Monday, July 29, 2013

Anathema - Alternative 4 (1998)

This is as limp wristed as it gets. It never fails to blow my mind everytime someone refers to this album as one of the band's better works. At least up until whatever the fuck the band put out after 'Judgment', this is by far their weakest entry.

I actually didn't mind 'Eternity'. I thought that it was a pretty damn good album, though you'd have to be Stevie Wonder not to see that there was trouble in the White House. Much of the bottom heavy doom from the band's previous releases was significantly stripped down in favor of a more "emotional" (gasp) aesthetic. The problem with that is, this is usually a harbinger of a vast and rapidly approaching storm of homosexuality, which is precisely what came thundering 'round the bend with the release of 'Alternative 4'.

Honestly, if the songs were nearly as decent as those on 'Eternity' or 'Judgement', I wouldn't have minded the distance the band put between themselves and their early, doom incarnation. Unfortunately, the songs just aren't here, coupled with the fact that the production is super sterile, nary a semblance of depth to found nor heard.

I will say, that the middle verse of 'Fragile Dreams' (maybe I always knew... etc.) is definitely one of the better sections the band has conjured fourth during their lengthy career. Unfortunately, nothing else lives up to the staggering and beloved hype that smothers the reputation of this record.

Personally, I feel that Anathema's next studio foray, 'Judgement', would be a far better representation of the band's songwriting prowess.

Bölzer - Aura [ep] (2013)

WOOOOWWWW!! Jeepers, Mr. Wilson! This is the kind of shit that comes around only rarely, yet compels me to incessantly hit the repeat button once the music comes to an end.

I've never been terribly fond of black metal, however, when infused with death metal, the results can be monstrous and Bolzer is quite the behemoth to behold.

A lot of this reminds me a bit of Sonne Adam, particularly the material found on the 'Messengers of Desolate Ways' compilation, though Bolzer is probably that much more atmospheric as they obviously have a wider array of weaponry in their aural arsenal. The tremolo riffing is absolutely ridiculous on here, such as the beginning section of 'Entranced by the Wolfshook' (not sure what the fuck that means) and then the band decides to drop some Bolt Thrower-esque riffage on top of your head, pummeling you deep into the swampiest depths.

The vocals are suitably diverse, ranging from mid-range death (ala-Witchrist) to witchier shrieks and some rather bizarre clean vocals which further add to the band's morbid atmosphere.

This truly is one of the best things I've heard in a while. The band possesses such an uncanny mastery over depth and atmosphere, I swear, there's no throwaway moment to be found here. This is some truly grimy and evil shit straight from the cavernous depths of your worst nightmares. Total fucking victory!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Terrorists are not cowards, they're the enemy... Annihilate them

"Joe Bob's America" for 9/1/96
By Joe Bob Briggs

Every time a bomb goes off somewhere, we trot out this word "cowardice." In fact, it's about the ONLY time anybody uses the word "coward" anymore. 

The President says, "We will not rest until we have found the cowards who did this." 

Time magazine's Olympics cover says, "Courage and Cowardice." The news conferences on Long Island after TWA Flight 800 went down would always start out, "The COWARDS who did this..."

But what I wanna know is...what are we getting at here? Are we saying that all acts of terrorism are cowardly?

What about the guy who strapped explosives to himself and drove the bomb truck into the U.S. Marine compound in Beirut? He might have been CRAZY, but he wasn't a coward. The night before, the man had ATTENDED HIS OWN FUNERAL.

Actually, people who go around detonating bombs are mostly NOT cowards, because they can blow themselves up at any moment.

If you talk to cops on the bomb squad, or military guys who specialize in blowing stuff up, they have this constant fear that they've set a timer wrong, or that they've miscalculated the amount of explosives needed.

They all have friends who have lost hands or arms or legs. I really think the reason people use the word "coward" is that they don't believe in guerrilla war, which is what this is.

They want all the Looney Toon political groups in the world to declare their intentions, show up on the Washington Mall with rifles and shoot it out with the Army.

If they had enough guys to do that, THEY WOULD. I'm sure they wouldn't hesitate one minute to engage in open warfare with us if they thought they had a snowball's chance in hell.

But they know they'd be wasted to the last man. The only way they know to fight is secretly, by ambush, using dead innocent civilians to create chaos.

