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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 the host of "Comic Books" at ReadWave and 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 appears in the horror anthology, "Axes of Evil." He recently contributed work to Neil Daniels' Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

All Hallows' Month: I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)

Cheesy by today's standards, I Was a Teenage Werewolf is one of those fifties B-movies I've always loved.  Starring future acting icon Michael Landon in his adolescent years, I Was a Teenage Werewolf might as well be considered one of the first rock 'n roll horror films. 

Arriving at the height of rock 'n roll's eruption into pop culture, the youth of that era was stereotyped by leather jackets, slicked-down ducks' ass hairdos, denim, chiffons and missile-tit bras, all of which you can find in this flick.  Teen angst, unchained by the rebellious insurrection from Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry was not only reflected by the music of its time, but in film.  Blackboard Jungle, The Wild One and Rebel Without a Cause are not only hallmarks of fifties cinema, but also earmarks of the pulse emanating from American youth of the decade.

I Was a Teenage Werewolf doesn't exactly stand up to the aforementioned masterpieces.  However, Michael Landon captured the chip on the shoulder dynamic of his peers in this film nearly as well as Brando and Dean, which is why I Was a Teenage Werewolf works as well as it does.  The title is pure schlock and the premise is on the hokey side, yet Gene Fowler, Jr. knew what resonated with the drive-in crowd that was, more often than not, getting it on in the back seat or socializing at the concession stand instead of watching the films.

Instead of taking a bite from a lycanthrope in this film, the perpetually pissed and violent Tony Rivers becomes the subject study for an unscrupulous doctor (Whit Bissell) who hypnotizes him to research regressive degeneration.  Of course, this digresses to the nth as Dr. Brandon triggers a werewolf state from Tony.

Thus sets Michael Landon on the prowl to become even more of a public nuisance than in his normal human state.  In many ways, the hairball makeup cast around Tony Rivers' jeans and baseball jacket and button down shirt is just plain goofy, which has drawn plenty of derision from jaded viewers.  Nonetheless, there's something raw behind Tony Rivers' transformation and rampage that resonates, considering Landon portrays his character's insurgency and backlash against his peers still with enough sympathy to care about his ultimate fate. 

Featuring a cameo from Guy Williams (Zorro), I Was a Teenage Werewolf is a fast-moving and short-running fix of nonsensical terror that you may have to be a connoisseur of black and white films or Little House On the Prairie fan to fully appreciate.  If that doesn't appeal to you, Landon's furious portrayal at least speaks to generations beyond those who flicked blades and survived deadly chickeeruns.

                       Listenin' to:  Earth - Primitive and Deadly

Friday, October 10, 2014

All Hallows' Month: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Serving up the first of the mandatory fright flicks for October, Bride of Frankenstein.  I've already written a few analytical bits about this genre classic, so I'll skip the plot overview and historical aspects behind Universal's spectacular sequel to their 1931 adaptation of Mary Shelley's immortal Frankenstein.  A loose, occasionally nutty continuation spawned from the second half of Shelley's novel, Bride of Frankenstein is a perfect mate in film, if not as a figurative companion to the lead monster.

My son and I kicked back with Bride of Frankenstein after dinner and it reminded me of myself at his age, when I was weaned on the Universal monster mashes via the weekly after-hours horror shows on Saturday nights.  I've written before how we had "Ghost Host" on UHF Channel 45 and "Creature Feature" on Channel 20 back in the day and there was a heavy lean on the Universals back then, as I'm sure it was all across America during the late seventies and early eighties before the horror host moguls were put to rest.

Of course, I didn't keep my son up until 11:30 p.m., not with the age of home video, cable and on-demand hubs.  Still, I smiled as I heard questions out of that child's mouth that mimicked mine when I was ages eight and nine, some almost verbatim.

"Why is Frankenstein so angry?"  "Why does he want a wife?"  "Why isn't the blind man afraid of him?"  "Who is that creepy guy with the funny little human figures in the glass?"  "What makes Frankenstein go crazy?"  And of course, the most intuitive query I was proud of him for asking, "Why doesn't the Bride of Frankenstein like him?  She's supposed to be his woman."

