Monday, October 23, 2017

Serialization: A Darkness Within by Alexander Z. Kautz (Chapter One)

A Darkness Within
Fiction by Alexander Z. Kautz

Chapter One

When the news arrived that my younger sister Veronica had finally passed away from cancer, I can't say that I was as shocked as much as relieved.
She had suffered with it for only a short time but the struggle had been intense. Having never married or had children, she was the last surviving member of our line, leaving me as sole inheritor.
We had never been very close. Though a brilliant and financially successful woman, she had a terrible temper and had always been very willful. It was either her way or the highway. Something that I could never accept or tolerate for long, no matter how hard I had tried....
At the reading of the will I had discovered that within her many years as an insurance agent, she had acquired a rather old house. Which having never told me about, now fell into my possession through inheritance.
There had been a tidy sum of savings and the matter of a hefty life insurance policy. All of these meant very little wherein the loss of her life was concerned. But even if I had attempted to express this to her in life, she would have simply scoffed at the sentiment. Assuming the worst as usual....
Of all the things that had hurt the most within my life. The loss of my mother at an early age and estrangement of my sister had always cut deepest.
It was not long after the funeral that packing my own meager life, I moved into the old house on Crowley Street.
Having been involved in a serious work related accident and existed upon a pension for many years, there was a sudden sense of financial and personal freedom. I had spent a great deal of my time working as an illustrator for a small magazine. The payments had always left much to be desire, but I had managed.
In all truth, I did it more out of the pure love of the craft and those that I worked with rather than the money.
November in Vancouver Canada had always meant one thing. Rain and lots of it! Which in all respects, I much preferred over the bitter cold and snow of the more eastern provinces.
I had always hated snow. So, as I pulled in before the large old home, parking my Kia Sportage with trailer and life in tow, I paused to look upon the place.
She had kept it heated and maintained, but according to the documents had never rented the place in the ten years that she had owned it. Something that I had found odd to begin with as she was well known for pinching her pennies and making financially secure investments.
This particular place within her mind would have been little more than a money trap... All the same I was not one to look a gift horse in the mouth!
It was nothing extraordinary within comparison to many others on the same block. All were of Victorian construction and most were restored or beautifully maintained.
A three story gem, grey with white trim, it had a widow's peak, wonderful second story balcony, twin towers and stood quite separate from the others on a small lot of well kept, forested land.
I sat for several minutes gazing upon the place which, outlined by the dark, cloud filled November sky, almost seemed to fade into it's surroundings.
For a moment it almost felt like the old place wasn't even there to begin with? Perhaps, just some strange extension of my own imagination?
The thought ended swiftly as the rain came and I hurried up the front steps to the porch and fumbling with the keys, let myself inside.
There was a scent of age, but no mildew or anything that one might have expected to find after so many years of being empty.
It didn't take me long as using the little hand cart, unloaded all of my belongings. I had given away whatever larger furnishing that I had owned after having been shown photographs of the old house.
It was entirely furnished and kept in such a manner that I would require little beyond groceries and the usual household items.
I was unpacked and settled into the place just before dinner. I took a seat in a large, brown wingback chair before the hearth and weary from the efforts of the past few days, quickly drifted into a deep sleep.
All was utter stillness within the blinding darkness. Then a pinpoint of light. A pale green mist within the distance as strangely unsettled by the sickly glow, I was helplessly drawn toward it!
The darkness changed, moving all about me while becoming the shadowy forms of doctors and nurses. Which hurrying around a hospital bed within that pale green room, busilly attended to a patient.
