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FEARNET.com News and Reviews

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    Warm Bodies - Rob Corddry

    Next Friday is the theatrical premiere of zombie romantic comedy (zom-rom-com?) Warm Bodies, which we've been teasing all winter with news, preview clips, trailers and more. But today, we've got a bizarro twist for you: Screen Junkies host Hal Rudnick interviews Rob Corddry (Hot Tub Time Machine) about his take on zombie method acting for the film, and Rob lends a whole new meaning to the term “deadpan” as he describes how he stayed in character (“If can fool a child into thinking you're dead, then you're doing something right”). This clip also features  fellow cast members Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Dave Franco & Analeigh Tipton.
     
     
    Wanna see more Warm Bodies clips before it hits theaters? We've got the latest batch here, and you can watch the first four minutes of the film here.
     
    Warm Bodies - 99 problems

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    The Governor is definitely not going to pass this eye test.

    The Pressing Pigeon creates horror and TV-themed eye charts for genre fans who are looking for something a little more subtle than a poster to put on their walls. Each chart spells out a quote or saying that corresponds to the subject matter. For instance, the Dracula eye chart reads, “I am Dracula I bid you welcome”. The Walking Dead version reads, “Do not open dead inside”.

    Each chart is 8x10, printed on archival paper, and customizable. There are 443 options that include, Night of the Living Dead,Frankenstein, and Dune. Even better: They’re having a two-for-one sale right now.

    The Walking Dead eye chart

    $8.99 on Etsy.com

     


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    I don't really have anything witty or insightful to say about this new trailer for the second half of the third season of The Walking Dead. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the fighting, the shooting, and the swashbuckling. No zombies though - I suppose the second half of the season is really pushing the idea of human-on-human violence as a far more deadly concern.

    The Walking Dead returns to AMC on February 10th.


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  • 01/24/13--16:00: Otep: 'Hydra'– CD Review
  •  

    Otep promo 2013
     
    Although LA-based metallers Otep forged their iconic reputation on the aggressive no-bullshit persona of band founder and underground poet Otep Shamaya, they've never really fit inside the catch-all genre box that lazier industry types like to label “female-fronted metal.” This band rips ears and blows minds by the thousands with their groove, thrash and doom riffs and scorching, intense vocals, and they've become icons in the metal domain over the course of a twelve-year career spanning six studio albums. Their epic swan song Hydra– a loose concept record with a graphic horror theme – is their darkest, most dangerous projects ever released, and with it they're going out at the top of their game.
     
    Otep - Hydra
     
    Hydra is a very experimental piece, an exploration of one woman's personal demons which manifest themselves in many forms... all of them brutal, ruthless and more than a little seductive. Digging deep into personal pain and trauma, the central character unleashes new monsters with each track, as many musical textures – from massive groove and doom/sludge riffs to eerie cinematic piano and synth atmospheres – come together to paint a landscape of fear and violence, with Shamaya's lyrics sliding from savage, animal roars to childlike whispers and solemn monologues. As you can imagine, this record is not a comfortable listen... but hey, we're all horror people here, and we love it when art pushes us to the edge of the abyss. On the technical side, it's a fairly no-frills production for a concept album (even a loose one), but this stripped-down sound is nothing new for the band and takes nothing away from the massive scope of the songwriting.
     
    The creepy intro "Rising," with its rumbling drone beneath Shamaya's opening monologue, is the first of many tracks to adopt the visual concept of a fearsome creature emerging from the black depths. The Hydra of the album's title is a multi-headed beast of Greek myth, and as a symbol of the narrator's own monstrous suffering and violent awakening, it takes on many forms. The vocal multi-tracking and chunky thrash riffs of "Blowtorch Nightlight" are pure, concentrated Otep, with plenty of dramatic, unexpected change-ups in tone (including a couple of explosive chords that will make you jump) and a face-melting climax of screams and speed-picking. The deep, slow grind and mainly clean melodic vocals of "Seduce & Destroy" create a dark cloud of gloom before the gothic trappings of "Crush" introduce more direct elements of horror, tracing the footsteps of a stalker and his/her unsuspecting prey.
     
    The ambient interlude "Hematopia” ushers in the album's more terrifying second phase, with a solo cello and industrial loops accompanying Shamaya's quivering monologue, segueing into "Necromantic" with the phrase “The evil that's between us,” as ghostly voices echo in the distance before crushing mid-tempo riffs, chaotic drums and throat-ripping screams break the hypnotic spell. The following cut "Quarantine" continues the same story thread, with police reports of a serial killer's wave of terror weaving in and out of the spoken-word lyrics and distant, wordless shrieks. The childlike persona emerges again in the toy-piano lullaby of "Voyeur,” a terrifying and graphically violent tale of one webcam-using sadist exacting poetic justice on another. The thumping death march of "Apex Predator" takes the game a step further as the killer taunts another victim, musing “Why does she look so much like me?” while she fantasizes about impaling her head on a stick...
     
     
    The spoken intro of "Feral Game” finally explodes into a shitstorm of wide, doomy chords and double-kick drums beneath the screamed refrain “We remain animals!” which links smoothly into the nightmarish "Livestock," another spoken interlude which drifts through a sonic fog of animal grunts and the buzz of fluorescent lights. That's the last pensive moment before the manic frenzy of "Hag,” which climaxes the album by releasing all of its pent-up rage with constantly shifting rhythms, merciless thrash riffs and skull-shattering screams across the entire vocal spectrum. The final cut "Theophagy" loops a down-tempo electro beat with the refrain “Feed it/Fuck it/Breed it/Eat it” as the narrator recites a litany of abuse suffered at the hands of orderlies at a mental hospital, vowing that the Hydra will rise again from the ashes of her destroyed mind and body.
     
    Otep - Hydra alternate
     
    Like I said, Hydra is not easy listening, and even fans of Otep's hardest-hitting metal tracks may feel their blood turn cold as the narrative turns darker and darker, plunging into graphic torture and nightmarish abuse. Even Shamaya's trademark cathartic rage is tightened and focused here; while her words often strike like a hammer, this time she's wielding a straight razor, slowly drawing it across your face. Instrumentally, the band explores a more chaotic sound, twisting up standard metal rhythms into more bizarre patterns and layering big, doomy chords with choppy, chugging tremolos. Hydra is truly a monster of an album, and while many will find it emotionally exhausting, listeners with a taste for horror will welcome the challenge.

