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Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a seasoned music and film journalist, having written for venues such as Blabbermouth.net, The Big Takeover.com, Fangoria.com, Noisecreep, About.com, Horror News.net, Metal Maniacs, AMP, Dee Snider's House of Hair Online, Pit, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained, Impose, DVD Review, Music Dish and others. His blog The Metal Minute won Metal Hammer's Best Personal Blog Award in 2009. Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut. Ray has been a local beat reporter and photographer for newspapers and journals such as Metromix, an affiliate of the Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine and The Northern News. Ray is the winner of Quantum Muse's short fiction contest for 1999 and his original character superhero stories were collected in the paperback anthology "Playing Solitaire." In 2013, Ray published fiction stories at New Noise Magazine and Akashic Books and he will appear in the upcoming horror anthology, "Axes of Evil" in 2014. He recently contributed work to Neil Daniels' ZZ Top biography and David Zernhart's Friday the 13th series, "The Camp Crystal Lake Diaries."

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ray's Latest Reviews at Blabbermouth



Please excuse the interruption in production here at The Crash Pad.  I've just returned from an exhausting but mostly excellent road trip through Nashville, Memphis and Kansas City.  Lots of goodies to come this week!  For now, here's a list of my latest onslaught of reviews for Blabbermouth:

Kyng, Edguy, Earth Crisis, Gojira, Hirax, KXM, Ringworm, Lionize, Grand Magus, Mekong Delta, Nothing, Cage the Gods, Holy Moses, Drawers, Tiger Flowers, Dinner Music for the Gods, Scars Divide, Darkentries, The Unsemble, Andi Deris and the Bad Bankers, Poobah, Viza, Leaf Hound, Riotgod, Jagged Vision, The Intersphere, Godhunter, Barishi, Kosmos, Spewtilator, Shroud of Despondency and Death of Kings.



Listenin' to:  Elvis Presley - Elvis is Back! / Something for Everybody Legacy Edition



Monday, April 14, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: Shotgun Wedding



Top Cow Comics is building themselves a hot streak.

Aside from the red-hot sales machine Batman Eternal # 1, which debuted this past week, Top Cow's miniseries from William Harms and Edward Pun, Shotgun Wedding, is April's other smoking gun comic, pun intended.

Like Batman Eternal, Shotgun Wedding is hitting readers in weekly doses, so be prepared to put aside a little extra bread in your comics budget for the month, because thus far through two issues, it's worth the indulgence.

The comics press is billing Shotgun Wedding as a cross between Kill Bill and Mr. and Mrs. Smith.  You might as well throw True Lies into it if you must compare this four-issue mini to Hollywood action blockbusters.  Midway through the issues released so far, Shotgun Wedding most resembles Mr. and Mrs. Smith.   However, William Harms goes an extra step with his blazing plot. 

The story focuses on a pair of assassins, Mike and Chloe, who were once engaged.  Summarizing half of the storyline, Chloe had saved Mike's life in the past after a hit that went wrong in Antalya, Turkey.  Chloe makes a deal with her sicko mark to free Mike from a sure death.   While Harms bops around between past and present modes of his quick-paced story, we know at this point Mike has jilted Chloe at the altar and moved on to a new life and a new love, Denise, whom he is betrothed to.  Obviously, Denise has no clue Mike's a hit man by profession.

Chloe has tracked Mike down and to this point, we know she is out for vengeance against her former lover.  We also know she's a loose cannon, prone to psychopathic behavior beyond the scope of her performance as a black ops specialist.  Mike appears to kill out a sense of duty, while William Harms leads us to believe Chloe gets off on the art of killing. 

Thus the stage is set with Mike and Denise's upcoming wedding for an assumedly brutal dénouement. 

The black and white art by Edward Pun makes Shotgun Wedding nearly as gritty as Sin City minus Frank Miller's stone washing effects that made the latter series more pulp versus noir, which Shotgun Wedding treads close toward without feeling smoky nor overtly sexual.  Still, there's plenty of pulp interplay in this story and there's an escalating sense of twisted tragedy in William Harms' tale that has already claimed lives and suggests further bloodshed yet to fling across the most sensitive areas of his plot. 