I felt my heart pound as though it might explode from my chest! I fought not to look down upon the figure in the bed, but could not resist!
There she lay, struggling and coughing on blood as the cancer ate away at her from the inside! She saw me and beckoned with hands outstretched! Fingers grasping at the air as her eyes, pleading, bulged as she fought for breath!
Helpless! God damn me! There was nothing that I or anyone else could do to relieve her suffering!
She thrashed about, coughing and spewing blood from her nose and mouth! So much blood, so much blood! I could no longer watch, turning in horror as they sedated her, forcing her down while doing everything within their ability to comfort the dying woman!
Indeed, it was her, my very own younger sister, dying before my very eyes!
She screamed out my name in vein, her words showering me in blood as she gasped! I awoke screaming! Grasping the arms of the old chair with white knuckled panic, my eyes wide and by horror filled!
That dream, oh dear God--that horrifying last memory of her final days. It endlessly haunted, tormented, tore at my heart and soul! I threw a hand before my sweat beaded and fevered brow, blinded by the uncontrollable stream of tears, pleaded within a whisper,
"Oh God--please, please." I swallowed hard, muttering,
"Make it stop--I just can't take this anymore..."
Gazing wide eyed and forlorn into the crackling fire within the hearth, I suddenly paused in thought. Did I even light that fire? But surely I must have. For there it was, burning right before my eyes. Am I losing my mind?
My mouth was dry, hot, my lips parched. Much in the same way that a long distance runner might feel in the mid-day sun. I moved from the chair, my efforts appearing almost drunken as I made my way across the large room. Half stumbling while wandering out into the corridor and down the hall into the large kitchen.
The house was in utter darkness as switching on lights, I glanced down at my wrist watch. It was half past ten. I had slept for several hours.
Filling a glass with water and sitting down at the large oak dining table, I stared out into the night through the large kitchen windows.
Not a single sound beyond the rhythm of the gentle rain, tapping like cold fingers as it streamed down the window pane.
Within the glass I noticed my sombre reflection and moved closer to examine what now stared back.
I had just passed my fourtieth birthday that summer. Though looking much younger and still having the same dirty blonde hair, the bags beneath my deep blue eyes had darkened over time.
Those eyes that had seen so much. Since childhood I had slowly witnessed the deaths of everyone that I had ever loved. Places, faces all fading into the distant shadows of time.
This was the price that all children of elderly parents were doomed to pay. Eventually being left alone in a world filled with nothing more than the ghosts of old memories....
It was this same and immediate sense of mortality that Veronica and I had both experienced in early youth, causing a bitter sibling rivalry. It had always been a desperate attempt to attain the most attention and love from those who remained to us.
Having lost our father at a young age and been alone with our mother, who worked long hours, it was just never enough for little Veronica.
Being several years younger, she excelled within my failures. Gaining a greater education through my own academic struggles while listening as I was home tutored.
She learned quickly, astute and intelligent she soon established both career and reputation. Though I had always been proud of her, for reasons beyond explanation I had always sensed that deep down, she had always despised me....
When the end had finally found her I had not been there. Not because I had chosen to abandon her, but because she had been in a coma for several weeks, heavily sedated and mercifully, had passed quietly in the night.
Though she had finally found peace, the memories and guilt of a lifetime lost together forever haunted me. I could never find the words within forgiveness...
Rising from the chair I moved toward the sink, placing down my glass and looking out through the large window and into the night beyond. A gaunt and pale image gazed back. The dark eyes wide and empty as it's mouth widened within a silent scream!
I leapt back, startled, gasping! Then suddenly laughing out loud as I realized that it must have been my own reflection while yawning! Of course, that was all that it had been! My own battered nerves and over-tired mind working against me!
"You better get some rest old man!" I scoffed, pointing to my reflection in the glass while saying,
"You're looking like death...."