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    Duckling title

    Giallo: An Italian adjective describing the thriller genre, primarily in Italian books and films. Translated as simply “yellow,” giallo takes its name from the distinctive yellow covers commonly seen on Italian pulp thriller novels dating back to the late '20s.
     
    Giallo Fever: A condition afflicting fans of European horror cinema after prolonged exposure to giallo films. Symptoms include an increased fondness for '60s and '70s music and fashion, an enhanced sense of color, and occasionally intense sex appeal.
     
    So that's the short version... and here's where we're going with it: on a regular basis we'll be picking a film from the giallo genre, be it an esteemed classic, a weird obscurity or a modern spin on the formula, and bringing it to your attention. No heavy analysis, no film school mumbo-jumbo; just an overview, some highlights, and why you should see it... or in some cases, avoid it. This time out we've chosen an entry from the legendary Lucio Fulci (if you haven't heard of him, get thee to Google pronto and do your horror homework). While he's most loved for insanely splattery '80s horror, his 1972 film Don't Torture a Duckling is his best entry in the giallo pantheon, and a shocking preview of his gory excesses to come.
     
    Duckling 1
     
    The story takes place in a small village shaken to its core by a series of child murders. The investigation, assisted by a big-city reporter (Tomas Milian) and a woman escaping a sex scandal (Barbara Bouchet), is hampered at every turn by the highly superstitious locals; the same villagers also distrust a gypsy hermit (Florinda Bolkan) who practices voodoo rituals – some of which involve robbing the graves of small children. Double-dealing, extortion, vigilante justice and more murders ensue, including an ultra-violent beating with heavy chains (something Fulci would employ again in The Beyond). The final twist resulted in another of Fulci's many conflicts with the Catholic Church, which date back to his 1969 historical drama Beatrice Cenci.
     
    Duckling 2
     
    This film is noteworthy for many reasons, among them Fulci's often overlooked writing skills (he co-wrote Duckling with two other writers), a superbly creepy score by Riz Ortolani (Cannibal Holocaust), and beautiful widescreen compositions by Sergio D'Offizi, who along with Fulci makes excellent use of the earthy tones of the decrepit village and its dark and desolate surroundings. Bolkan's role is also a landmark in giallo cinema, and her grisly death scene is one of Fulci's most brutal; she also stars in his equally controversial '71 giallo A Lizard in a Woman's Skin.
     
    Duckling 3
     
    Outside of festival screenings, the best way to experience Don't Torture a Duckling is with Blue Underground's excellent DVD, taken from a restored (and uncut) original print, presented in the film's original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. 
     
    Here's the NSFW trailer [contains brief nudity and some grisly scenes]:
     

     


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    Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane is set to host the Oscars on February 24th. Some traditionalists are worried about how he will do as host (I think everyone is worried that he will be offensively crass.) Personally, I'm looking forward to it, especially if the show is anything like this just-released promo for the show, which reimagines MacFarlane as a guest in Psycho's Bates Motel.


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    Holliston’s Corri English stars in Devil May Call, where she plays a blind woman working at a suicide hotline who is stalked by a former caller.  Get a first look at the art below and full synopsis:

    Samantha "Sam" works at a crisis hotline where she listens to strangers and helps them deal with their pain. It's a pain she knows well since the hot-line saved her life once when she lost her sight and didn't know how to live in a world of darkness. On her last night on the job, Sam receives an terrifying visit from one of her regular callers who feels betrayed that she's leaving him. This man is no ordinary caller. He's a sadistic serial killer she's unknowingly been keeping from killing himself for over a year. With only a skeleton on the graveyard shift, there's very little that stands between him and Sam. He's come for her and won't let anything or anyone stand in his way. Will Sam survive the longest, darkest night of her life?

    English stars alongside Tyler Mane (X-Men, Halloween) and Traci Lords (Blade, Excision). Devil May Call is written by Jason Cuadrado and Wyatt Doyle and is directed by Jason Cuadrado (Tales From the Dead).
     

    Devil May Call Poster

     


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    I'm not exactly sure who decided that action, horror, fantasy, and light comedy were a good mixture for box office success, but it seems like Tim Burton's 1999 rendition of Sleepy Hollow was just a bit more influential than one might think. Last year's movie version of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter didn't exactly blow the roof of the multiplex, nobody really remembers The Brothers Grimm, and the less that's said about Stephen Sommers' insufferable Van Helsing experiment, the better. So the question is this: who thought that an action version of the old Hansel & Gretel fable called Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters would turn into a big, fat payday at the box office? Who is the intended audience for an R-rated but generally affable piece of tongue-in-cheek action splatter? Who thought this was a good idea?

    I have no idea. I just know that, aside from some very clunky editorial missteps in the film's second half, there's a good deal of wit, enthusiasm, energy, and amusing attitude to be found in the dumb-yet-self-aware Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. I'm not the type to act snobbish around a ridiculous film that obviously knows it's ridiculous. In other words, putting aside those editing blunders that absolutely scream of deleted subplots, it seems clear that Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is precisely the film it wants to be: snarky, fast-paced, ridiculous, and odd.

    The flick opens with a rather impressive rendition of the famous fable: a young boy and girl are abandoned in the forest, only to come across a house made of candy, but inside the house is a witch who wants to eat the kids, so they promptly jam the witch into the oven instead. Writer/director Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow) extends the tale to an illogical but amusing conclusion: the kids grow up to be famous witch killers! So clearly we're dealing with a premise, a presentation, and indeed an entire film that's not meant to be taken all that seriously -- which is not to say that a willfully goofy film is beyond criticism, but Wirkola does a workmanlike job of getting the actors and the audience in on the same joke.

    Better yet, the film has legitimate assets that even the snarkiest film critic could agree with. The score, for example, is jaunty and energetic from the second the prologue begins, and it works as a playful companion through the film's best (and worst) moments. And while the leads (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) will probably never consider Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters among their most impressive work, they both bring a pulpy swagger that helps to nail the film's tone down. And that tone is this: wise-ass!

    Yes, the movie has lots of wacky "modern" weaponry that has no place in a fantasy film setting, and sure, the actors drop the F-bomb more than you'd normally hear in a film in which witches and trolls eat children, but that's just part of the off-kilter charm that probably brought Mr. Wirkola to the project in the first place. The numerous action scenes are admirably kinetic, if perhaps in need of a few establishing shots amidst all the close-up and hyper-cut mayhem; the special effects are mostly quite good, particularly where a strange troll called "Edward" is concerned; the score, again, is pretty damn rousing; and the overall look of the film is actually pretty nifty.