Shotgun Wedding stomps like a beast and is nearly within the genius of Ed Brubaker's Fatale, giving Top Cow and Image Comics, by attrition, something else to brag about.
 


Listenin' to:  Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention - Freak Out!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

You Know What Rick James Would've Said...


"And when I'm feeling low, she comes as no surprise, turns me on with her love, takes me to paradise...now do you love me, Mary Jane?"

K, so maybe Rick James was singing about pot using sex as metaphor.  Semantics.

Definitely not the Spiderman I grew up with, but sometimes you have to give way to progress.



Listenin' to:  The Chieftains with Roger Daltrey and Nanci Griffith:  An Irish Evening:  Live at the Grand Opera House, Belfast

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Ray is the Host of "Comic Books," a New Forum at ReadWave


I have been approached by the editors at ReadWave to open a new forum entitled "Comic Books."  The theme should be self-explanatory, of course.  I'll be posting regular articles promoting current and back issues and things related to the comics medium.  I invite you to join the fun.  Do you have comic art you want to show the world?  Do you have memoirs, nostalgia, critiques, lists or anything you want to discuss about comics that can be laid down within 800 words?  Hit me up.


I've kicked off this forum with "My First Comic Book:  Marvel Team-Up # 72, August, 1978."  Here's a link to the piece at "Comic Books."  Hope ya'll dig and perhaps feel inclined to participate. 

Cheers...

http://www.readwave.com/my-first-comic-book_s32319



            Listenin' to:  Babatunde Olatunji - Drums of Passion

Monday, April 7, 2014

First Hike of the Year


This was one of the fastest-paced weekends I've had in ages where I caught up with lots of friends and family and dropped on my face by Sunday night.  Friday night I attended the Y&T show at Baltimore Soundstage with friends and then I made some new pals as well, and not just mere "show buddies," it appears.  Dave Meniketti and company are so freakin' tight after 40 years and still have tremendous passion onstage, cheers to those guys.  It was a great night filled with loads of laughs and loud music.

In-between visiting family members throughout the rest of the weekend, I got in the year's first hike with the wife, the kid and our very dear friends who we've sadly neglected due to our insane schedules.  In the morning, I'd taken a quick mini-hike to drop in on a caged (due to injury) bald eagle in our area whom I visit routinely.  Later in the day, we hit a portion of the extensive Gunpowder Trail, which spans an entire county.  Hiking is therapy for me and I was glad to have extra company this time. 

Even though Mother Nature betrayed us again by dumping winds and lower temperatures than originally forecasted, it was at least sunny and snow-less.  We were treated to a pristine view of the river that's normally blocked by heavy vegetation and has yet to grow out due to the long winter.  Here are a few shots for fun.  Enjoy.







Photos (c) Ray Van Horn, Jr.


                       Listenin' to:  Peter Murphy - Cascade

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Most "Blab" Worthy Album of the Prior Month


Having come to the end of another round of reviews for Blabbermouth this past month, out of the twenty completed, I hit a stride of fascinating and wonderful albums, all in a row.  The new Earth Crisis album Salvation of Innocents reclaims their mantle as American hardcore sovereigns and the pro-animal rights icons have a tie-in comic book to boast, Liberator, as well.  You know that strikes my fancy off-the-bat.  Then there's sludge mongers Kyng, who are right there along with Red Fang as the most exciting thing in American metal these days with their latest album, Burn the Serum.  Veteran German prog-thrashers Mekong Delta continue to impress as the years roll on with their latest mind-melting slab, In a Mirror Darkly.

