Sunday, June 23, 2013

Stake Land (2010)

Considering I just finished watching this movie on the Syfy channel during their "shitty Sunday vampire movie" line-up, I expected nothing for this movie. And sometimes expecting nothing will end up delivering a gem.

Stake Land is a post-apocalyptic movie about what happens after a plague has turned most of the world's inhabitants into vampires. The movie is far less about the actual vampires and more about the search for humanity and survival in the ruins of both. We follow a teenage boy named Martin (who provides narration during certain points) as he is saved by a vampire hunter only known as Mister after his family is killed by a group of vamps. Mister and Martin travel the north searching for a place called "New Eden", staying in survivor settlements or in a protected beat-up car and picking up some stragglers including a nun known as Sister, a young pregnant girl Belle, and Willie, a former Marine.

While vampires are the most obvious threat, what ends up being the real thorn in everyone's side is a group of religious fanatics that have named themselves The Brotherhood and their leader Jebediah, who fancies himself a god and someone able to keep the vampires at bay at will. They have taken control of many of the roads and areas and subject any survivors they encounter to their selfish and tyrannical ways.

This movie is a 90 minute ride of bleakness. Everything is dead and ravaged and ruined. Whenver you get a glimpse of the good humanity is capable, it's immediately destroyed, if not by the vampires then by The Brotherhood.

The visuals in this movie are not your normal dirt and ash scenes of a world torn asunder. There are some beautiful shots and scenery locations, which very much add to the lost feeling of everything. The acting is really damn good. The kid who plays Martin in particular gives a really strong and great perfomance (as does Mister).

If you happen to see this on a channel line-up or in a discount bin, don't dismiss it like I almost did.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Hatriot - Heroes of Origin (2013)

Holy open lesions, Buttman! Now this is how you write a fucking thrash metal album, by George! In fact, Hatriot sounds better at sounding like Exodus than Exodus has in a very, very long time. Ol' Zet must've really drilled the "classics" into his kid's skulls, because I swear, if I hadn't known any better I would've have thought these songs to have been written by Gary Holt himself. Not only is the guitar style here more than similar to Mr. Holt's, but the riffs tend to lean towards the more "notier" compositions such as those found on 'Pleasures of the Flesh' and 'Fabulous Disaster', which, for me is a recipe for complete and total domi-fucking-nation!

Vocally, Ol' Zet sounds more venomous and vehement than he has in well over 20 years, and thankfully the chuckles were left at the door. I'm surprised that at 49 this guy sounds better than he did during Exodus' heyday. Hat's off.

If there's anything to gripe about (aside from the lame cover art, which really, with music this fucking good, who gives a shit, eh?) it's that the pace of the album is so fucking unrelenting that a few of the songs tend to get lost in the shuffle and things start to sort of jumble together. But believe me, that is only because this is such a vicious fucking attack on the senses that you tend to become overwhelmed by it all.

I am honestly beyond impressed with this! You can forget about hearing a bunch of homo-melodic bullshit (such as that found on the last few Exodus albums). No tough-guy breakdowns. No attempts at "fitting in" with current trends. None of that stupid shit. This is 100% grade-A Bay Area thrash methodically designed to kick your fucking ass!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Movie Poster of the Week: Redneck Zombies (1986)

Entombed: From the Best to the Worst

1) Left Hand Path (1990)

This is the by far the crowning achievement of the band. Nothing comes even remotely close. I'll never forget hearing 'Drowned' on some college radio station out of New Haven, CT, back in 1990, and being absolutely fucking blown away, but even that mind altering teaser could not have prepared me for the title track, once I had obtained my copy of this album on cassette, so long ago. Since hearing it, this album has remained in my top ten greatest albums of all time since, and will be there long after I am entombed within my coffin.