    By the time the flick wraps up (after about 90 minutes) with the lovely Famke Janssen commanding an army of wildly disparate witches to kill the heroes and devour some little kids, you'll have given in to the film's candy-coated charms -- or you'll have long since walked out by that point. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is the very definition of empty-calorie, matinee-style, "why am I watching this movie?" movies, but for those who care to look past the obvious silliness of the whole affair, there's actually some weird but quality craftsmanship at work.

    READ FEARnet's PARTNER REVIEWS OF HANSEL & GRETEL


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    Burial Ground: The Nights of TerrorThis week in horror saw the birth of the man behind The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Poltergeist, and Lifeforce, Tobe Hooper.  He doesn’t need an introduction, but let’s have a moment of silence for this genre-changing director.

    1981 gave us Andrea Bianchi’s Italian gore-fest, Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror. Notable for its near total lack of plot and bloody zombie breast-feeding scene, Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror, aka The Zombie Dead, starts with zombies snacking on a bearded professorial-type and ends with a bunch of zombies munching on a group of over-sexed couples. There are also zombie monks in the mix, zombie Etruscans, some mother-son-fondling, and a number of killer garden tools. It was written by Piero Regnoli whose credits include Nightmare City.

    On January 21 of last year Irish monster movie Grabbers made its debut at Sundance to generally positive reviews. It’s a movie about a giant sea monster on the Irish coast that’s grabbing up townsfolk ass-over-fairisle.  The only way to stop the monster? Get stinking drunk. It’s an inebriated, folk-song-singing Irish Tremors with a little of the X-Files monster-of-the-week episode, Agua Mala mixed in. The cast includes Being Human’s Russell Tovey.

    Watch some clips from the films, and pay close attention to the way the zombies slowly and lovingly devour their victims.

    Title:Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror
    Released: Jan 23, 1981
    Tagline: When the moon turns red, the dead shall rise!



    Title: Grabbers
    Released: Jan 21, 2012



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    Phantasm II and From Beyond

     
    Fans of the Phantasm films have been waiting for a more substantial (should we say “ballsy?”) release of the series' second installment, and that day is nearly upon us, thanks to the folks at Shout! Factory. Their horror division Scream! Factory has just announced the complete rundown of bonus features included in their upcoming Collectors Edition of Phantasm II...
    • Audio Commentary with director/writer Don Coscarelli and actors Angus Scrimm and Reggie Banister
    • “The Ball is Back!” Documentary – featuring new interviews with writer/director Don Coscarelli, actors Reggie Banister, Angus Scrimm, Paula Irvine, Samantha Phillips and more
    • Vintage Behind the Scenes footage: Makeup Effects 
    • Vintage Behind the Scenes footage: On the Set
    • “The Gory Days with Greg Nicotero” Featurette
    • Deleted Scenes from archival film elements from Don Coscarelli’s archive
    • Additional Scenes – alternate takes and deleted gore footage from the workprint
    • Original TV Spots
    • Trailers for Phantasm , Phantasm II  & Phantasm III
    • Still Galleries  (Behind the Scenes , Makeup Effects , Hollywood Premiere)
    • Rare short film starring Rory Guy (aka Angus Scrimm) as Abraham Lincoln
     
    Also getting the Collector's Edition treatment from the same label is Stuart Gordon's follow-up to Re-Animator and second H.P. Lovecraft adaptation From Beyond. It ports over all the extras from the 2007 MGM DVD release, but adds a heap of new features. Here's the complete list...
     

    2007 MGM Features: 

    • Audio Commentary with director Stuart Gordon and the cast
    • THE DIRECTOR’S PERSPECTIVE - interview with Stuart Gordon
    • THE EDITING ROOM: LOST AND FOUND - Gordon Stuart and MGM restoration team interview
    • Interview with composer Richard Band
    • Storyboard to Film Comparisions with Introduction
    • Two photo galleries

    New features:

    • Audio Commentary with writer Denis Paoli
    • MULTIPLE DIMENSIONS – A look at the film’s extensive Make-Up & Creature Effects with Special Effects Creators John Buechler, Anthony Doublin, John Naulin, and Mark Shostrom (20 mins)
    • PAGING DR. MCMICHAELS – An interview with Actress Barbara Crampton (15 mins)
    • A TORTURED SOUL – An interview with Actor Jeffrey Combs (15 mins)
    • AN EMPIRE PRODUCTION – An interview with Executive Producer Charles Band (5 mins)
     
    The Phantasm II discs are slated for release on March 5th, and From Beyond on March 26th. Shout! Factory is taking preorders now (Phantasm II Blu here, DVD here, From Beyond DVD/Blue combo here), so drop on by.

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    Burning 02

    “Slasher movies.” When you read those words just now, you either made a face like you just found cat poop in your cereal, or you felt a warm wave of nostalgia. If you fondly remember the old mom & pop video store down the street, or even if you're just an '80s horror kid at heart, I'm guessing you're probably smiling. It's OK, I totally feel ya. I'm not sure what it is about the sleazy, low-rent look and feel of slasher movies from that era, not to mention their nearly endless repetition of the same old formula, but I still get a big kick out of them – even the ones that I know are crap on a cracker. 
     
    Hey, I went to film school, damn it. I acknowledge that cinema can be one of the highest art forms ever invented. But my memory of those carefree summer nights spent rummaging through VHS horror aisles becomes a goofy filter that warps my awareness of quality cinema and makes me watch the unwatchable... and even like it. Some think I should be ashamed; I remember Siskel & Ebert devoting an entire episode of Sneak Previews to slamming the slasher genre for being morally bankrupt. I loved their show, but you know what? I watched that episode with wide-eyed fascination and wrote all the movie titles down for future reference. Now, as a reasonably enlightened adult, I still don't agree with their take on the genre... but that's another story. Let's get to the good stuff: we'll start today with an old favorite, 1981's The Burning.
     