Most of the time, my son sat quietly, intrigued by the film, until Frankenstein escapes his irons after capture and tears the doors off of his prison cell.  Boris Karloff's rampage from the jail through the town had my son's mouth creaking open with delight and marvel--as well it should, to someone his age.  Then he uttered the most profound, mature caveat, as if warning an entire room full of people:  "I don't suggest you mess with Frankenstein.  He's very strong!"

Of course, Bride of Frankenstein compelled me to reinforce that smoking is not "good," when O.P. Heggie lights up a cigar and tells Karloff to enjoy.  Whereas I've laughed at the naiveté of that scene in the past, now as a parent, I was compelled to rebuke Heggie's glowing endorsement to my son.  The times being what they were all the way through the 1980s when smoking became less cosmopolitan and more dangerous to your health, I get where Heggie and Universal were coming from.  However, when you're already pointing out to your little one that smoking is an unwise and unhealthy life choice, a conscious parent like myself can't help but feeling like smacking my forehead and yelling "Doh!" in the key of Homer Simpson at that scene.

Luckily, by the end of the film, that sequence was forgotten by the little man.  He was more interested in finding out what happened to Dr. Pretorius after the Frankenstein monster releases his maker and his wife, then brings the castle down upon himself, Pretorius and the short-lived Bride who rejected him upon sight.  A natural thing to be inquisitive about, once my son put the pieces together (pun intended here, of course), he nodded emphatically when I said "Kinda stinks Frankenstein was brought into this world with nobody to love, doesn't it?"  This, considering the painstaking measures the film does to build sympathy for the monster, director James Whale manages to undermine the terrifying undertones of grave robbery, murder, heart plucking and a sick fascination with the dead, the latter relative to Doctor Pretorius.  All of those nuances went above my son's head, since he was busy trying to make sense of Frankenstein's dual nature teetered between violence and sensitivity.

The funny parting shot from my son, though, knowing there are more Frankenstein flicks down the pike following this one, said "It's all good.  Frankenstein's gonna go hide and take a nap for a while.  He'll be back." 

Parenting through the monster classics.  You take every opportunity to teach a child where you can.  Unfortunately, I couldn't teach him about the perils of vanity after I sent him off to bed and wrapped my evening with the more adult-oriented Countess Dracula.  That's two nights spent with Ingrid Pitt; I suppose I should move on.  At least Elsa Lanchester's iconic shriek at the end of Bride of Frankenstein left an appropriate mark upon my son, much as it did upon me as a kid.  He went to bed trying to replicate that blood-curdling scream, while I silently patted myself on the back. 

                            Listenin' to:  Zombi - Surface to Air

Thursday, October 9, 2014

All Hallows' Month: The Vampire Lovers (1970)

Without Hammer Studios' button-pushing (or button-popping, if you will) The Vampire Lovers, there'd be no True Blood.  The original vampire lore as envisioned by Bram Stoker has always carried the air of erotica to it, as in the seduction, arousal and ultimate subjugation by a powerful male from an otherworld.  Of course, it's only natural over the course of horror history the tables should be turned with a female lead vampire doing the conquering.

Never mind Dracula's trio of vampire wives who have been depicted in various horror flicks over time.  It was Ingrid Pitt in The Vampire Lovers who broke the mold on what we should typically expect from a nosferatu.  Based on J. Sheridan Le Fanu's novella, Carmilla, The Vampire Lovers breached turf that had been flirted with prior to, but not yet shoved full-frontal. 

It's easy enough to flip roles by featuring a vampire temptress of men and that plot has been churned infinitum since The Vampire Lovers.  In this case, Hammer Studios boldly pushed its thumb down upon the genre with this first entry into what's become known as "The Karnstein Trilogy."  Followed by Lust for a Vampire (1971) and Twins of Evil (1972), The Vampire Lovers shined a mirror upon vampire lesbianism.