However, the album that devastated me last month was Philadelphia noise punkers Nothing and their astonishing homage to My Bloody Valentine, Guilty of Everything.  A snippet of that review:


"If you think Philadelphia’s NOTHING sounds more than a bit like MY BLOODY VALENTINE, it’s no coincidence.  Founding member Domenic Palermo (vocals/guitars) has quite a sordid story to tell, which includes MY BLOODY VALENTINE’s “Loveless” album as its hypothetical soundtrack.  Prior to forming NOTHING, Palermo haunted the tough streets of Kensington, Philadelphia, at one time running drugs and guns while performing in hardcore acts XO SKELETON and HORROR SHOW.  Eventually crime caught up with Palermo, as he served time in prison on an aggravated assault and attempted murder charge following a knife fight.  Judging by the cathartic brilliance of NOTHING’s debut album “Guilty of Everything,” Palermo found introspection which leads to an emotive last grasp at music upon his re-entry into society.

While “Guilty of Everything” is hardly a metal album from the metal-minded Relapse Records, it is a stunning, American punk-minded interpretation of MY BLOODY VALENTINE.  “Guilty of Everything” is a stark, ether-filled shoegazing experience based on genuine feelings and angst, the way emo should have been following RITES OF SPRING eons ago.  What Domenic Palermo and his NOTHING tribe have accomplished on “Guilty of Everything” is delivering a soul-scarred sound of penance.  It’s elegant even with its frequent slow processes and distortion yowls; even more so, because NOTHING reaches out to a desperate audience, mutually in need of empathy and acceptance. 

Sin comes to bathe in the font of NOTHING’s sonic fineries and their breathy, collapsing vocal swells.  While much of this album carries a beleaguered feeling of remorse, the contrasting upbeat title track wraps the album with a full sense of closure.  As “Guilty of Everything” opens with the frail and soul-torn murmurs of “Hymn to the Pillory,” the distortion plugs grow denser on the sullen yet melodic “Dig.”  With each successive bar of “Dig,” the heavy drags are brought to a climax with heaped-on guitar parts that add to its evocative allure."
 
 
Stay tuned for the full review in due time at Blabbermouth. 


                 Listenin' to:  Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: Captain America # 303


In honor of Captain America:  The Winter Soldier, which just hit theaters yesterday, I was riffling through my back issues of Cap and settled on issue # 303 from March, 1985.  Ah, to be 15 again, when I got this book at a local comic shop that was then the size of a warehouse and at one time, a local institution, Geppi's Comics. 

But I digress.  In this story, Cap and the third "Bucky," (Jack Monroe) who has long been running around at this point in the series as Steve Rogers' former alter-identity, Nomad (you got all that, folks?) are trailing after a trio of multicultural mercs (Batroc the Leaper, Machete and Zaran) who have stolen Captain America's shield and have sold it to a megalomaniac at a ballistics and metallurgy manufacturer, Stane, International.  The eighties were a flourishing period for megalomaniacs, mind you.  As impervious as Captain America's shield is, it's no surprise Stane, International turned to guns-for-hire to swipe the prized shield in order to copy its impenetrable alloy.

Nomad, trying to prove his worth as not just another sidekick, splits up from Cap to cover more ground in search of the shield.  Consider this mostly subplot.  Steve Rogers' trail leads to a very drunk Batroc, who begins shooting his mouth off to his comrades that he can beat Captain America and that he is the superior of all the three heavies.  Zaran and Machete challenge Batroc to a bet and here we have the story's cool twist.  After mopping up Batroc a few rounds in front Machete and Zaran, who are laughing their fool heads off, Cap gets the idea to give Batroc one good shot on him in exchange for information leading to his shield. 

Making good on his promise once Batroc spills it, Cap takes a pretty hard flying kick from Batroc to square up their deal.  Right after Machete and Zaran believe to have lost their wager with Batroc, Cap is back on his feet and he knocks Batroc cold.  The bad guy triad quickly disseminates as Machete and Zaran collect their winnings off of the unconscious Batroc before hightailing it with the story break coming as Cap vows to get his shield back.