But they're not cowards. You can read the transcript of the trial of the guys arrested for the bombing of the World Trade Center and see that most of them would die for their cause.

They're soldiers.

If we keep calling 'em cowards, then we're gonna underestimate 'em. We're gonna treat 'em like some kind of weird, half-crazed criminals who we need to catch and lock up so the world will be safe.

If we regard them as soldiers, on the other hand, we can get busy wiping 'em out. We might even authorize the CIA to use assassination to do it.

If they're gonna wage a secret war, then we should be waging a secret war right back.

But don't call 'em cowards. Call 'em what they are: The enemy.

You know what you do to the enemy?

You annihilate him.

Monstervision's Joe Bob Briggs Looks At Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 (1990)

The new Leatherface does a stop-littering commercial: "Don't Mess With Texas"

"Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In" for 1/26/90
By Joe Bob Briggs
Drive-In Movie Critic of Grapevine, Texas 

I've got to calm down here. I don't know if I'll be able to do this review or not. I'm trying to get ahold of myself.
Maybe I can go on now.
"Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III" has a few . . . how should I put this? . . . a few problems:
1) The movie doesn't make a lick of sense.
2) A guy gets chainsawed through the skull and then comes back at the end of the movie, with only slight injuries. They don't even do this in Friday the 13th movies. (Normally I wouldn't mention "Friday the 13th" and "Saw" in the same breath, but I'm afraid they've brought it down to that level.)
3) The movie's over so fast that everbody that was watching it started honking their horns when the credits rolled. None of us could believe it. "That's it?" I've had X-rays that used more film than this movie. 
5) It LOOKS like they made it in California. They've got HILLS in the background.
6) Leatherface's new cannibal family includes his Mama and a little girl cannibal with a fetus doll--promising developments--but they don't ever DO anything.
7) You never see Leatherface actually doing any carving.
8) They make a big deal about how this whiny yuppie guy is gonna be trussed up and carved alive by the little girl, but instead they just go on to the next scene, as though the cannibal family FORGOT to have dinner that day.
9) Kate Hodge, the new actress trying to replace the greatest screamer in film history, Marilyn Burns, runs over an armadillo in the road and STOPS TO SEE IF IT'S OKAY. Obviously, these people have NEVER been to Texas.

Now. I know what the producer and the director and everybody is gonna say. They're gonna say that it USED to be a good movie, but then the Motion Picture Censor Board got on their case and gave it an X rating, and they had to take a chainsaw to the movie, and what came out was different. And it's true, the Jack Valenti Boys hammered away at this baby, evidently demanding stuff be taken out that they ALLOWED in the first movie in 1974.

I don't exactly understand what's happening here, but I know that, during the past two years, these bozos in El Lay have decided to crack down on horror movies. They want movies about NICE cannibals. Cannibals that carve up tourists in LOVING ways. This is the same kinky group that decided "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" should get an X rating for "disturbing moral tone."

But what I'm getting at is that the owners of this movie had a choice. They could say "We don't give a flying frijole what the MPAA Censor Board says, and so we're putting out the movie without any rating on it." Or they could weenie out, cut it into a million pieces, and release it with an R.

They weenied out on us.

They suckered us for five bucks.
They profaned the name of the most revered horror movie in film history. 
And what makes it worse is that the director, Jeff Burr, evidently knew what he was doing. There are a few scenes in this flick that are as goldang scary as anything I've ever seen. 
The Communists just got him.
It's pitiful.

They might have to put me in intensive care for awhile. I don't know if I can bear to think of this thing floating around out there, turning the chainsaw we all know and love into a steak knife. 

Nine dead bodies. 

No breasts.
One motor vehicle chase.
Putrefied human heads.
Armadillo bashing.
Hand roasting.
Chainsawed Mercedes.
Bone-drill to the leg.
One human fireball. 
Dead-lizard window decorations. 
Giant filigreed chainsaw.
Ear rolls. 
Gratuitous Playboy mutilation.
Bear-trap Fu.
Double-blooded ax Fu.

Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Viggo Mortensen, as Tex the handsome, well-mannered cannibal, for saying "There's roadkill all over Texas--natural order of things";

Tom Everett, as the weirdo sex-fiend cannibal, for throwing body parts into a swamp and saying "Is it soup yet?";

Ken Foree, as Benny the war-games survivalist, for saying "Yeah, militant lumberjacks--I see em all the time"; 

Kate Hodge, for getting her hands nailed to a chair and summoning up the screams to prove it; 

Joe Unger, as Tinker the modern cannibal, for saying "Technology is our friend" and "I'll be in hell for breakfast";

R.A. Mihailoff, as Leatherface, for sharing his Sony Walkman with his victims;

and David J. Schow, for a script so great Jack Valenti couldn't stand it, featuring exchanges like this one:

"Why don't you leave us alone!"

"We were hungry."
"Ever heard of pizza?"
Two and a half stars.
Joe Bob says check it out.

Deicide - Once Upon the Cross (1995)

I'm going to go ahead and state that I've always liked this album better than 'Legion'. For me, 'Legion' had too many "happy" sounding thrash moments and not enough of the evil riffing found on the band's debut. Also, the production was pretty shot. Everything sounded to garbled and clunky.

Now, to be fair, when I first heard this album, I had pretty much written it off. I figured that Deicide was all but finished. Where the first two albums showcased a dumptruck load of energy and a knack for speed and riff intricacies, 'OUTC' initially came across and overweight and tired. Some of the riffs sounded laughably simplistic to me. Then, after about a solid week of listening, on and off, the album started to rub off on me. I began to realize that this was a far more barbaric album then 'Legion' was and with the exception of perhaps the final two tracks, there really aren't any bad songs on here. Even the last two are "decent", but you can tell that Glen & co copped out by shoving the two weakest tracks at the end of the album, resulting in a rather tame exit strategy. It's actually kinda funny that 'To be Dead' and 'Confessional Rape' are tucked in at the end of the album, as the band's next release, 'Serpents of the Light' comes across as a complete capitalization of the two tracks.

Benton sounds particularly hateful on this album, though the high pitched shrieking demon vocals that had accompanied his lower rumbles are noticeably trimmed down this time around. I figure he wanted to make a statement being that he did not need to rely on constant over-dubs to get his point across. Either or, it works for me, because when that mother proclaims 'They are the children of the underworld', you can feel the fucking ground shake and mountains crack wide open as a result!

Dismember - Death Metal (1997)

After deciding that "death -n- roll" wasn't their thing, Dismember decided to go down to the local gay bar for inspiration. This is where they ran into the guys from 'In Flames' (title says all) and were delighted by the idea of "injecting" an unhealthy dose of melodious rhythmic fluctuations into their arsenal. 

There's a couple things about this... first off, the Judas Priesty/Iron Maiden-ish embellishments found slathered over a good portion of the songs on this album would pretty much become a solid staple in the band's sound until their demise in 2011. The other thing is, despite the uncomfortable amount of awkward sounding passages due to the band's newfound love affair with the more "happier" sounding aspects of 'melodic death metal', the truth of the matter is that this album is, for the most part, a welcome return to form after the identity crisis that was 'Massive Killing Capacity'.

The truth is, this is actually a pretty damn good album that I'd easily rank among Dismember's best. Of course, I'd be hardpressed to name a Dismember album that was a complete winner, aside from 1992's skull smashing 'Pieces', which was merely an 'ep', so... Again, there are some really killer tracks on here, but just as things beginning to really cook, the band throws in some god-awful "melodious' lick that wrecks everything, forcing you back to square one. It's rather irritating, really. Kinda like fucking some chick who persists on attempting to shove a dildo up your ass everytime you approach a climax.

Oddly enough, with a name like 'Death Metal', I expected to hear less 'power metal' and more 'death-fucking-metal' in the riffage.

Bolt Thrower - Honour - Valour - Pride (2002)

It's almost as if Bolt Thrower had collectively decided to dumb down their style and sound in order to safely usher in then new guy, Dave (Benediction) Ingram to the fold.

Honour - Valour - Pride is by far the weakest album by the band. Trust me. Do not let the 'Realm of Chaos'-esque album cover fool you into believing that the band finally decided to tune their guitars back down to the ground. This is basically in the same vein as the shit that they started pumping out on '...for Victory'. Unfortunately, there are even less memorable riffs than on that album, which, for yours truly, is quite an exepectional feat being that I've always considered '...for Victory' to be the band's lowest point, up until this album, of course.