2) Hollowman (1993)

"What?? You didn't list 'Clandestine' as being number two? Blasphemy!" Yeah, well, the truth is, in my world 'Clandestine' doesn't hold a black candle to this rockin' little morsel, and more so, I've never been a fan of whoever the fuck it was that sang on Entombed's mighty sophomore album. Seeing L.G. back in the ranks did my heart well and sure, at first I was a bit leery of Entombed's decision to drop their trusty ol' logo as well as some of the questionable song titles, but the truth is... I've always loved rock & roll just as much as I did death metal and once things got going here I was beyond relieved. In fact, I was fucking ecstatic over what was being delivered through the speakers! Sure, this was pretty much a far cry from the crushing and dismal death of the band's first two albums, but this was something that I could get behind and support all the way.

I'll admit, the first (and title) track had me really doubting things. To this day I'm not a big fan of it (although the middle section ranks among the band's best riffs), but once 'Serpent Speech' comes rollin' 'round the bend the band are on fucking fire and no ocean on Earth can put out the flames until the final note of the brilliant rendition of the Hellraiser theme rings out. Speaking of which, I always viewed that track as being a sequel of sorts to Left Hand Path's staggeringly awesome take on the Phantasm theme.

3) Wolverine Blues (1993)

'Hollowman' serves as the perfect warm up for the mountain of mammoth riffing that is 'Wolverine Blues'. Everything on that 'ep' is taken to the fucking extreme this time around, and I mean that in the best way possible!

Again, the weakest track here is 'Hollowman', which, after having been featured as the title track of the band's previous release, comes across as being completely redundant this time around. Aside from that, though, this album fucking slays and is by far my favorite full length by Entombed after 'Left Hand Path'. Sure, you can forget about the gloomy, doom-drenched atmosphere of the first two albums, but I'm really quite fine with that. Entombed are such great songwriters that everything done here is quite masterfully executed and besides, the sheer weight and distinction of the band's sound is the same as it ever was. If anything, I think the catchier, more "rock" oriented approach makes the band's attack all the more devastating.

4) To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth (1997)

Don't worry about what the clueless naysayers tell ya. The signature "chainsaw" guitar sound is here in spades and overall this is the perfect continuation of where the band left off with 'Wolverine Blues'.

The songs are a little more varied this time around, in terms of tempo fluctuations and the like, but believe me, this album is every bit as infectious and potent as 'WB'. Obviously, 'TRSSASTT' (damn, that's a long ass acronym!) finds Entombed burrowing further down the rock & roll rabbit hole, but that's fine by me as I've always been a fan of Sabbath, Zep and Purple equally as much as Carcass, Napalm Death and Obituary.

5) Clandestine (1991)

Musically, this album is untouchable. A fucking masterpiece! Unfortunately, the vocals kind of fuck it up for me a bit. No, they're not the worst I've heard, and they've never been so bad as to deter me from enjoying the rest of the musicianship on the album, but boy oh boy this would've been SO much fucking better with L.G. commandeering the war machine!

6) Inferno (2003)

As I'm probably one of the very few people on Earth who wasn't bowled over by 'Morningstar', I was quite glad upon listening to 'Inferno' for the first time. Initially I was a bit skeptical as Entombed have yet to re-employ their famous "chainsaw" guitar sound of old and the guitars on this album are rather weak in comparison. After listening to the album with an open mind, though, I found it to be quite an enjoyable experience that I'd rank up there with 'Wolverine Blues' and 'To Ride...'. I can only imagine how much more devastating this would sound smothered in a Sunlight production.

7) Same Difference (1998)

I remember feeling very bummed when this came out and then a few years had passed and it was given to me as a gift, and after having listened to it in a more forgiving mood, thinking to myself "you know what? this isn't bad at all".

I totally understand why people would hate this album and avoid it at all costs. I'm not here to convince anyone otherwise, but I will say that after having given it an honest chance, I ended up really liking it. A lot.