    Burning 01
     
    Friday the 13th is now widely considered a horror classic, and stands up well to criticism over three decades later. Countless new productions, from studios and independents alike, popped up like weeds in the wake of Friday's success, and many of them shamelessly lifted its formula of summer camp teenage body count horror. The Burning is one of the more creative films from this crop, produced by the now-famous Bob and Harvey Weinstein of Miramax Pictures fame. It was shot shortly after Friday the 13th started raking in the bucks, but oddly enough its plot is almost identical to that of Friday the 13th Part 2 (Harvey Weinstein, who co-wrote the script, claims he wrote it even before the first Friday, but I'm dubious). Both involve a horrific tragedy that befell an now-abandoned summer camp on the other side of the lake (in this case, the near-fatal outcome of a prank gone horribly wrong), which becomes a new legend shared around the campfire by young counselors in training. The Burning's boogeyman is the hulking "Cropsy" (a name borrowed from an actual urban legend; there's an entire documentary devoted to it), the camp's former caretaker, now horribly deformed by massive burns and hell-bent on revenge.
     
    Burning 03
     
    In many ways, The Burning is superior to Friday the 13th Part 2; not only is Cropsy far more intimidating than Jason Voorhees (at this stage, Jason was still a scrawny gimp in a burlap hood, whereas Cropsy has almost supernatural strength and agility), but the violence is far more disturbing. The film's real cult reputation began thanks to rumors of gory footage that had been cut from early prints – rumors that turned out to be totally true. The infamous “raft scene” (which landed the film on the UK's “Video Nasties” list) was finally restored for the DVD edition (as well as a Blu-ray from Shout! Factory coming soon, featuring Mondo's supreme cover art), and while it's fairly mild by today's standards, it's still a jarring moment of violence that reinforces the “anyone can die at any time” rule. Also to its credit, the slasher convention of the “Final Girl” gets a gender change that almost never happened this early in the game.
     
    Burning 04
     
    In addition to being the Weinsteins' first feature production, The Burning also features some young stars-to-be in their first screen roles: Seinfeld's Jason Alexander plays a jolly prankster (with hair!), '80s comedy regular Fisher Stevens plays his partner in crime, and if you look carefully, you'll spot Oscar winner Holly Hunter in a couple of scenes. Combine this with some of Tom Savini's best early makeup effects (he did this film instead of Friday the 13th Part 2) and a surreal electronic score by former Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and you've got a sweet time capsule of early '80s horror that is still a blast to watch. Stay tuned for more details on that upcoming Blu-ray... and check out the trailer below, where you can hear the obvious voice-over inspiration for Edgar Wright's awesome Grindhouse mock-trailer, Don't!

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    zombielandSince about a week after its 2009 debut, rumors have been full tilt that Zombieland was going to get a sequel and/or a TV series. Nearly four years later, and that's all it has been: rumors. Well, rumors and a lot of development talk that ultimately went nowhere.

    Last week, we came across a casting call for a potential Zombieland TV series. New details are emerging about what form that new series might take - and right now, it looks like it is going to be on an even smaller screen. Amazon (yes, the place where your older siblings still buy things like DVDs and books) is in talks with Sony to buy Zombieland as a direct-to-series project. If it goes through, this would mark the first original series from Amazon Studios. The mega e-tailer has been looking to get into original programming in the way that Netflix is bringing back Arrested Development and the Eli Roth thriller Hemlock Grove.

    Deadline is reporting that writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and producer Gavin Polone were all on board to return for the Amazon series. Eli Craig (Tucker & Dale vs. Evil) is in talks to direct.


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    LSOD Promo

    The brutal sound of LA-based black metal unit Lightning Swords of Death is virtually a soundtrack to hell, so it's no surprise their tracks have shown up in horror films, including the 2009 Stepfather remake, and games like Undead Knights for the PSP. Even their name is born of blood-soaked cinema, being based on the US title for the gory samurai film Baby Cart to Hades (the third film in the epic Lone Wolf and Cub saga). Their style mixes the grim, ritualistic conventions of '90s-era Norwegian black metal with the no-bullshit purity of '80s thrash, carried off with a heavy dose of in-your-face American attitude and a mighty, muscular sound – thanks to a five man lineup and some of black metal's sickest bass lines – in support of lyrical themes ripped from the pages of the Necronomicon and other forbidden lore.
     
    LSOD Baphometic
     
    In Baphometic Chaosium (awesome title, by the way, with wicked cover art to match), the second of the band's releases on Metal Blade Records – following the 2010 album The Extra-Dimensional Wound– they bring an almost palpable violence to the game. After a brief apocalyptic intro, they begin blasting away immediately with the title track (be sure to watch the supremely sinister video at the end of this review). That bass line I told you about is especially supreme on this high-tempo cut, complimented by equally punchy bottom-heavy rhythms, soaring, buzzing multi-tracked guitars – which simulate eerie siren-like wails in the climax – and scathing vocals by Farron Loathing (another awesome handle), who alternates between deep, guttural death metal and razor-sharp black metal styles. The same energy infuses “Acid Gate,” which plays out in the middle frequencies with a shitstorm of shrill tremolo picking and tight double-kicks before downshifting to a lurching tempo for the black-mass chanting of the second half.
     
    From this point the album becomes more experimental and ritualistic; a waspish guitar drone gives a horrific ambiance to “Psychic Waters,” a disturbing and atonal piece that ranks among the band's most chilling tracks and one of my personal faves, followed by the free-form instrumental interlude “Cloven Shields,” which begins with dissonant, cavernous sound design and ends on a mysterious, echoing chime. The sound goes massive for “Chained to Decay,” with multi-tracking and colossal reverb in the mode of Dimmu Borgir, but with a rough, abrasive edge and crushing down-tempo doom riffs that are more in the mode of genre pioneers Celtic Frost. An H.P. Lovecraft motif comes into play in “R'Lyeh Wuurm,” which summons the spirit of Slayer but bolts it onto a blackened death metal framework, resulting in the most badass head-banger on the record (try listening to this one without hefting those horns... seriously, you can't do it). More creepy atmospheric effects open “Epicyclarium,” a solid beater that comes close to the tight vibe of “Acid Gate” until a crushing break and segue into blackened death metal, including a demonic wail of agony and a kick/bass combo that'll bust your cranium. The album closes with the awesome “Oaken Chrysalis,” a raw and undiluted old-school black metal track that relentlessly tightens its grip until it's chugging like a terror train, going out with the same surreal drones that kicked off the proceedings.
     
    LSOD live
    While a few old-school black metal purists may find LSOD's approach too boisterous and brutal, their approach is a welcome shot in the arm for occult-themed metal, balancing macabre mood with raw aggression and distancing itself from current occult-themed bands who tend to incorporate more death and doom metal elements. Combining their raw, take-no-prisoners approach with a grander, more imposing presentation and theme, Baphometic Chaosium is the band's most impressive work to date.
     