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Fiction: BLACK EYED CHILDREN by M Teresa Clayton

BLACK EYED CHILDREN
Fiction by M Teresa Clayton
 
I had never heard of them. Black eyed children. I certainly had never met one. Well, until that night; that unforgettable and terrifying night that still haunts my dreams, both night and day.
Yes, I had a few drinks. Yes, it was after the bar closed and the streets had become eerily abandoned and quiet.
I knew I had to shut my eyes and sleep some of it off before heading home. An encounter with a police officer while under the "influence" was the thing I feared most.
At that time.
I rolled down the window to let the cool evening air in, hoping it would help sober me up faster. I moved my seat back away from the steering wheel and leaned it back for a bit of comfort. I could still see reflections in the rear-view mirror should an officer of the law, or someone looking to steel the tires out from under me, approach without any warning.
I crossed my arms over my chest and let my head roll back. I shut my eyes and could hear a faint snore bubbling to the surface as I blissfully dozed off.
I awoke with a jerk and looked immediately into the rear-view mirror that reflected nothing more than an empty street and one lone street lamp about a half a block away. I had a sense of intense discomfort; as if all my senses were awakened and ready for fight or flight. Yet, as I sat up and looked around, I could not see anything threatening anywhere in my immediate proximity.
The hair on the back of my neck was standing on end. I had goose-bumps crawling up my arms. My heart was racing and sweat was soaking my shirt.
I straightened up the back of my seat and pulled the seat forward toward the steering wheel. Something was definitely amiss and all my instincts were on high alert, though still slightly intoxicated.
I had to ask myself if I was dreaming or sensing something that was alcohol induced. I shook the sleep off and still the goose-flesh and hair standing on end sensation continued. What could this mean? I had a bad feeling.
I dug in the pocket of my pants for the keys and dropped them onto the floorboard near my feet. Damn, I thought to myself. I quickly and nervously began my search. The street lamp gave no assistance there in the front seat of my car where the shadows obscured any hint of light.
I looked down between my legs and there on the floor I caught the glint of reflective light on a key. I set my seat back again so I could reach them and quickly snatched them up. I rushed to find the right key and, once found, began the struggle of getting it into the ignition. I had to bend forward to get a look at the slot before I could actually get the damned thing in.
Swish. There!, I thought to myself. I heard something outside of the car, behind me, down by the street lamp. I heard a swishing sound as if someone were dragging something with each step. Swish. Silence. Swish.
I looked in the mirror on the windshield and didn't see any movement from behind the car. Again, I checked the rear view mirror on my side of the car... nothing. I looked at the passenger's door mirror... nothing... and then, wait! I thought to myself. Did I see something small standing beneath that tree just to the right of the street lamp? I couldn't be sure. The light was dancing through the leaves of the tree. There were shadows of varying degrees beneath its dense canopy. I wasn't sure. Maybe it was a large dog...
There! There it is again! What the hell is that? I thought, I had to be imagining this.
Coming out of the shadows were three children. They took a few steps forward and stood under the light which somehow was projecting an odd greenish glow. I could actually see the shape the light made as it descended to the ground below, a triangular shape, or was it more like a cone.
They moved! Not like you would think a child moves; one foot in front of the other. No. They were standing together under the light and then, as if I looked away too long and then looked back, they were standing about two feet from where they were previously. I hadn't taken my eyes off of them that long. I did not see them step forward. The alcohol had definitely affected my vision, or so I thought.
Again! Closer. And, without taking a step. I saw no child, not any of the three, raise a foot and take a step forward. I rubbed my eyes hard and looked out the front window of the car to focus on something of equal distance to see if my sight was indeed impaired. I could clearly make out everything on the street in front of me and I watched as leaves rolled off the curb and made their way to the other side. There was no gap in perception.
Then, what is this? They were getting closer and I could make out their faces. One little boy in a nice shirt and pants and two little girls in dresses and black shoes that shone from the light that was bending to follow them like a spotlight.
I heard a buzz and the lamp flickered on and off for a moment and then stopped and continued to light the three children. I couldn't make any sense of this at all. If this were the alcohol playing with my eyesight and my mind, then I surely did not want to risk being pulled over and subjected to a sobriety test. I also did not want to stick around there.