Obviously this is not a death metal record, nor does it really fall into the "death -n- roll" category as , again, the "death" aspect is really quite alive... and kicking. If anything, this is more of a bluesy, ultra-moody alt-rock album which showcases Entombed's almost uncanny songwriting ability, proving that no matter what style of music they venture off towards, you can expect the results to kick ass. Again, anyone who holds a more "militant" stance in regards to death metal and such, will probably not like this and in all probability hate this. However, if you have an open mind and have warmed up to the band's less aggressive tendencies in the past, then I really don't see why you wouldn't enjoy this. Sure, it may be a hell of a lot less "intense" as the band's previous output, but 'Same Difference' unquestionably falls into the 'heavy rock' category with zero ballads and nary a techno beat to be heard.

8) Uprising (2000)

To many, this was a "return to form" for the band after the divisive misfire that was 'Same Difference'. Personally, I didn't mind that album so much and I sure as fuck didn't see this album as being the glorious return to form as heralded by much of the metal press at the time. I mean, ok, it's obviously got more aggressive tendencies than their last outing, but for a band that had supposedly returned to their roots, the question that begs to be asked is... where is the fabled "chainsaw" guitar sound of old? It didn't surprise me much that it was virtually non existent on 'Same Difference' as that album was a fairly drastic departure for the band, but this time around I found it puzzling as this was the band's supposed "return to form". The sound here is muddy yet weak. Had these songs undergone the Skogsberg treatment, they would have undoubtedly packed a handful of dynamite as the writing itself is typically on point.

9) Morningstar (2001)

Had this album not been so critically acclaimed I may have dug it a wee bit more, but quite honestly, given the ungodly amount of hype that has circulated this release, I was astonished to discover that there really wasn't anything fucking earth shattering going on here. It's a decent album and that's it.

10) Serpent Saints (2007)

Another one of those albums that have been heralded as a "return to form" and one that leaves me wondering "what the fuck are they talking about"???

Again, this is not a horrible album by any means (at this point, I think it's safe to say that Entombed is almost incapable of delivering a solid piece of shit), but it's far from being any sort of return to form, whether it be 'Left Hand Path' territory or even 'Wolverine Blues' ('Inferno' was about as close to that as the band has gotten), and despite the band's impressive track record in terms of songwriting capabilities, 'Serpent Saints' is probably their most yawn inducing. It really doesn't surprise that they haven't released an album since as it's quite evident here that they had run out of ideas.

11) When in Sodom (2006)

This is just basically a warm up 'ep' for 'Serpent Saints', showcasing the same style found on that album. Yawn.

12) Crawl (1991)

For the rundown on this release, click here.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Black Sabbath - 13 (2013)

Well, let's just say that it's not a total bust. In fact, it's really not that bad at all and it pretty much sounds like exactly what it is... an updated version of a band that started over 40 years ago. Of course, that's where the problem lies... the updated sound. No, the musicianship is surprisingly on the money (though there is no shortage of "filler" type riffs. Not sure how much of that is a conscious endeavor, but it is what it is), it's the production that I find to be clinically overbearing. Particularly in the drum sound. The drums of course are the weakest link here, not because the dude sucks or anything like that, but there is just something just a little too straightforward and generic going on behind the kit. I don't know if it's a matter of "playing it safe" or what, but I definitely miss the frenetic style of Mr. Ward. Don't get me wrong though, Brad Wilk does a decent enough job, but I feel that if you're going to simply "play along" by employing simplistic and straightforward beats, the drum sound shouldn't sound as loud as it does in the mix. Whatever. Let us proceed...

The riffage is a mixed bag of 'cool' and 'ok'. There's really nothing terribly mind-blowing going on here. Had this come out 20 or 30 years ago it may have made that much more of an impression. These are certainly not the band's best songs nor do they have what it takes to compete with the likes of their last two studio releases together, 'Technical Ecstasy' and 'Never Say Die', both of which are widely considered to be lowpoints in the band's career (personally, I don't know what the fuck these people are talking about as I have always found them both to be solid Black Sabbath albums). On the other hand, the album is not a bad one either. I must say though, I would have much rather have heard Iommi and co. continue along the path blazed by the band's final release with Dio, Heaven & Hell's 'The Devil You Know', as the riffs on that album are quite good and undeniably heavy. Much heavier than what's going on here.