Today, comic books are, by and large, so bloody serious.  It's just the times we live in and the stories call for deeper sophistication, so the books adjust accordingly.  However, a simplistic and frankly, hilarious, self-contained tale (still as part of an unwinding master plot) such as "Double Dare" in Captain America # 303 hits the spot like morning jove.  Writer Michael Carlin obviously had a great time on his stint with Cap and I can only imagine what he might think of the pair of new Captain America films, considering the two pathetic attempts to film Cap in the eighties are as forgettable as the Dolph Lundgren Punisher film from 1989.

I began reading comic books in the mid-seventies and a decade later, this is the kind of caped culinary savoir faire I was weaned on.  The writing in comics today is so off-the-chart, but "Double Dare" puts me smack into my teenaged bedroom, with echoes of Iron Maiden in my ears as I first read this issue and subsequently, one of the many Conan the Barbarian pulp novels I devoured like Cheetos and birch beer.  Glory days, I tell ya...


Note:  Stand by for an announcement later in the upcoming week regarding my new appointment at ReadWave as host of a comic book-themed section...  



   Listenin' to:  Roger Waters - The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking

Friday, April 4, 2014

Comic Book Reading Spot of the Week


Finally, a break in this damned weather.  Shorts time!  I should be keeping a better eye on Hulk around my stash, though.


                     Listenin' to:  Meat Beat Manifesto - 99%

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Good, the Bad and the WTF? 4/3/14


This week's good news comes from Science Daily.com, which reports from the University of Kansas Cancer Center that scientists are gradually honing in on a viable treatment for pancreatic cancer, one of the forms with the highest mortality rates. 

To summarize, "Findings of a new study provide a direct proof for a new therapy and provide hope for the people with pancreatic cancer.  Pancreatic cancer rates in the U.S. have been rising over the past decade, and the disease takes a very heavy toll.  The American Cancer Society estimates that in the last year alone about 45,220 people were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, while 38,460 died of the illness."

Dr. Liang Xu  at the university "has discovered that targeting a cell-surface receptor called 'CD44s' can block pancreatic tumor formation and recurrence after radiotherapy."  He states, "The sad truth is that patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer have few treatment options.  The only hope for a cure is surgery, but unfortunately pancreatic cancer patients are often diagnosed too late, when surgery is no longer an option.  We need better treatments for these patients.  Now that we know more about how cancer originates and how tumors re-grow after treatment, we can design new therapies to prevent this.  Our team is motivated in accomplishing this goal and move new therapy to the clinic to benefit the patients and their families."

Link to the article at Science Daily.com:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140402121443.htm



Photo courtesy of Yahoo News

The bad:  Yesterday, a second spree killing at Fort Hood in Texas.  Four people were killed at Fort Hood including the gunman, Ivan Lopez, an active-duty soldier assigned to Sustainment Brigade.  Lopez was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder for his time served in Iraq and reportedly had "a number of other psychological issues," according to Lt. General Mark Milley, who addressed the press. 

This is the second mass shooting incident at Fort Hood following the 13-person massacre by a would-be Jihadist military psychiatrist.  President Obama has been quoted as saying "We're heartbroken something like this might've happened again."

Link to M. Alex Johnson, Jim Miklaszewski and Pete Williams' story-breaking article:

http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/fort-hood-shooting/four-dead-fort-hood-three-victims-plus-gunman-killed-n70276



Photo via Twitter @kmattio/Fox Sports.com

It could be combined with bad news, I suppose, but this week's WTF? moment is courtesy of the classless tailgating slobs who left beer cans and other flotsam at the base of a statue dedicated to Shannon Stone and his young son at Globe Life Park in Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers.  Stone fell to his death from the stadium in 2011 while trying to catch a ball thrown to him by outfielder Josh Hamilton.  While Rangers fans as a collective are not to be blamed, this petty, lazy and thoughtless act from the guilty parties is reprehensible and if anything makes you go "WTF?" upon sight, this is it.


                Listenin' to:  LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Cheers, San Jose Sharks...


More proof why hockey is the greatest sport in the world.