Vilified by some, celebrated by others, I would offer that The Vampire Lovers is s stylish slow-cooker that satiates horror purists, Goths and of course, perverts.  Without a doubt, the freeing of the ta-tas all over this film gives it its primary (and primal) allure.  Nudity in horror was just starting to come into itself around this time, but what's impressive about the film is how Ingrid Pitt uses her feminine wiles and purported naiveté to succumb her female victims--those she doesn't just grab and kill outright.  Normally this would be used as artillery against weak-willed males.  Pitt's seduction of Emma Morton is handled rather sensitively, even as Emma's goodies are paraded about, to be claimed by Pitt's evil blood sipper, Carmilla.  It's the doe-eyed, nubile Emma (played by Madeline Smith), barely aware she's being raped in a different manner, that sets the terror zone of The Vampire Lovers.

Ingrid Pitt, in my opinion, is the finest (using both connotations of the word) onscreen lady vampire who ever lived.  Surrounded by a hearty cast including the illustrious Peter Cushing and George Cole (who played a young Scrooge in the Alastair Sim Christmas Carol), The Vampire Lovers is titillating (a-duh), but the expectedly gory dispatching of Carmilla at the end puts this one relatively high in the fang bang genre.  Classy or sleazy, you be the judge.  Superficial assets sadly being one of its draws for me personally, I'm fond of this one for its other attributes aside from the obvious.

                          Listenin' to:  Prince - Art Official Age

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Coming Up This Week... All Hollows' Month

It's October, peeps, and in my household, that means horror flicks out the keister!

Halloween's quickly on its way and if you have kids, you're no doubt trolling the costume shops and searching for the cheapest goodies to pass out, assuming you're not searching for somewhere cooler to be than answering the door for trick or treaters.

For me, Halloween is all month long.  Albeit, knocking out a horror film in any month is time well-invested--even if it's a turd.

Thus it's time to serve up the turds, the classics, the freakazoids, the mandatory annuals and in-between brouhaha--maybe even a rubber chicken or two.  For the rest of October, I'll be posting my horror viewing selections with a few anecdotes about each.

This month-long screamfest is a tradition at Casa del Van Horn, thus I'm all warmed up from a preliminary round featuring The Purge, Blood Night, Werewolf of London and Would You Rather, plus a smorgasbord of Vampirella comics.  Time to get into the nitty gritty, friends, so come on back, as it's All Hallows' Month here at The Crash Pad!

           Listenin' to:  Byzantine - The Fundamental Component

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Top 10 Cool Comics o' the Week

Since I have a sizable number of readers who drop by this site to read my bits about comic books, I kinda owe you folks a little something in that department since I've missed the past couple "Cool Comic 'o the Week" selections.  Chalk it up to an insane schedule, but to make amends, how's about I dish you folks a super-sized installment this week? 

Lots of developments and new things arriving in comics shops lately and while Batman Eternal, Batgirl, Moon Knight, Justice League, Nailbiter, Vampirella, The Twilight Zone, Red Sonja, The Mercenary Sea, Silver Surfer, Ghost and Witchblade are some of my heavy hitters each month, here are ten selections that also make my radar on a continuous basis or I've just picked up with them.

Aaaaaaas follows:

1.  Futures End one-shots - I'll admit, I dropped off from DC's Futures End weekly series, not because it's not a quality book.  However, last month's Futures End one-shots that hit the majority of the New 52 titles with standard and 3-D, flip-image embossed covers were, in my opinion, the toast of September.  The premise of these individual stories was to set each DC character five years ahead where the Futures End storyline progresses.  Being on a budget, I certainly couldn't hit every one of them, but I did get to Batgirl, Batman, Detective Comics, Swamp Thing, Harley Quinn, Wonder Woman, Superman/Wonderman, Aquaman, Catwoman, Justice League and Batman and Robin.  Not a weak one in the batch and Gail Simone has a hell of a finale with the Batgirl issue as she exits as writer of the series.  Barbara losing her husband on her wedding to her psychopath brother, James, and training with none other than Bane to rekindle her will to live, all while engineering a new street team of Batgirls...it was savage, emotive and the most poignant of all the Futures End books I got to, and the rest...not too shabby in the least.