    Speaking of impressive... it's time to buckle up and press play on the band's first-ever music video, featuring the album's opening/title track and some seriously demonic visuals (which are kinda NSFW-ish, just so you know).
     

     


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    Back when I manned the horror section of the video store I worked at, anytime I’d find a customer skimming through all the “S” titles with mild frustration, 99 percent of the time, I knew exactly what it was they were looking for. And when I would finally ask, my suspicions were confirmed. “Do you have ‘The Silence Of The Lamb’”? To which I’d always reply, “Ah, the Hannibal Lector movies are all in the ‘mystery/thriller’ section.” And usually this would spur a conversation with that customer that would begin with, “Really? I always thought the Hannibal Lector movies were horror!” And it got me thinking about a handful of other titles that horror fans might not even think to hunt for in the “mystery/thriller” section. There are the obvious choices like Se7en or Misery. Then, there’s also stuff like The Sixth Sense, which yes, I’d consider a horror film. But for this article, I wanted to recommend a few titles you might not even be familiar with. So the next time you’re at the video store or browsing titles on Netflix or Amazon and looking for a cool new horror discovery, think about checking out one these following nine thrillers.
     

    Mute Witness– It’s still relatively unknown and criminally underseen, so any attention I can bring to one of director Anthony Waller’s first films is worthwhile. In Mute Witness, director Andy Clarke (Evan Richards) finally gets his big break in the film business by shooting his debut “slasher” film. The only downside is he has to shoot it in Russia with a mostly Russian crew. His girlfriend’s sister Billy Hughes (Marina Sudina) is the FX artist on the shoot who is physically incapable of speaking. Late one night after they’ve wrapped filming for the night, Billy stumbles upon a secret shoot for what at first appears to be a porno film. In actuality, she inadvertently sees the making of a snuff film and witnesses an actual murder. Despite informing the police, the snuff filmmakers manage to throw the authorities off their scent by providing proof that they were merely shooting a low-budget horror film. But with Billy as the sole witness to the crime, she’s now in danger of exposing an underground snuff ring and hence becomes their primary target! What I love about this film is that despite its dark underlining subject matter, the movie manages to be both a taunt thriller and a fun ride, especially Evan Richards character, playing the American director very neurotically and with much skepticism to what Billy has seen. One of my favorite scenes in this movie is actually the opening which is part of Andy Clarke’s “slasher” movie and it’s just so darned well executed that it makes me wish I could see the movie within the movie! For several years, Hollywood has been trying to remake this film for a wider more commercial audience, but I say why bother? The original is great as it is.



    Don’t Look Now– Often times I wonder if I’ll ever see a movie that will scare me in the same way that a lot of horror films I grew up with did. I also wonder if some of those older movies that had such an indelible effect on me are genuinely scary films, or if they were just impactful because of the impressionable age I was when I first experienced them. Exorcist III: Legion, for example has one scary moment in it (you know the one) that I recently showed to a group of friends and it proved to me that it still works! Although made in 1973 before I was even born, Nicolas Roeg’s movie Don’t Look Now (which I only first saw a few short years ago) has a moment in its conclusion that scared the absolute bejesus out of me. So yes, sometimes those magical cinematic scares that are captured will forever evoke fear in the viewer. For that alone, Don’t Look Now is a film you need to see asap. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie are a couple who’ve recently lost their little girl to a horrible drowning accident. In an attempt to take a mental break, they retreat to Venice and instead are plagued by memories of their daughter. Could she be sending a message from the afterlife? A psychic seems to think so and hence the grieving father is chasing after a little girl in red he’s convinced is his daughter. Although Nicolas Roeg is a British camera operator, his direction style is very reminiscent of Italian style horror films, ala Dario Argento or Lucio Fulci. Just look at the stylistic blood drip across the lens in the trailer to see what I mean. That’s just a glimpse of the horrors that await you in Don’t Look Now.


    Jacob’s Ladder– Man, I remember seeing the trailer for this at an old Fangoria Weekend of Horrors convention and also during the Horror Hall of Fame TV special and feeling completely uneasy by the flashing imagery and presence of demons. Jacob’s Ladder was director Adrian Lyne’s follow-up to his smash hit Fatal Attraction which stars Tim Robbins as Jacob Singer, a former Vietnam veteran who now lives a fairly ordinary life as a mailman. Still in mourning from the death of his little boy and suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, he begins having strange nightmarish visions and hallucinations. What’s the meaning of these (literal) demons he’s facing? A few things stood out for me watching this movie at a far too young age. The ice tub sequence where Jacob is thrown into a tub full of ice to try to break his fever and the bizarre, disturbing ending, which I didn’t “get” upon initial viewing but came to appreciate when I revisited the film as an adult. And seriously, what a great trailer, no?


    Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer– I discovered the original book Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer from an unlikely source; the band Nirvana. Kurt Cobain had cited Patrick Suskind’s novel about a lonely orphan named Jean-Baptiste Grenouille who embarks on a quest to capture the perfect scent and make a perfume out of it as one of his favorite books. So much so that it was the inspiration behind the song “Scentless Apprentice” from Nirvana’s In Utero album. I also recall thinking while initially reading the book that making a film adaptation of it would be next to impossible to translate properly. Thankfully, Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer proved me wrong and found a way to adapt the film version perfectly. It’s a beautiful tale of someone born into a life of alienation and loneliness, yet who also possesses such a tremendously incredible gift that drives him obsessively to murder. The trailer below shows a bit too much from the movie in my opinion, but it’s fairly epic in scope so there’s plenty more to discover from watching the actual movie. If you want a taste, I’d actually recommend this creepy teaser trailer instead. And just for the fun of it, how ‘bout we check out a live version of Nirvana’s “Scentless Apprentice” now that you know what inspired that song?


    Alone With Her– This is a fairly obscure indie flick that definitely deserves some attention. It’s one of the very select few true found footage films that successfully (for better or for worse) puts us the viewer directly into the mindset and point of view of the movie’s voyeur Doug, played to creepy perfection by Colin Hanks. Doug falls in love with the sweet Amy (Ana Claudia Talancon) almost immediately and sets about infiltrating her life by any means necessary. He goes as far as to set up mini cameras all over her apartment and stalk her every move. He’s able to manipulate her relationships with his knowledge of what he sees until her best friend Jen (Jordano Spiro) starts to suspect there’s something off and potentially dangerous about this guy. And that’s when things start to get scary. By forcing the audience to partake and become a witness to all of Doug’s actions, director Eric Nicholas manages to instill a very deep, subtle fear. Don’t judge this movie by its box art cover (which makes it looks like a knock off of ‘When A Stranger Calls’), Alone With Her is probably one of the most chilling and realistic stalker horror movie ever made.