                       Listenin' to:  Slough Feg - Hardworlder

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Now Out Today! "Axes of Evil," an Anthology of Horror and Heavy Metal Fiction, Featuring "Before the Ball," by Ray Van Horn, Jr.


It's out today! The Axes of Evil anthology from Chupra Cabra House/Diabolus in Musica, featuring my story "Before the Ball," work from my colleagues Alex S. Johnson and Jayaprakash Satyamurthy, plus Bram Stoker Award winner Lucy Taylor and more. 
 
Quoting advance praise of the anthology:
 
"Carnage. Blood. Damage. Diatonic scales. Bone shards. Blast beats. Chaos. Chromatics. Gore. Guitars. Diabolism. Double bass. Riffs. Wreckage. Monsters. Music. Axes of Evil, an original anthology of heavy metal-themed horror stories, edited by music journalist (Metal Hammer) and author Alex S. Johnson.  Featuring Lucy Taylor, Bram Stoker Award-winning author for The Safety of Unknown Cities Sèphera Girón, author of over 15 published books, including The House of Pain and Borrowed Flesh, Terry M. West, author of What Price Gory, director of the cult classic horror film Flesh for the Beast, Del James, author of The Language of Fear, music journalist, songwriter (Guns N’ Roses, Testament, etc.), and 30 more of the finest writers in the horror field today.  I have determined that this astounding collection of horror is not merely an anthology but a coded Grimoire of magic."   --Robin Dover
 
"As a reader and avid horror fanatic, I often find myself saturated with supposedly great horror fiction only to be let down by the quality. With this anthology, I got everything I could possibly want; Horror and Metal.  Thirty-four stories with bite and balls make this a must read.  Axes of Evil isn't just a book; it's an epic tome of brutality."  --Dale Herring, Let the Shredding Begin
 

Addendum:  Our publisher has been given the news that VH-1 Classic's That Metal Show will be discussing Axes of Evil in a near-future episode.  Slamdango!

 
Linkage:
 
 


                      Listenin' to:  Gonin-Ish - Naishikyo-Sekai

Monday, March 31, 2014

Baseball is Back!


With the spirit of my baseball hero, # 33, Eddie Murray behind me, and hopefully the Orioles, I welcome another year of diamond action.  Despite yet another snow dumping yesterday, the sun's out and melting that white crap gone just as fast as it arrived.  Here's to hot dogs, peanuts and hopefully a lot more homers from Crush Davis this season.  Let it be Spring officially!



 Listenin' to:  Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble - Texas Flood

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Good, the Bad and the WTF? 3/30/14

Photo courtesy of MSN.com

The Good:  Call it public relations gold if you like.  Celebrities are being called out by teens and military cadets for big dances and the latest summons answer comes from Super Bowl champ Christine Michael of the Seattle Seahawks.  Michael granted the wish of autistic teen Taylor Kirkwood to be her prom date.  Conveyed to Michael through family-to-friend connections, this continued trend may be suddenly vogue, but it's always a Cinderella-esque feelgood story they're no doubt looking for at Disney.


Photo courtesy of Reuters

The Bad:  Take your pick from recent major headlines around the globe:  the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the dreadful drama of the weeks-long investigation into the disappearance of Flight 370 in Malaysia or North Korean leader Kim Jong Un condemning the U.N. and threatening to roll on with more nuke tests.  Shit's hitting the fan everywhere and we're all likely to find some of it flung across our proverbial cheeks.



Holy cock ring, Batman!  For this week's WTF? moment, DC Comics showed some balls this month with Harley Quinn # 4.  Okay, not literally, but our Riot Grrrl made over Harley is seen bulldozing into a house where a figurative target of her nutty wrath is hosting a sex toy party.  Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti depict vaginal vibrators (non-penis styled) and cock rings being flung toward the reader during this hilarious party crash.  I'm still waiting for this series to match the over-the-top zaniness of # 0, but this is bold stuff, even for an indie press.



      Listenin' to:  Edguy - Space Police:  Defenders of the Crown

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: The Mercenary Sea # 1


I've been keeping my radar tuned to a lot of Image comics and their sister imprint, Top Cow, and I was especially impressed with the debut issue of Kel Symons and Mathew Reynolds' The Mercenary Sea.