2.  Harley Quinn - I've already written plenty about this series and how I've hoped for it to go as over-the-top as Issue # 0 and the San Diego Comic-Con one-shot that were absolute side-splitters.  Conner and Palmiotti continue to push the envelope as much as they can get away with, and Harley has really evolved as a diamond in the rough of the New 52.  No longer Mr. J's bonzo babe sidekick in a clown outfit, I've gotten on-board with the Riot Grrrrl makeover of Harley since the series has been splat-stick fun.  Her recent hijinks in building a catapult to eject her tenants' dog shit to the city dump had me crying.  I shouldn't admit this, but the standard issue cover for # 9 (even better than the Selfie variant cover released that month) is plastered on my computer and cell phone wallpaper.  Hot, hot, hot.  Hilarious, too. 

3.  Sally of the Wasteland - UK publisher Titan won me over in a huge way with the Death Sentence miniseries.  Now they've got me again with Sally of the Wasteland.  Only three issues deep and this is one of the nuttiest badass chicks to rip into the comic world.  Horny and hedonistic Sally can tear the crap out of monsters and pirates and her alliance with the hilarious feminist posse, the Alabamazons steps up the gorefest while Sally continuously tries to glaze her fop of a love interest, Tommy, who can't seem to get with the program.  Harley and Sally...I smell crossover.

4.  The Blood Queen - Inspired by the bloody lore of Countess Bathory, this dark fantasy series from Dynamite is one of the best-written, best illustrated books on the market.  There's something awry about our lead, Elizabeth, who is summoned to cure the sovereignty's sick baby due to her reputation with the healing arts.  Her success brings her close to the court as a mainstay while she doinks the two valiant heroes of the story.  Both yield slightly sketchy overtures themselves as the kingdom teeters on the edge of war.  Elizabeth has ties of other sorts beyond her healing capacities and it should be a beautiful yet haunted trip as The Blood Queen's sordid plot unravels.

5.  Aliens:  Fire and Stone miniseries - Dark Horse reboots its popular and prolific run with the Aliens franchise, this time as part of a massive tie-in event with other miniseries, Predator, Prometheus and Alien vs. Predator.  While this one has much of the same feel as the other miniseries Dark Horse engineered through the nineties, our main cast of scientists and engineers have rocketed from one planet infested by the Alien hive to another one.  Guess what came along for the ride?  A rumble in the jungle awaits us, along with the extensive threads to the other miniseries.  Stock your dollars, folks.

6.  Thor - The rumors are true.  Our beloved Thor of Asgard, has been replaced by a girl.  Marvel appears to going out of their minds right now with all of their changes and expansions.  Steve Rogers will be Captain America no more, as his longtime buddy The Falcon takes over the cowl and shield.  Now this.  Frankly, I was more annoyed that Jason Aaron's brilliant Thor:  God of Thunder series was being wiped out in favor of this new overhaul.  When it was announced Aaron would be continuing on with the new Thor, I decided to cave in and give it a shot.  Glad I did.  It's no secret I favor a lot of female-lead comic series, so I'm not opposed to this drastic change.  Thor's been replaced in the past (as has Cap, for that matter), but Aaron's opening story where a humiliated and purportedly unworthy Thor has lost his enchanted hammer, Mjolnir.  Left planted on the moon, not even Odin himself can pull it free.  As Frost Giants and evil elf supreme Malekith invade the Earth underwater, a powerless Thor still takes it upon himself to fight for Midgard, to no avail.  A brutal finale to this opening story sets up for the new era as our undisclosed female warrior arrives on the moon and successfully enjoins herself to Mjolnir.  Here we go.

7.  Aquaman - Speaking of underwater, I've always loved Aquaman and don't know why it took me so long to get back on board with the New 52 version.  The art and the stories here have been knockout stuff and Aquaman's Futures End story was another emotional ride as his divorce from Mera has put him even further on the outs as a lord of the sea.  The riotous variant cover of Issue # 34 was my favorite of DC's Selfie covers month, the second one being a smooched-up Supes on Superman/Wonder Woman the same month.