    Bad Ronald– I’m fairly certain I must have heard about this obscure made-for-TV movie years ago, but it was really Judah Friedlander who was telling myself and the Icons Of Fright crew about Bad Ronald. The plot initially sounded like what we thought the Black Christmas remake was going to be about, but by the time that film came out, the similarities turned out to be minimal. Ronald (Scott Jacoby) is an awkwardly shy young high school student that after being fed up by the taunts of his classmates ends up accidently killing one of them on the way home from school. Terrified of what the authorities will do to him, Ronald’s mother hides him in a secret room hidden within the walls of their house. Then she unexpectedly dies and a new family moves in! They think they hear noises; they feel as if they’re being watched and their suspicions are correct. Ronald is still living within the walls of the house, unaware of his mother’s death or what to do. It’s definitely a creepy and weird little movie and has been the subject of a remake for years now. Dabney Coleman plays the father of the new family that moves into the house, and lead actor Scott Jacoby later went on to star with Jodie Foster in The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane. It’s a shock to me that no one ever thought to cast Jacoby and Matthew Modine as bothers in something. (It’s never too late!)


    Relentless– While Relentless may look like a crime serial killer drama on the surface, did you know that it was helmed by the same director who gave us Maniac, Maniac Cop and Vigilante?! That’s right. Back in 1989, Bill Lustig delivered this bizarre little flick about psychopath Arthur “Buck” Taylor (Judd Nelson), the son of a police captain who is unable to join the force himself due to him consistently failing the psychological test, and instead begins stalking victims he randomly selects from the phone book. He also assists his victims in killing themselves, adding to the overall unpleasant nature of his crimes. Hot on his trail are detectives Bill Malloy (Robert Loggia) and Sam Deitz (Halloween II’s Leo Rossi!), whose wife in the film is played by another genre favorite Meg Foster. (They Live, Stepfather 2) Lustig’s direction is definitely what sets this apart from the hundreds of other serial killer thrillers out there, in particular the long and drawn out way he depicts the murders. It almost matches the sleaze factor of Maniac. It also (for better or worse) paints the police force to be completely inept from helping victims that report the harassing phone calls prior to their murders to an almost infuriating degree. Also of note is the music by frequent Lustig composer Jay Chattway. Relentless eventually went on to spawn 3 sequels (!) all fronted by Leo Rossi who also served as co-producer on the follow-ups. He goes up against a Russian hitman (I think?) and William Forsythe in the later movies, but the first Relentless is definitely the most memorable of the bunch.


    The First Power– A serial killer who wears an unsettling mask of a face, weird Satanic connections, creepy nuns, supernatural elements, the electrocution of a murderer and Lou Diamond Phillips in the middle of it all? The First Power is one of the most bizarre selections of the movies listed here! It’s not necessarily a good flick, but I applaud it for all of its bat-shit crazy plot points. And despite having Detective Russell Logan (Lou Diamond Phillips) surprisingly capture serial killer Patrick Channing “The Pentagram Killer” (Jeff Kober) fairly early on in the movie, logic seems to go out the window at the 15 minute mark. Still it’s a weird ass film and with its religious themes paired up with an invincible serial killer storyline, it’s definitely a horror movie rather than your average thriller.


    10 To Midnight– What if Charles Bronson stumbled right into a “slasher” flick like Maniac or The Prowler or Friday The 13th? Well then you’d have the awesome has-to-be-seen-to-be-believed movie 10 To Midnight. There’s a killer on the loose and LAPD Detective Leo Kessler is determined to bring him in! But the killer, Warren Stacy (Gene Davis) manages to avoid capture because every time he commits one of his murders, he does it completely stark naked, hence he doesn’t leave any physical evidence behind. (This is before the days of DNA evidence.) The movie borrows elements from both the horrific real life Richard Speck and Ted Bundy cases, so if real life inspired violence or seeing a dude that spends 90 percent of the movie naked while murdering innocent women skeeves you out, then you’ll want to see him get his comeuppance at the hands of Charles Bronson. And that’s not a spoiler; all of Bronson’s action movies pretty much follow this formula. Doesn’t make them any less fun to watch! This is the rare Bronson movie for the horror crowd.


    Other notable mentions: The Vanishing (both versions), Stir Of Echoes, Copycat, Shallow Grave.

     


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    New comic book Wednesday has come and gone. The dust at your local comic shop has settled. An eerie silence descends as you finish reading your last superhero book of the week. Now it's time for something a little more sinister. Welcome to Bagged and Boarded: comic reviews of the sick, spooky, twisted and terrifying!

    Witch Doctor Comic Book CoverWitch Doctor: Mal Practice No. 3
    Dr. Morrow is charged with protecting the Earth. He's got this giant sword he pulled out of a stone and he's got the Pandoracopeia (you know, the book that holds all the secrets of alchemy) kicking around in a dusty old medical bag. As both a doctor of the medical and magical arts, his aim is to help all those who need him, be they humans or monsters. Now, as a showdown looms with a mysterious group of people who want the Pandoracopeia, Morrow and his crew plan a tricky triple-cross. Bets on whether it goes according to plan?

    Bag it or board it up?
    I have really been "sleeping on" this comic (as the kids say). Holy shit, this is good! The artwork in this beauty crackles with energy, and the sometimes-maniacal facial expressions of the good doctor are both hilarious and stress-inducing. There is some truly insane stuff that goes down in the second half of this issue, and if you haven't read the back issues leading up to this you'll be okay (but I recommend going back and doing a little digging). This is a fun, action-packed, dark arts-laden gem of a comic, and I can't wait to read future issues.

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer Comic Book CoverBuffyverse Sampler
    Holy smokes. This is your chance to get into "season 9" of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer universe. This huge one-shot contains the first issue of four separate Buffy-centric series of comics. There's issue 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which follows the girl herself. Issue 1 of Angel & Faith, which follows the two as their paths intertwine with the rest of the world, leaves Angel with some very hard choices to make and a giant tentacle monster. Issue 1 of Willow shows the dynamic red head in a magical world. And Issue 1 of Spike shows the blondie boy adrift in space, on a spaceship.