With no interior advertising and a genre-colliding adventure yarn inspired by post-Depression American action films, The Mercenary Sea is well-worth a pick-up.  This series off-the-bat feels like a 1930s World War II epic centering upon a band of ocean-bound bootleggers and smugglers.  The numerous expositions of Symons' lore roll like a parade of senses-bombing serial flicks and while the action only hits a few climactic heights, I'm already suckered by this series.

The story centers on bootlegger Captain Jack Harper and his crew of on-the-lam ex-patriots, runaways and mercs such as John "Smokestack" Jackson, a prizefighter with a hit on his head by the mob after he refused to throw a match.  Then there's "Doc," a Royal Army surgeon from the UK who accidentally killed a solider while operating on him drunk.  You have the baseball cap-crowned Samantha Blair, daughter of a moonshiner and quite adept at mechanics.  Included in this motley band is a former German submarine captain from World War I, Wulf, a French soldier of fortune, Jarreau, and Toby, whose lean and apparently meek stature belies something to be interpreted as highly dangerous.  The tense squabbling between Toby and Jarreau hits its stride immediately when Toby saves Jarreau from a poisonous jungle red with a mere switchblade.

Symons had me right off the bat as Harper and his band, in search of a mythical artifact called the Koji Ra, are confronted by cannibals in the jungle.  In a hilarious plot twist, it turns out Harper is friends with the man-eating tribe and has brought a reel-to-reel copy of the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup and a projection screen for the entire collective to watch.  I enjoyed a good rip when the cannibals ask Harper if he's brought popcorn as well. 

Already, Symons' cheeky style of humor indicates The Mercenary Sea is going to undo and redo the classic ethos of black and white hero yarns, updating it just enough to tickle the funny bones of skeptical modern audiences.  To think of a time when scoring a print of the Fay Wray King Kong outside of American shores was as costly and subversive as stowing illegal arms; Symons nails this nuance with punctuated zest. 

As Harper has more than a few encounters in just this first issue, including a handful of pissed-off pirates and the Chinese army, you get the impression Symons is out to not only keep pace with Indiana Jones' period-based salute to the golden age of action, but to one-up it.  His dialogue is sharp and already we get the sense Harper is well-traveled with both friends and enemies in the deepest corners of the world few people ever get to see.

Mathew Reynolds' artwork is stellar from the standpoint of pop art that begins with a Roy Lichtenstein foundation, then toughened up with a little abstracting from the Frank Miller school.  Again bridging the old to the new.  The Mercenary Sea is an instant grab that I'm looking forward to keeping up with.


                         Listenin' to:  Kyng - Burn the Serum


Friday, March 28, 2014

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Programming Note:

Howdy, readers.  As I'm currently working through a deadline, this week's installment of "The Good, the Bad and the WTF?" will be moved to this coming Sunday.

However, Comic Book Reading Spot of the Week and Cool Comic 'o the Week will run as scheduled on their respective days.

As always, thanks for your support of this page!


                          Listenin' to:  D.R.I. - Dealing With It

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Monday, March 24, 2014

RIP Dave Brockie of Gwar


Fate has a weird way about it.  Not only a couple weeks after posting my reflections of my hilarious interview with Dave Brockie, aka Oderus Urungus of Gwar, the news today reports of his passing.

I wasn't close to Brockie, but I will never forget that interview and subsequent barbecue he invited me to stay for.  On a side note, Brockie was a gentleman when he wanted to use The Metal Minute as a title for a radio segment he was involved with and he was classy enough to pass over it at my request since I had been using The Metal Minute and metalminute.com professionally for my endeavors.

Thank you, Dave, and RIP.  I'm freakin' stunned right now, as is most of the metal and punk underground.


Photo (c) 2005 Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Obviously Members of Vader's Honor Guard




                          Listenin' to:  Jucifer - L'Autrichienne