Had Karl Willets remained on board during the recording process, this may have turned out slightly better... probably not by much, but better nonetheless. Unfortunately, Dave Ingram just not fit very well into the equation. I never thought that he sucked as a vocalist during his tenure in Benediction, but he never really stood out either. The best way to describe his delivery is to imagine what Barney from Napalm Death would sound like doing the Thorazine shuffle. There is no razor sharp diction to be found, nor is their much energy flowing from the mic. The whole ordeal sounds very lazy and uninspired overall.

Riff-wise, the same thing goes. There just really isn't anything going on here. Sure, every now and then something reminiscent of 'Mercenary' or even the better fare off of '...for Victory' will peep around the corner, offering a glimpse something adventurous to behold, only to disappear like some malevolent trickster. This is all very disheartening as I felt that the band's previous album, 'Mercenary', was a couple steps in the right direction after 1994's '...for Victory', an album that I didn't find to be terribly enthralling. Perhaps with the inclusion of Willets and a better guitar sound, this may have been a bit more interesting.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Breeding the Spawn -vs- The Erosion of Sanity

Had this been a challenge between the debut albums of each band, I would have went with Suffocation tenfold. As it is, Suffocation's second album ended up being a major letdown while Gorguts, a band that I wasn't (and to some extent, still am not) very into, stepped up their game a bit with the release of 93's 'The Erosion of Sanity'.

Gorguts, I always felt, was just another run o' the mill Death clone (of course all that would drastically fucking change with the release of Obscura!) that ultimately failed to reel me in. Suffocation, however, blew the fucking door off the hinges in terms of pushing the boundaries of how brutal a death metal band could be.

Oddly, both Suffocation's and Gorguts sophomore albums actually sound more than a bit similar to one another, stylistically. Both see each band evolving technically whilst shedding much of the more accessible elements of their debuts. The glaring difference is that with Gorguts it actually works, for the most part, while 'Breeding the Spawn' ultimately turned out to be and unbelievable mess. Everything on that album sounds so horribly out of place, not to mention as if it were released before the band's debut. Gorguts, on the other hand, manages to use their newfound technical agility to make things sound a little bit more interesting than the bulk of material found on 'Considered Dead', though they do come close, more than once, to going off the deep end of self indulgent tangents, a trait over-employed by musicians seeking to one-up themselves.

In the end, I have to give Gorguts the upper hand here. While 'Breeding the Spawn' is unquestionably a few staggering steps backwards (a mistake the band would remedy with the release of album number three, 'Pierced from Within'), Gorguts continued trudging on in the right direction while upping the ante a bit in terms of their newfound technical revelations.  

If there was one thing that both bands were dead even on, it would be the astonishingly killer artwork that adorns each album, courtesy of death metal go-to guy, Dan Seagrave. Between the both of them, it's practically impossible to choose, though if I had a gun to my head I just might have to go with 'The Erosion of Sanity', yet again.

Winner: Gorguts - The Erosion of Sanity

Carcass - Reek of Putrefaction (1988)

If there ever was an album that deserved to be re-recorded, 'Reek of Putrefaction' is it.

Way back in the late 80's I remember first hearing 'Reek...' and being rather blown away by the ghoulishly sloppy dual vocal assault and absolutely chaotic whirlwind of grindcore riff terrorism. Of course, the true possibilities of the band's potential would be made breathtakingly clear once album number two came barreling 'round the bend, 1989's sewage fest, 'Symphonies of Sickness'.

While the over the top tag team vocals helped keep me interested, the truth is, 'Reek...' would have been so much better had the riff intricacies been a bit more sculpted and defined throughout the studio sessions. Unfortunately, making sense of any one song on this album is next to impossible. In 1992, however,  there was a glimmer of hope as the band had chosen to re-record one of their chestnuts off of their debut, 'Pyosisified', and the results were fucking brilliant! I immediately wished that the band had done this with the entire album. Sure, I understand that all of the purists out there would cry foul, but fuck it, if you don't like the notion, then don't listen to the album. Simple as that. Hey, I haven't bothered to listen to Sodom or Exodus' reworkings of their classic debuts for just that reason.