    Bag it or board it up?
    I've reviewed some of these comics in the past, but I feel like this sampler platter is worth reviewing here. These are all pretty good first issues in a series that cares more about its fans than any other series kicking around today. Of all the first issues, I still like Issue 1 of Willow the best, but I'm a fantasy geek… so of course that would be my favorite.

    Judge Dredd Comic Book CoverJudge Dredd No. 3
    Nefarious villains in Mega-City One have created clones of the relatives and loved ones of the wealthiest members of society. Demanding huge ransoms, the group of kidnappers promise to torture the clones if they don't get what they want. So it's up to Judge Dredd to bring all the cash and take down the bad guys, which is the type of thing he's best at.

    Bag it or board it up?
    I don't normally review Dredd comics on here because, even though I love them, I don't think they're usually very horror-centric. But kidnappers who genetically engineer clones and then promise to torture them? Yep, that'll fit into this column! It's like an action-packed comic of Repo! The Genetic Opera with Judge Dredd kicking everyone's asses! Check it out!

    Godzilla Comic Book CoverGodzilla No. 9
    The giant monsters from space have arrived! Run! With Godzilla trapped in a containment unit and all the major cities of Earth being ripped apart by giant space monsters, it's up to… well, I don't really know who it's up to to save the world. There's the merc hired to hunt down monsters, the scientist who may have developed a way to make the monsters more peaceable, and a Japanese government official who wants to control the monsters for his own gain. Times are looking pretty bad over here, aren't they?

    Bag it or board it up?
    A week of good comics! Who knew! Even this Godzilla title is worth reading. The destruction and mayhem are illustrated with glee and abandon, and the dialogue between the merc and an old man who's car he's trying to hijack is legitimately funny. This is a fun comic in a genre that can sometimes be bland, dry, or boring.


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    Trever Henderson’s original horror illustrations are totally insane and really cool. His etsy shop features hectic and incredibly detailed tributes to his favorite movies including Basket Case, Street Trash, The Thing, and Night of the Creeps. The style is a bit Rat Fink meets Derek Riggs, with just a dash of Pushead thrown in.

    Each high-resolution colour print is available in a range of sizes and printed on double-ply matte print paper.
     

    Gift Guide:The Cabin in the Woods

    Gidt Guide: Street Trash

    Gift Guide: Basket Case


    $22.00 at Etsy.com

     


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    FanTasia 2013
     
    If you've ever imagined a really groovy poster concept and didn't know exactly where to go with it, now's your chance to have your idea brought to life to promote the 2013 FanTasia Film Festival. Acclaimed graphic artist Donald Caron, who has painted several popular FanTasia posters since 1998, will be translating the winning concept into this year's poster art. 
     
    The winning submission will score two VIP passes, granting the holder free access to every film screening at FanTasia's 17th fest, which this year runs from July 18 to August 6. The only guideline is that the imagery can't be too explicit, as it will be seen widely by the public in all the fest's advertising and promotional materials. Concepts should be submitted to 2013art@fantasiafestival.com before March 1st. The winner will be announced – and the artwork unveiled – within the launch of the 2013 edition. For more info, head over to the FanTasia website.
     

     


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    Tom Piccirilli 'The Walls of the Castle'Tom Piccirilli does not write the kind of books described as "breezy."

    You should know that going into his latest novella, The Walls of the Castle, which was just published by Dark Regions Press as the first book under their new Black Labyrinth imprint. Actually, you should know that before diving into any of his numerous novels, novellas or short stories. It’s not that the man doesn’t have a sense of humor; he does, but it’s as dark as midnight. It’s not that his books don’t have moments or characters or bits of dialogue that will give you a good chuckle; they do, and often, but it’s the kind of thing where you almost feel bad for finding the subject funny.

    There aren’t a lot of those moments in Castle, however. This is tough subject matter, the kind of thing that many readers – me among them – might find to be the toughest subject matter of all. It’s about the grief of losing a child, and what that grief can do to a man, especially a man who had very little in his life to be proud of to begin with.

    Kasteel is just such a man. That’s not his real name; that’s just what he’s calling himself right now, because right now he can’t remember his real name. Kasteel’s a con, a thief, but that wasn’t what defined him. Being a father to his son, Eddie, defined him, whether he knew it or not. But the boy is gone now, taken away by a mysterious illness that no one can seem to explain to him, and that no one was able to stop. When the story opens Eddie’s been dead and buried for over a week, but Kasteel didn’t attend the funeral. He can’t bring himself to leave the hospital where Eddie died.

    That hospital is an enormous, sprawling complex known as “The Castle.” Thousands of people work there, and hundreds of thousands are treated there every year. It’s almost its own city, the kind of place where a man like Kasteel can easily fade into the background and build a strange sort of temporary life. That’s where we meet him: huddling in the emergency room, wandering the halls, stealing food from the cafeteria, and making his acquaintance with the dregs of The Castle’s cobbled-together society.

    Piccirilli packs this novella with several memorable characters, an amazing amount of them, really, given the length of the piece. There’s the mother and son he meets in the ER, where the boy is being treated for an injury delivered by his abusive father. There’s Hedge, the psych patient who is convinced he’s being followed by his dead father. There’s the candy striper with the burgeoning Internet cult, and the lonely old man in ICU. All of these people, in their own way, represent a chance at redemption for Kasteel – a chance for him to take care of someone so he can make up for not being able to take care of his own son.

    Kasteel is a classic Piccirilli character, a broken, grief-stricken man on a classic Piccirilli quest for redemption. In its own way, The Castle is a classic Piccirilli character as well, a mercurial entity with layers upon layers of secrets. It’s a place that may or may not be participating in the events unfolding within its walls. To Kasteel it is both a sanctuary and a kind of purgatory. To others, it is an unrelenting Hell.

    I’ve reviewed many of Tom Piccirilli’s books, and I feel like I’m running out of ways to praise him. Each new book is as heartfelt and thought-provoking as the last, and every time you think that he can’t possibly come back with something as affecting and personal and ambitious as what you just read, he proves you wrong. The Walls of the Castle is no exception. I have no idea how he’s going to top it, but I have no doubt that he will.

    Order The Walls of the Castle by Tom Piccirilli.

    Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog, October Country and contributes interviews to the Horror World website. Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand.


