toes by making each release as wildly unpredictable as the last. Label head Dwight Pavlovic just today shot over this new release by Parisian noise pop project Saintes for me to listen to. He thought I’d enjoy it because it was more “guitar-y” so naturally, yeah, my ears perked up.
The project is the solo effort Anne-Sophie Le Creurer and her music is charming sort of creepy grandchild of grunge and riot grrrl (minus the political overtones). The entire release feels very ghostly, almost gothic, with Anne-Sophie’s half-whispered vocals whipping up gentle melodies that are beautiful as they are haunting. Then to top if off she coats the entire release in a foggy, lo-fi buzz to make it feel ever more distant. This is the sort of release that I’d expect from labels like K Records or Slumberland, not Crash Symbols. If the label is looking to keep themselves from being pigeonholed, I’d say that they don’t have anything to worry about.
Horizontal / Vertical is out now on Crash Symbols.
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All Dogs // Split
My airwaves have been taken over lately by all-female or at least female-dominated twee and pop punk bands and I couldn’t be happier. If you’ve yet to dig into the recent releases by bands like Joanna Gruesome, Potty Mouth, Swearin’, and Chastity Belt then you are seriously messing up. So while those aforementioned bands seem to be enjoying some well-deserved spotlight at the moment, I thought I’d direct your attention to a band a tad more under the radar.
Adding to the list of exceptional and exceptionally fun bands is the somewhat secretive Ohio wonder All Dogs. Not only has this band made their online presence incredibly scarce up until a few months ago, but also they have a strange aversion to uploading album artwork to their Bandcamp page. I have a touch of my grandfather’s OCD, so the fact that I can overlook that shows just how much I am into this band.
So listen to this cut off of the band’s recent split cassette tape with fellow Ohio pop punkers Slouch and tell me you don’t love it. It’s airy and sweet without being sugary and if you listen closely enough you’ll hear the faintest of country twang influences. Now that the secret is out on this band I cannot wait to hear what they’ll dish out next.
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Shat Shorts // Shat Shorts
Yeah, the band name is Shat Shorts so you pretty much know right away not only what style of music these guys probably play but also whether or not it’s going to be your cup of tea. So either sip on or scram. Get the hell outta here!
Continuing in a very long and very loud D.C. tradition, Shat Shorts blast listeners with an uptempo, abrasive, yet really fun brand of punk rock. I’ve been seeing the “thrash” tag being thrown around a lot with reference to their music, but in reality there is not really anything truly thrash about it (other than probably the fact that the band members literally thrash around on stage while playing). No, what you’re more likely to get when you dive into the band’s self-titled debut album is a really crusty form of art punk with a serious case of ADHD. The tempos vary, the guitar tones waver around from goth rock to hardcore riffs and everywhere in between, all while the manic vocals hold the sticky concoction together.
It’s a free download on their Bandcamp (or if you prefer, you can just grab this link). It’s a fun release to veg out to especially if you just spent the last two hours wrestling with an unwieldy weed-eater (weed-whacker?) to no avail.
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Slow Warm Death // “Madonna”
Here’s “Madonna,” a new slow-burning fuzz jam from garage rocking babies Slow Warm Death. Compared to the rollicking spitfire that is the band’s still excellent, self-titled debut album, this track is an about-face. Adopting a languid pace, cleaner production, and a darker tone the track isn’t as much a change in direction as much as its a slight maturing in their songwriting approach. I dig.
"Madonna" is the A-side of an upcoming 7". The rest of the detailS on said release are TBA at this moment, so keep an eye out.
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Un Blonde // “Everyone Is Watching”
Man, I just do not get sick of this guy. I’ve still been spinning his debut EP regularly, not to mention the fact that his other band Faux Fur recently released an excellent new album as well. Jean-Sebastien Audet overload, man. Anyways, he’s been uploading a new tracks to his Soundcloud last week, and they are not at all what I was expecting. I guess I could also mention the fact that he put some new stuff up on his Bandcamp also before promptly deleting it. Peculiar guy.
Shedding his angular guitar pop for something much more post-punk, Un Blonde has taken his sound in a completely new direction. "Everyone Is Watching" is one of three new tracks that he put up for streaming this week and it is a brilliant display of restraint. Just when you think it’s going to open up into something bigger, it retreats backwards to its simple but effective beat. The muted, chugging guitar lines serve a dual function by pushing the dark melody along as well as acting as a strange form of percussion. It’s a bleak affair but also quite listenable.
Seeing as these new tracks were just plopped down online without any fanfare, it’s possible that Un Blonde is just experimenting with different sounds before working on a new release. But then again nothing this guy has done this year has been conventional so I literally have no idea what he’s going to do next.
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Teen Runnings // “Sightseeing” (Demo)
Here’s a typically sunny new demo track from my favorite Japanese beach bum Shota Kaneko AKA Teen Runnings FKA Friends. The track is the first new material to surface from the Beach Boys-worshipping project since his debut album Let’s Get Together Again, which was released in 2012 (and also sort of in 2011). That album was so good that it landed on my favorite list in 2011. I think. Time gets blurry.
A few years ago I was exchanging emails with Shota, trying to persuade him to participate in one my mixtapes, no doubt. At one point he wondered why I, as an American, was so interested in the music of a Japanese guy who was just trying to sound like American bands. And it’s true, there are a ton (A TON) of American bands who emulate the beach pop melodies of the 1960’s on a daily basis. Why not obsess over any number of them? I suppose the quick and easy answer is that Teen Runnings is better than most of those bands. He is absent from the influence of American culture and trends and so when sings his sugary aah's and awooaah's over warbly guitar lines it feels sincere to me. He's not cashing in on an easy internet trend. He's just doing what he loves. And what I love is listening to him do what he loves. Simple as that.
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