Again, they jumped forward with no movement that suggested they were walking. They seemed frozen yet they moved. Their faces didn't change either. They were fixed in a look of absence. They appeared mechanical in a way; emotionless, vacant, stunned.
I turned the key in the ignition. There was no sound. Dead. The battery was dead. Did I leave a light on or the radio playing as I drifted off? No, I didn't think I had. As a matter of fact, I know I didn't because I had to dig the keys out of my pocket when I first awoke.
"Sir, do you have any food? We are hungry." It was that boy speaking and he was standing parallel to the car about two feet away from my door. The two girls just looked off into the void that seemed to have them hypnotized or possessed.
These kids couldn't have been older than eleven or twelve. They were clean and well dressed; polished. The boy appeared to be looking past me yet he was addressing me. Food? What time is it? Who were these kids and why were they roaming the street at this time of night?
Again, "Sir, do you have any food? We are hungry."
I couldn't speak. I looked at his face and noticed his eyes were off. They were different. They were black, totally black. None of the white area around the pupil showed. Actually, nothing showed. I'm pretty certain that there were no eyes where eyes should have been. But, there was something in those orbs where eyes would normally sit and they were black as tar.
The two girls moved forward and now I knew they were moving as if on conveyor belts; not one foot was lifted. I tried the key again and the car choked and sputtered.
"We are hungry." They all said in unison. "We are hungry." Their voices monotone and repeating as they swished closer each time.
I reached down with my left hand and rolled the window up quickly, my hand slipping off the knob with every rotation.
"We are hungry."
Don't talk to them, I was thinking to myself, don't look at them and don't talk to them.
The face of the boy was inches away from the glass and staring directly through me. The horn! I thought. I pressed as hard as I could on the horn and the car registered a loud long blaring honk that would have woke the dead.
The dead. That is what they are. They were dead children come to claim me. I did not release the pressure on the horn, closing my eyes and praying someone would hear and come to my assistance.
"... hungry."
No. I won't look at them, I won't!
Tap, tap, tap. I heard the knocking on the window. Don't look! Tap, tap. "Sir, please roll down your window and place your hands on the dash where I can see them." It was a man's voice, a deep authoritative voice.
I opened my eyes and shifted them to my left. Standing there in my peripheral line of sight was an officer; a police officer.
I rolled my window down and put my hands on the dash as ordered.
"License and registration, please."
I opened the glove compartment and took out the requested documents, handing them to the officer.
"Have you been drinking tonight?"
I couldn't speak. I didn't know what to say.
The officer spoke again, "Joe, have you been drinking again?"
I looked up into the officer's face and recognized Officer Williams, who seemed to always catch me behind the wheel in such a state.
I told him that I had been drinking but I had decided to take a nap and sleep it off. I had not driven anywhere under the influence.
"Your keys are in the ignition, Joe." he observed out loud.
"Yes, but... I haven't driven anywhere, I swear. The car won't even start. I'll show you." I turned the key and the car hummed into action without incident.
"Turn the car off, Joe, and step out of the vehicle. We are going to take a ride. You know the routine."
I turned the key off and stepped out. I was promptly read my rights and hand-cuffed. Another D.U.I.
"Willie (a name more familiar that was used between us), I can explain."
"Okay, we'll talk on the way down to the station."
"I woke up and saw three kids..." I stopped right there. Where were the kids? What happened to those three kids with the black eyes?
Once we were at the station, I gave my statement and realized how crazy the story sounded. I thought that, perhaps, I should have just remained silent. This was not helping me out at all.
I was placed in the holding cell with another man in the same condition, including a look of complete disbelief. He watched for the officer to walk far enough away so he wouldn't hear us speaking.
"I saw them too." He said.
"You did? What the fuck where they?" I asked.
"Listen to me," He said, "If you ever come across those kids again, get the hell away from them as fast as you can and whatever you do, don't speak to them or let them touch you. You hear?"
"Why?"
"A good buddy of mine saw them same kids over a month ago and not just once either. He saw them a couple of times. They would ask for food or money or a ride somewhere." He said. "Funny thing is, my buddy went missing shortly after that and no one has heard hide nor hair from him. Just gone. I think them kids had somethin' to do with it."
 