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    Meds
     
    While horror fiction all too often gets the cold shoulder from the major publishing houses these days, it's at least enjoying a small renaissance in the independent book market, both in print and digital media. But that also means there's even more crap out there mixed in with the quality stuff. I'm going to try and help my fellow horror readers sort that out. I spend just as much time scouring the moldy aisles of used book stores searching for vintage gems as I do online, always seeking that elusive high that comes from discovering a new author or one I'd overlooked long ago. I love sharing my findings with fellow fans; it multiplies the value of a good story in ways you just can't do with most other art forms. That's why we're kicking off this new feature series, so I can haul out these discoveries, or just dust off old favorites from my bookshelves, and maybe you'll get that hunting urge yourself.
     
    My first pick is a more recent find, from a well-established and award-winning author whose acquaintance I made online a few years ago. Ray Garton is not only the creator of the classic postmodern vampire tale Live Girls, but he's also the author of my all-time favorite werewolf series, the “Big Rock” novels (look 'em up in our gift guide). His style is swift, brutal and often gruesome (but never wallows in gore for its own sake), his characters tend to possess layers of mystery and shadowy motivations that drive the story in unpredictable directions, and he delivers scares that will make the book jump in your hands. Such is the juice of Meds, a cautionary and socially-conscious (but not preachy) tale about the dangers of over-reliance on pharmaceuticals... and in this case, those dangers go way beyond all the annoying precautions you hear in the drug commercials.
     
    Based on Garton's own experiences with prescription medications and their frightening side effects (he goes into graphic detail on his website), Meds is the story of a troubled man named Eli Dunbar who finds himself caught up in a series of violent crimes, all of which seem linked to a specific prescription medication that works wonders – that is, until you stop taking them. Of course Dunbar has been on this prescription himself to overcome a long-time addiction, and when the manufacturer suddenly stops making them... well, you get the idea. The terror of not knowing if or when Eli's going to lose control is the tension that drives the main plot, along with an undercurrent of body horror reminiscent of an early David Cronenberg film. Having myself experienced the hazards of careless pill-pushing doctors who jumped too quickly to certain diagnoses and prescriptions for my own health issues (now long gone, thankfully), this story shook me up in a very personal way... but you know, really good horror fiction has a way of finding wounds in your psyche and prying those suckers open. It can be a very liberating experience, provided you're brave enough to dive in. I'd recommend taking that plunge with this one.
     
    You can pick up a Meds at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, with digital versions for Kindle and Nook.

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    Cult of Luna

    Every music genre (and subgenre, for that matter) has its own set of rules, and as in most art forms you have to learn 'em before you can break 'em. Swedish group Cult of Luna knows the score, having forged a solid foundation of dark, doomy, experimental metal a decade ago with their second album The Beyond. Okay, I'll admit I first picked that one up based on the title alone (as any proper Lucio Fulci fan would), but after I cracked the seal on that CD I knew I was dealing with a potent and unpredictable musical force. 
     
    In many ways, the evolution of their sound parallels that of Norwegian band Ulver, who began life as a black metal unit before undergoing a constant state of transformation from classic rock to dark ambient soundscapes, finally finding their way into the soundtrack for last year's chilling horror hit Sinister. While Cult of Luna doesn't quite share Ulver's extreme-metal origins – they began as a doom metal outfit similar in style to Isis – they have definitely begun playing by a looser set of musical rules than they did back in their early years, and their song structures, production and technique would be just as welcome in a horror soundtrack as their Norwegian counterparts.
     
    Their latest record Vertikal takes it to the next level of darkness with a story thread loosely based on Fritz Lang's monumental silent classic Metropolis, which as you probably know is set in a dystopian future society where subterranean workers slave to support a privileged, technologically advanced elite. The futuristic component of the story is supplied by a wide range of electronic instruments and industrial sound design; while the band had dabbled in these elements on their previous albums (including 2008's much heavier Eternal Kingdom), they go all-in this time around, with amazing results. Old-school metal purists won't find a lot of familiar landmarks in Vertikal, but fans of more experimental rock styles (vocalist Klas Rydberg cites Radiohead as one influence) should feel right at home.
     
    CoL_Vertikal
     
    The first impact of Vertikal is the immensity of the sound: after all, it's the product of a massive musical combo often totaling up to eight members in all, with multiple guitarists and some serious multi-tracking. The electronics kick in immediately with intro instrumental "The One,” which feels like an alternate cut of Vangelis's soaring title theme for Blade Runner (which also owes a major debt to Metropolis). It sets the tone for the thundering "I: The Weapon,” which combines wall-of-sound guitar and bass layers with Rydberg's sparse, harsh vocals and repeated melodic chants shimmering percussion and stabbing industrial synths. While the tempo is medium-to-high, it moves in a steady, cyclical patten that maintains the feeling of impending doom that the band established earlier in their career. The dark keyboard flourishes return for "Vicarious Redemption,” soaked with miles of reverb, as background for a ritualistic beat pattern; the cycle here is created by adding layer upon layer of metal elements until the sound space is filled with pulsing, apocalyptic drones.
     
    "The Sweep” begins in a similar fashion with a buzzing retro-futuristic piece punctuated by Rydberg's anguished screams, but the pattern is much simpler. "Synchronicity" takes the reverse tactic, beginning with a slow, single-note arpeggiated guitar riff that suddenly explodes into  mega-sludgy chugs and a cascading drum line, countering the dark tones with a warm synth overlay. Buzzing harmonic feedback works its way into a down-tempo industrial dirge for "Mute Departure,” which features a hushed melodic vocal, made more ghostlike through a warbling tremolo effect, as counterpoint to the shouted refrain. The short piano & synth interlude "Disharmonia” takes us into "In Awe Of,” another monolithic, heavy number in the mode of "I: The Weapon,” with a sick, unforgettable riff and a crushing midpoint transition that makes it another of the album's standouts. The closing feedback hum transitions smoothly into the smoky anti-ballad "Passing Through,” pierced by a picked two-octave guitar pattern and whispered melodic vocals. It's a pensive coda to a superb album without a single weak track.
     
    CoL_live
    The new year has already served up some seriously dark and experimental concept albums (see our review of Otep's final album Hydra for another chilling example), proving that in this era of the quick-sell single, the concept album is far from dead, and experimental rock, metal and electronic styles are melding and re-shaping to create a total listening experience as dark and creepy as the best mind-bending horror movie. As a fan of both, I've already made a spot for Vertikal on my best-of-2013 list.
     
    Get a little taste of that experience with the powerful cut “I: The Weapon”...
     
     

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