8.  George R.R. Martin's In the House of the Worm - Avatar's adaption of George R.R. Martin's In the House of the Worm has to feel like a payday in the making for the indie press.  Proving Game of Thrones is not just a comic-to-cable wunderkind, this is a lavish and sexy adaptation of yet another tale of ruthlessness set within an even more fantastical environment.  Gruesome and tantalizing.

 9.  Spiderman 2099 - Of all of the smaller franchise characters Marvel's rebooted lately aside from She-Hulk, Iron Fist, Moon Knight and Elektra, their resurrection of Spiderman 2099 was right up my alley.  I loved the first run, though Marvel didn't quite replicate the tech-savvy action and plot-lined brilliance of Spiderman 2099 with the expanded Ravage 2099, X-Men 2009 and Doom 2009 series, though X-Men 2099 was on the cusp of something good.  Miguel O'Hara wasn't Peter Parker, nor did he have to be.  It's no wonder Spiderman 2099 went the distance of those 2099 books in the nineties.  I'm glad Marvel had faith in the character to bring him back again and though his displacement from the future into the now is reminiscent of DC's Futures End amongst other things, the mojo is hardly lost. 

10.  Dawn/Vampirella miniseries - I've taken to Vampi in a big way this past year, even more so now that Nancy A. Collins is helming the main series.  Vampirella's been paired off with countless partners and adversaries, to which Dynamite has a field day cranking out as miniseries.  Kidnapped by a demon called Masodik (let your imagination run wild saying that name over and over really fast) as a would-be sidearm for his bloody purposes, he pits Dawn and Vampirella, two of the hottest and fiercest lady ass-kickers in comic history, into a purported cat fight.  Still early in the story, Masodik (laugh, laugh, chuckle, chuckle) is hearing out each character in a battle of storytelling.  You figure Dawn creator Joseph Michael Linser has something more over-the-top awaiting us on the horizon.  Ridiculously hot for the cover of # 1 alone, here's hoping the rest of Dawn/Vampirella shreds as much as its preamble does.

               Listenin' to:  Daft Punk - Tron:  Legacy soundtrack

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

New Reviews from Ray at Blabbermouth

Up at Blabbermouth, my reviews of new releases by Opeth, Exodus, Cavalera Conspiracy, Obituary and In Flames.

                Listenin' to:  Between the Buried and Me - Colors

Monday, September 29, 2014

Well, Honestly...

Sheesh, my Sesame Street had no Elmo and no F-bombs.  You know The Count's off panel chiming "1...2...3...4...5...6...7!  7 middle fingers!  HA HA HA HAAAAAAAA!"  Cue the thunder.

               Listenin' to:  Cavalera Conspiracy - Pandemonium

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Triple Play - 9/28/14

Welcome back to another Sunday Triple Play!   For this week, I've selected three tracks who often get flagged as progressive artists, though they're usually lumped into more generic categories:  i.e. metal, classic rock and world music. 

Between the Buried and Me is one of the most important metal acts of this generation alongside Opeth and Mastodon and like the latter two, BTBAM sets themselves far from their peers because of their prog affinities that spices and makes sense of their brutal style of metalcore.  Colors and The Parallax II:  Future Sequence are BTBAM's masterpieces transcending their equally magnificent Alaska album from 2005, yet I'm pulling "Selkies:  The Endless Obsession" from the latter album as evidence of their early-on brilliance.  The transitions from death-tech and metalcore to a luxuriant, Opeth-bound quietus to a melodic prog finish is something to behold.  Between the Buried and Me only got better from this point forward.