Honestly, I really stopped paying attention to this album once 'Symphonies...' was released. Granted, at the time 'Reek...' had come out, I was astonished and happily bludgeoned by its gleeful insanity, but truthfully, I have always had a very short attention span when it came to early grindcore. I always felt that things didn't really start to cook until the release of the sophomore album.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Carcass - Swansong (1996)

The problem with this album is that the riffs are just not very interesting. I can accept the fact that the band (or more accurately, Bill Steer) wanted to go into a more "rock" oriented direction, but unlike the fellas in Entombed, Carcass just could not convincingly move forward in that particular direction. I've listened to Steer's post Carcass output and with the exception of Gentlemen's Pistols (of which he's not even an original member, raising the question of how much has he contributed, musically, to that band) I'm just not that big of a fan. I can totally understand his being drawn to the more rustic sounds of classic rock ala Cream, etc. but I've heard far more convincing renditions of the era that he's sought to emulate and Carcass' 'Swansong' is, obviously, the most awkward of them all. For me, it really doesn't have much to do with the seemingly obvious, which is the fusion of death metal and blues/rock, but the fact that Steer's strength is clearly in sticking with his metallic roots, be it the gloomier, grind drenched riffing of 'Symphonies...' or the trad-metal influenced rhythmic fluctuations of 'Necroticism' and 'Heartwork', the latter being the obvious culmination of his talents.

Starting with 'Heartwork', the lyrics, I felt, began to take a turn for the worse as the band began to take on more practical subject matter and on 'Swansong' they really hit rock bottom. I mean, 'R**k the Vote'? Really?? This is almost as bad as '31 Flavors' by Sacred Reich.

All in all, 'Swansong' isn't as bad as some would lead you to believe, at least if you're one of the more open minded denizens that doesn't get a period over a band experimenting with their sound a bit. For me though, it all just comes across as very uninspired and ultimately being an unneeded and non-essential offering to the band's body of work. Thankfully, the band has come to their senses and decided to conjure fourth an album soon to be unleashed upon the masses. I'm happy to say that the little I've heard thus far pretty much picks up where 'Heartwork' left off. Welcome home, boys...

Vital Remains - Dechristianize (2003)

Ugh! What a horrible fucking album! Ok, ok... "some" of the riffs and some of the leadwork is cool, but god-motherfuckin'-DAMN do these cocksuckers know how to beat a dead horse into the ground, especially the infernal soccer Pop himself, Mr. Glen fuckin' Benton (oh Boy). Perhaps this album wouldn't be such an excruciatingly monotonous experience to endure if it weren't for the fact that ol' GB persists on incessantly "singing" over each and every conceivable nook and cranny throughout the album's duration. I mean, who ok'd this shit? It's like going to shake a little pepper into your stew and having the top come off accidentally, resulting in one hell of a mess. I wouldn't eat it. Would you?

I guess I should mention that I was actually surprised at how far VR advanced musically since the Jeff Gruslin days. The band's first two or three albums were average at best with nothing terribly interesting or offensive going on. '2000's 'Dawn of the Apocalypse' saw the band take a huge step forward in terms of musicianship and delivery overall (largely due to the involvement of the many tentacled Dave Suzuki). Personally, I think the bald druggie who sang on that album was probably the best vocalist the band has ever had.

Unfortunately, fast forward to 2003 and it would appear that Glen Benton's ego insisted on cramming his haggard roar over each and every note fluctuation on the album. Quite the unfortunate move considering that ol' horseshoe head hasn't really sounded all that good, vocally, since roughly around the release of 'Once Upon the Cross'. I always felt that the cracks in his performance began to transform themselves into gaping chasms around the time 'Serpents of the Light' was released. That's too bad considering that his performance on Deicide's debut is one of the greatest of all time. Here (and on pretty much everything he's performed on since, be it VR or his mainstay act) Glenny Boy sounds like he's angrily gargling balls pretty much from start to finish. Not good Glenny Boy. Not good at all.