Ozzy's voice is... well... it's Ozzy! At times I can't shake the notion that a great deal of his performance is doctored up in the studio which gives it an overall "dead" and clinical sheen which ultimately renders the delivery a bit soulless. This is not the Ozzy of '69-'78 era Sabbath. Hell, this isn't even the Ozzy of the '80's, who was still a rather lively sounding beast. No, this guy sounds a bit tired, and even, dare I say... uninterested. Making matters worse are Ozzy's inclusion of the tried and true mantra of "alright... okay", which can at times sound downright annoying and out of place, especially when delivered in such a deadpan manner. It's like snorting a thick rail of speed and then attending a gathering where everyone's off doing the "Thorazine shuffle". Something's out of place.

Despite these criticisms, the album is certainly not a letdown, by any means. I'm not sure how much of it has to do with the fact that perhaps I wasn't expecting much to begin with as opposed to the band really "nailing" it, or more accurately "coming close" to nailing it. I think had the band went in for a more "earthier" sound and maybe gave ol' Oz a couple of zaps of cocaine before hitting the mic, this would've been much more on the level of the "triumphant return" that everyone was hoping for. Unfortunately, it sounds like the band obsessed a bit too much with the studio knobs and getting that colossal gloss that they couldn't possibly have attained last time around, over 30 years ago. When will people learn that the bands and producers of ages past had it right to begin with? When will they realize that there is such a thing as studio overkill? As it is, it's decent, it's certainly not a "failure", but it's not going to be something that gets a whopping amount of playtime around these parts, either. Welcome back.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Death - Leprosy (1988)

Sorry, I don't give a shit what anyone says, but this album is a total fucking bore. Even when it came out I was not terribly impressed. I always preferred 'Spiritual Healing' over this. Hell, even 'Human'. To a degree I can understand why it's such a cult classic among the metalhead community but for me, listening to this album was a tedious endeavor at best.

I have to say, as sick and innovative as Death were in those days, I was always more into other shit like the early albums by Obituary, Carcass, Napalm Death and Bolt Thrower. Hell, I even thought the first Deicide album utterly decimated Death! Sure, they might have been the first "legitimate" death metal band (for my money, Possessed was and will always be a thrash metal band, despite having a song entitled 'Death Metal') but I preferred the work of others at that time. This is not to say that I absolutely did not like Death, but I certainly were not on their dick like seemingly everyone else. Shit, to this day everyone stumbles over themselves to jump on Chuck's long rotten, maggot-filled cock. Sorry folks. Death just never really did it for me and this album I thought was the weakest out of the "classic era".

First off, the riffs are just plain fucking boring. I'm not against straightforwardness, but this is \practically mindless. There are a couple of winners here and there such as 'Primitive Ways' and 'Left Behind' but the majority of this album is unbelievably pedestrian with a majority of the songs dragging along on crutches to get to the other side of the street.

The drumming is hilariously uninventive but unfortunately the humorous aspects give way to tedious predictability and soon after I find myself just plain annoyed with it all.

The guitar duo of Chuck and Rick Rozz is quite the anomaly as Chuck's lead style is pristine and very classy while Rick's whammy bar retardation is second to none.

The only thing on this album that has stood out for me and deserves perhaps more credit than it's ever gotten, especially these days, are the vocals. Chuck took what Becerra was doing in Possessed and improved upon them. Chuck's vocals here are significantly ghastly and his diction is on point, which to me is of the utmost importance. Not enough death metal vocalists have such clarity, which is what gives the lyrical content that extra shock value. When all you hear is a constant flow of "ree-ree-ree-ree" the subject matter, literally, gets lost in translation. Here, and on just about every death album (at least up until 'Symbolic') Chuck's pronunciation and delivery overall takes what is in my opinion a painfully average recording and puts it over the top. Honestly, if it wasn't for his vocal performance, I would have forgotten this album altogether.