ELO is one of those bands I've been a complete sucker for all my life and while Jeff Lynne's taken enough shots from the music press for his uber-love of the Beatles, The Who and other pioneers of rock, what he and Electric Light Orchestra did was transcendental in their own right.  Lynne knows how to draw more hooks than the first week of a fresh NHL season.  I can peel off more than a handful of my favorite ELO songs like "Do Ya," "Livin' Thing," "Evil Woman," "Tightrope," "Strange Magic," "Telephone Line" and "Turn to Stone."  "Nightrider" is one of those seldom-mentioned gems that feels to me like a light, airy score to a film meant for either young or adult audiences, depending on the shrewdness of the director.  It really does feel like breezing through the night with the roof top down and nowhere important to be.  While ELO was more rock-based, there's no denying the orchestral elements lumps them into a prog affiliation.

Finally is Peter Gabriel's "Rhythm of the Heat," a favorite of most of his fans and deservedly so.  This one's a slow cooker that builds itself up to a frenzy of tribal beats that need to be cranked upon climax.  Of course, Gabriel and Genesis are renowned as masters of prog rock, but Gabriel took his music into bold new territories upon his departure from his alma mater.  Sometimes that found him in commercial turf, i.e. the So album, but most of the time, Gabriel was in search of tones and techniques from around the globe to meld into his often intelligent music.  "Rhythm of the Heat" is orgasmic.

Between the Buried and Me - "Selkies:  The Endless Obsession"

Electric Light Orchestra - "Nightrider"

Peter Gabriel - "Rhythm of the Heat"

Friday, September 26, 2014

Untitled, by Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Like the turn of fall, a fleeting chance to know my warmth
We seek one another, yet we shy from each other
The cold Solstice waits to inveigle your wounded heart with false empathy

--Ray Van Horn, Jr. 9/25/14

                              Listenin' to:  Opeth - Damnation

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Few Thoughts About the Slayer Statues

Obviously Slayer is one of the most important and most intensely-followed acts in metal music history.  It's been reported in the past even doctors, engineers and law students have been found amongst Slayer's longtime supporters, aka the Slayer Wehrmacht. 

For all intents and purposes, this band is in shambles with the tragic passing of guitarist Jeff Hanneman and before that, the second (and assumedly final) departure of drummer Dave Lombardo.  While the embers continue to smolder between Lombardo and his former band, which gets heavy attention from my home base at Blabbermouth, I sit at my desk this morning with a crinkled mouth, furrowed eyebrow and a small sigh.

I have no qualms about the band continuing on with Exodus guitar ace Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph on the kit, who has already proven reliable for Slayer during his first stint in the group.  If you're going to push forward without two of the key components to your success (one by forced, unfortunate circumstances), then I can get down with keeping things in the family, as it were.  That is to say, bringing in brothers of the legendary Bay Area thrash zone.  While we await the new Slayer album, Exodus is about to drop their latest recording, Blood In, Blood Out with returning vocalist Steve "Zetro" Sousa, a controversial coup that found prior Exodus singer Rob Dukes suddenly without a job.

Now I've had the pleasure of interviewing Tom Araya, Dave Lombardo and even Gary Holt a couple times.  All of them were fun dudes and I'll never forget Araya admitting he was a Christian into my tape recorder.  That was a pretty awesome moment for me and Araya gave me quite a long chat.  Holt is a gas to talk with, albeit right now he's under fire and probably not as eager to rip it up, though I could be wrong. 

The Lombardo interview...  That was an interesting moment.  As a hack, can't even call myself an actual drummer, I was giddy beyond words when I was offered Dave Lombardo as an interview guest during Slayer's arena tour a few years back with Megadeth and Anthrax.  Lombardo and late Kiss drummer Eric Carr were my heroes growing up.  Unfortunately, time constraints being what they were, I was given five minutes on Slayer's bus with Lombardo, but I'll never forget each second of it. 

When I got on the bus, Jeff Hanneman was relaxing in the coach, strumming away with Led Zeppelin cranked and at least a hundred candles lit all around the bus.  I said hello to Jeff and he gave me a polite nod as I went to the rear of the bus with Dave.  I can't put into words what a quixotic moment that was for me and spooky now that Hanneman has passed.  The rest of the time found me slicing half of my interview questions for Dave and we knocked it out in hurried fashion because of the slim time allotment.  Both of us looked at each other with wide eyes and dry smirks at the end of our guerilla session.  I can't vouch for Dave, who answered what I had for him as thoroughly as he could within our timeframe, but I felt slightly cheated since we could've gotten a good bit of camaraderie going, given his upbeat responses to my questions.