Again, I never viewed VR as anything special and all I can really say about this album is that they went from exhibiting a more plodding and painfully predictable style of third tier death metal to advancing (?) to a more frenzied and overwhelmingly obnoxious style of mediocrity. Either or, VR is not, has never been and probably will never be my thing.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pantera - The Great Southern Trendkill (1996)

Ok, here we go. First off... let it be known that during the veritable fucking craze that was the era of 'Vulgar Display of Power', I pretty much hated this band. Surprisingly, I actually didn't mind the "chuggier", slower moments generously scattered throughout that album, such as those found on 'A New Level', 'By Demons Driven' (though, the more rocked out main section pretty much embodies everything I hate about this band) and 'This Love'. It was the band's awkward and rather lame take on thrash by infusing Southern fried tendencies into the proceedings that prevented me from embracing them. Odd, as I actually like a good deal of Southern rock as well as the fact that I grew up during and was weened on thrash within its formative years, but something here just didn't gel with me. The band's next album and supposedly more "extreme" 'Far Beyond Driven' only proved to further alienate me from the band and their fanbase especially. Being deeply entrenched within the 'death metal/grindcore' scene during that time, I hardly found Pantera's follow-up to 'Vulgar...' to be offensive by any stretch.

Fast forward a few years and we find the death metal scene, hell, the metal scene in general to be in severely fucking dire straits. Sure, there are still some great things going on in the underground, but as far as the mainstream's all encompassing eye was concerned, metal in general was dying a slow and bloodless death.

I remember during that time thinking that the world could use another Metallica album. Sure, I was hardly a fan of their self titled release, but on the other hand, I felt that a new Metallica album would have the strength to readjust everyone's attention back to what was going on in the metal scene. Unfortunately we did get another Metallica album', and to keep this short and sweet, let's just say that the band unwittingly (or perhaps prophetically) chose 'Load' for the title of their latest sonic outing, as a load of shit is exactly what it was.

A month or so later, Pantera's latest would also be unleashed upon the masses. Of course I was hardly interested in this endeavor, but then a funny thing happened. After merely a minute or so of listening to the first track, I found myself slightly blown away. Elated, even. This was the sort of hatred and aggression that, for some reason or another, Metallica chose to abandon. Another thing that I found to be pleasantly curious was that the Southern rock angle that I always felt to be an awkward element in Pantera's sound, actually fucking worked this time around! Sure, it was groovy as all hell at times, but I never minded a a little "stomp & stalk" in my music from time to time. Sue me.

Despite the fact that 'The Great Southern Trendkill' falls in perfect alignment with the band's insistence on adorning their albums with the worst album covers imaginable, this was Pantera's crowning achievement. This was the band's pinnacle moment. This was their 'Peace Sells...', their 'Led Zeppelin IV'. Everything seemed to align perfectly on this album. The anger and intensity found on their previous albums was here in spades, but their was a considerable jump forward in terms of emotive craftsmanship. I actually found myself fairly compelled by Anselmo's "junkie poetry" and lyricism. Up until this point I hadn't put much stock into his bald headed, tough guy antics and posturing, but this time I felt myself coming around.

Unsurprisingly, this is perhaps Pantera's most misunderstood album. Many folks who were hoping for a retread of 'Walk' or 'I'm Broken' were undoubtedly let down upon hearing the first maniacal outburst of the album opener and title track. Of course not everything is hell and a hail of bullets. There are all types and manners of tempo changes and emotional highs and lows. I still do not consider myself much of a fan of Pantera, but I can say, without a doubt in my mind, this is one of the best albums ever recorded, and fro the record... yes, Pantera is, without a semblance of a doubt, a bonafide thrash metal band.

Benediction - The Grand Leveller (1991)

Benediction are one of those bands whose album covers were far fucking cooler than the music found within. I remember picking up 'Subconscious Terror' way back when, and besides the fact that it featured Barney (Napalm Death), I thought that the album art and its color scheme were fairly impressive. How could this suck, right? Let's just say that I had much to learn in those days.

In my opinion, Benediction are one of those bands that should have been left unsigned as their rather bland take on death metal ultimately proved nothing but to further saturate the scene with second and third tier acts, a practice taken to the extreme by the gluttonous tendencies of metal labels the world over, caught up in the frenzy of signing any and every band that just so happened to refer to themselves as being a death metal band, talented or not. Despite what the "old school death metal' fagsters tell ya, no... not every band from the early '90's was a winner, and despite the fact that I secretly rooted for Benediction to "deliver the goods", the fact is, they only managed to come up short each time.