This is what I think of as I see Slayer moving on and now reading about the release of three statues from Knuckle Bonz featuring Tom Araya, Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman.  No representation of Lombardo.  Suffice it to say, the bridges are well-burnt and at this point, you can forget asking Lombardo anything about Slayer any longer.  I feel for the guy, honestly, though as a journalist, I have to remain objective and let the dust settle where it may amongst the constituents.  On the other hand, I do find it objectionable there's no statue for Dave Lombardo, one of the greatest drummers in metal music that ever lived, while there is a statue for someone no longer amongst the living.  It's underhandedly capitalist, sorry to say.  Of course, if there was a statue for Lombardo, that would involve him in a place he's made no bones he wants no part of any longer. 

I'll leave it at that since it's not my place to comment any further upon the matter, though if you're a purist, it reeks that one cannot complete a collection (if one is so inclined to buy these statues) without Lombardo.  There's no taking away Slayer's legacy, but we're peeking in at a junction in the band where only two original members remain.  No matter how trusted and talented Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph are, their worthiness isn't the issue.  This band has been forever changed and three out of four statues as tribute to the team that gave the world Reign in Blood, Show No Mercy, South of Heaven, Seasons in the Abyss, World Painted Blood and others...it just doesn't sit right.

                       Listenin' to:  Opeth - Pale Communion

Monday, September 22, 2014

Chasing After Ships

The past couple weekends, I've had the opportunity to indulge one of my quiet fascinations, ships, especially old tallships.  Baltimore recently celebrated the 200th anniversary of  Francis Scott Key's writing of what would become our national anthem with gala festivities that included celebrity appearances, aerial stunts by the Blue Angels and a fireworks display that outdid even the Olympics.  At the harbor was a parade of tallships that came in and out and invited tourists aboard for tourists.  I was fortunate enough to tour the commissioned U.S. Coast Guard Barque Eagle and the smaller, but no less historic Gazela.

Funny enough, I would find the Gazela again the following week docked at its permanent home at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, where we struck up convo with one of its crewmen and it capped a wonderful trip around the town.  Even the battleship U.S.S. New Jersey, which survived Pearl Harbor and assisted American troops in Vietnam is sitting at Penn's Landing.  I can't say my knowledge of ships is deep, though I have a yeoman's understanding.  Like aircraft, I'm utterly fascinated with ships and I found my share at Penn's Landing, which you can also sample below behind some pics of the Baltimore event. 

Baltimore's Inner Harbor:

Penn's Landing, Philadelphia:

                            Listenin' to:  Yes - The Yes Album

Friday, September 19, 2014

Comin' Atcha Shortly...

Taking a break the next couple days, but catch-ups will come immediately thereafter, so stay tuned, won'tcha?

                   Listenin' to:  Hank 3 - Brothers of the 4 x 4

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sounds About Right (Or Is It Write?)

                                 Annihilator - All For You

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Classy Gesture, Orioles

Following their four game set with the New York Yankees this past weekend, the Baltimore Orioles and Hall of Famer Boog Powell gave retiring Yankee legend Derek Jeter a basket of steamed crabs as a farewell gift.

Ages ago the fiercest "rivalry" in baseball, this gesture of goodwill between Baltimore and New York goes to show the artifice of sports rivalries, played up to hype fans and sell more beer.  In the end, it comes down to respect.  Kudos to the Orioles in this regard.

Magic number for the O's clinching the AL East as of today is 1!  Feels like old times in this town.  Ain't the beer cold...

                            Listenin' to: Annihilator - Feast

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: Alice Cooper # 1

Uncle Alice, the Prince of Darkness, the Lord of Nightmares, Steven, Spider.  Call him whatever you like, but Vincent Furnier has had more lives, figuratively speaking, than a cat with an ankh charm on its collar.  As Alice Cooper, the original shock rocker, he's come and gone and come again in regular intervals in the music scene.  He haunted the Muppets a long time ago, he rubbed elbows with Jason Voohees in the video clip for "He's Back (The Man Behind the Mask)" from Friday the 13th Part IV:  Jason Lives and with far less theatricality, Alice has lit up the links as a diehard golfer. 

As a multimedia sensation through five decades and running, Alice Cooper is no strange to the comic book realm.  You'll recall the 1979 Marvel comic for Alice and his Marvel-backed media crossover project with Sandman maestro Neil Gaiman:  The Last Temptation album and comic.  The latter is scheduled for re-release this year as a 20th anniversary hardcover compendium. There's also the "100% Unauthorized Material" comprising Rock 'n Roll Comics' take on Alice.  Alice even contributed a storyline to Bongo Comics for Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror series, where, ironically, Homer Simpson turns into a Jason Voorhees-inspired mass murderer.  How could an artist whose ghoulish stage persona where guillotines, hedonistic re-enactments of murder, lopped baby dolls and monster dispatching not be tailored for comic books?

Dynamite Entertainment (who will also be responsible for The Last Temptation hardcover redux) has initiated a brand new Alice Cooper comic book, this time as a regular series and in many ways, the rules of have changed.  Writer Joe Harris and artist Eman Casallos aren't concerned as much about comical beheadings and monster dogs with Alice Cooper.  In this series, Alice is split into two apposite personalities.

Cooper himself has historically used his alter ego Steven in his recordings such as Welcome to My Nightmare, Alice Cooper Goes to Hell, Hey Stoopid, The Last Temptation and his most recent sequel album, Welcome 2 My Nightmare.  Fans can speculate if Harris and Casallos are trying to subversively bring Steven to life in this series, but one half of Uncle Alice appears to be trapped in purgatory, resurrected by his pet boa, Kachina.  The other half is embodied (purportedly) in the real world as a snuffed star and slave to the system (this being of the more hellbound variety), victim of a changing entertainment climate that's grown hostile toward rock music.

In this first issue of Alice Cooper, Harris snipes at the music industry (and with good reason, given the less-than-favorable sales returns of conventional music formats) with the second half of Alice being exploited by a pint-sized, nihilistic manager, Lucius Black.  It's safe to assume Black is a tool of the devil.  Alice is engineered by Black as an underling, forced to sign a boy band singer, Jordan James to soul-selling contract.  Consider all of it parable and metaphor on Harris' part.  Once this side of Alice Cooper rebels at this mistreatment, we're left to wonder just where in the hell this series is going.

The subplot involves a persecuted youngster, Robbie, who is handed a freebie of one Alice Cooper's albums on vinyl at a yard sale.  Tormented by bullies who have no clue who Alice Cooper is or ever was, they shatter the album to spite the kid.  Unfortunately, Harris borrows liberally from the heavy metal horror flick Trick or Treat (starring Marc Price with cameos by Ozzy Osbourne and Gene Simmons) as the album supernaturally mends itself and plays backwards, summoning the top hatted, carny-huckstering Lord of Nightmares side of Alice Cooper into the picture.

Tres bizarre, suffice it to say.  Despite the Trick or Treat swipe, Joe Harris thus far offers readers something nobody expected.  Even more interesting, Dynamite permits a few hard expletives, boob cracks and the mention of a "b.j." (use your imagination there), which is a bit strong for their norm, never mind the occasional bare butts that have cropped up in Vampirella, Miss Fury, The Blood Queen, Warlord of Mars and even Red Sonja.  Sidebar, the skinny-dipping scene in the Red Sonja vs. Thulsa Doom miniseries is the hottest, most risqué sequence Dynamite's ever published.

That being said, it stands to reason how far Dynamite's going to go with Alice Cooper.  This ain't your papa's Alice Cooper comic, even if it's mainly papas who will to flock to this thing.

                          Listenin' to:  Sodom - Agent Orange