This isn't a "terrible" album by any stretch, but it just isn't very interesting, either. The one thing that certainly fell into the band's favor was the fact that Barney's successor, Dave Ingram, turned out to be the possessor of one of the better vocal roars in the field, even though he would be constantly overshadowed by his more well known peers.

Like their countrymen, Cancer, Benediction barely manages to serve up a platter of stale and forgettable tunes that may or may not cater to a horde of alcoholics in the midst of a drunken frenzy, attracted to just about any incoherent mess being pumped out of the stereo as long as the volume nob is maxed out. Trust me. Once the festivities have subsided, there will be no desire to revisit the sounds of this album.

Stomach Earth - Stomach Earth (2013)

Well, I have to say, after hearing 'Prolong the Death Watch' somewhere around a year ago, my 'worry radar' began working overtime. Of course I held out some semblance of hope that this was merely the "odd track" out of the bunch and that the majority of the album's material would be more along the lines of the two tracks posted for the past several years on the "band's" Myspace page, but, alas, that was all only to be wishful thinking on my part.

The pacing of this album is far too upbeat for me to consider this a true "funeral" album. Sure, the guitars are heavy and the sound/production itself isn't terribly far removed from that of the band's demo tracks, but, again, the pace of damn near every track on this album is just far too "snappy" for me to rank this alongside the likes of Evoken, Esoteric, Tyranny, etc...

The vocals are as vicious as they were on the 'Absorbed' and 'Final Horror' tracks, though it seems that less care was injected into the proceedings as much of the end result sounds a great deal more garbled and nonsensical in comparison to the absolutely commanding roar found on each of the 'Myspace' demo tracks. Obviously, the main reason for this is the overuse of effects, which, I've always been in favor of, as long as the end result was convincingly destructive. Here, however, each vocal utterance comes across like a constant flow of scrap metal being vomited forth from some gargantuan trash heap monster. Yeah, yeah, I know... that actually sounds kinda cool, at least in print, but believe me, I prefer the Lovecraftian command of old.

All in all, this isn't a bad album by any means, and should sate the needs of those who prefer their metal on the slower, heavier side, but unfortunately, after having my senses blown away by the dismal onslaught of ST's 'Myspace' demo tracks, so many years ago, this is more than a wee bit underwhelming. I guess the only reason I'm not completely let down here is the fact that after 30 years of listening to metal and experiencing my fair share of disappointments and letdowns, one could surmise that I've become a bit desensitized to it all.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Exorcist III (1990)

In most horror and critic circles, The Exorcist is considered one of the greatest horror movies of all time. And rightfully so. While I personally don't have it in my top whatever list, The Exorcist is one of the only "classics" which (a) still evokes a visceral response and (b) still stands the test of time and doesn't look retarded when being watched today [as opposed to "classics" like The Omen]. Unfortunately movie studios felt this ridiculous need to capitalize on the fanfare for The Exorcist, and released one of the worst sequels/movies ever made, The Exorcist 2: Heretic in 1977.

Thirteen years later, another "sequel" was released under the radar, The Exorcist III: Legion. And it's a serious shame that this movie is so under-rated and automatically dismissed as some bullshit third part. The Exorcist III is truly one of the best made, awesomest horror flicks ever. Originally it was it's own story (written by The Exorcist author William Peter Blatty), but studio execs once again took the story and wanted it to tie into the original Exorcist, and made changes accordingly. Regardless of the changes, this movie is creepy and doused in atmosphere and mood.

Bringing in George C. Scott, Brad Dourif and the original Damian Karras (Jason Miller), it's set up as a crime drama shrouded in religious horror. And it works. Everytime you see Dourif or Miller on screen, there is this awful, foreboding, gurgling/growling score that just oozes. There are scenes where nothing happens and people are simply having a conversation, but the tension is hanging and palpable. And The Exorcist III features one of the most terrifying scenes in all movie history, with a young unfortunate nurse who is on the receiving end of some oversized medical shears (and a sound effect to give you a massive heart attack)

To say I love this movie is an understatement. If you haven't seen it, do so immediately.