***
 
I didn't say another word about it to anyone until now. I heard that another man had gone missing and I had to come in and tell you what we saw. He said his friend had seen them and gone missing and now he is gone. Something is wrong here and it has something to do with those three kids.
Officer Williams looked at me like I was crazy. "So you think a couple of black eyed kids kidnapped both these guys?"
"I'm telling you I don't know what the hell happened. But this is what I saw and experienced that night and now there are two men from town missing and one of those men told me he knew about those kids."
"Okay, Joe. I have your statement, you can go and if we need any more information, I'll contact you."
I hesitated a moment. I wanted to make him see that this was not a joke or some hallucination. I got up to go but before I walked away, something compelled me to look back at Officer Williams one more time.
He looked up at me and, I swear, for a second there, I didn't see his eyes. Where were his eyes? All I could see was black. He blinked and there they were, blue as a summer sky.
I said nothing and walked home... 'haven't touched a drop of liquor since and I don't go out at night. Never saw those kids again.
And, as for those two men who were missing? Never found.
 
-M Teresa Clayton

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Video Review: CATTLE DECAPITATION 2017 European Tour Documentary

2017 European Tour Documentary
Directed by Paul McGuire and Obscenery Films
San Diego, California, USA’s Cattle Decapitation has been tirelessly touring to promote The Anthropocene Extinction their current full length released in 2015. Through the remainder of October and into November they’re traveling the U.S. and Canada with the support acts Revocation, Full Of Hell, and Artificial Brain. This leg of the tour is sponsored by Metalsucks and Exclaim! Aggressive Tendencies and again you can find information at Metal Blade’s official site. Last summer the death metal/grind band traveled through Europe and were accompanied by Obscenery Films’ PaulMcGuire, who chronicled daily rides between shows, backstage antics and the blitzkrieg they deliver onstage. The fifteen minute mini-documentary, filmed on location in Holland, Scotland, Germany and elsewhere, is clear and professionally filmed. It includes interviews, performance clips and the band’s humorous side, adding insight into who they are as bandmates and friends. According to guitarist Josh Elmore, the doc was made after years of requests from fans for a representation of their tour experience. It’s a bare bones look into their steady career, often touching on the hard work that goes into promoting from the grassroots and thinking outside the box when formulating music both they and their fans can appreciate, which they do with equal conviction. One part of note is of the band paying a visit to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s childhood home in Austria; another is a succinct interview with frontman Travis Ryan who explains the difference between clean vocals and raw vocals. Toward the conclusion Cattle Decapitation discuss future touring and recording plans. Ryan adds their recent success has inspired them to press onward breaking boundaries in extreme metal and questioning the boundaries of what is acceptable aboveground. Worth watching if you’re a longtime listener. -Dave Wolff

Friday, October 20, 2017

Full Length Review: CIGARETTES AFTER SEX Cigarettes After Sex

Cigarettes After Sex
Release Date: June 9, 2017
It’s a charming album from start, the voice is soothing and the instrumentation in general is smooth, relaxing and lovable from the very first seconds.
K: It’s a bit of an ethereal-ish sound to open, with smooth flowing instrumentation –mostly the drum/bass/guitar and a synth- it’s a bit of a blend that makes one all fuzzy and warm inside. Voice is remarkably relaxing and the lyrics for this track are quite interesting.
Each Time You Fall In Love: The bass is heart-felt, opening up, that immediately got me interested along the synth. Felt the track has an ethereal-ish style again, with a certainly interesting vibe. The lyrics are easy-flowing; felt the song itself is just put together masterfully, especially the drums.
Sunsetz: From start this song made me felt like I was falling after an epic battle with the guitar, then the bass kicked in with a soft yet precise line and drums. The lyrics made me think of lovers that got split due to some major cause, distance perhaps, the song could easily be hummed to so it’s a plus in my book, also my second favorite.
Apocalypse: The bass made me felt energetic; the precise drum made me felt the song was solid along the soothing voice. It’s a charming easy-to-listen to piece.
Flash: The synth and drum combo made me shiver; this is by far my favorite and the best intro of this album in my opinion. The flow of the song in general is smooth, makes me crave to listen to it in repeat over and over from the start. The lyrics are interesting and smooth-flowing but I felt there was some darkness in a subtle way.
Sweet: While I liked the intro after listening to Flash it was a big leap musically style speaking, still a delightful piece, it’s an easy-to-listen song but wouldn’t listen to it too much least it loses the magic
Opera House: The opening made me felt in a space ship; certainly didn’t see it coming. The slow beat coupled to the synth is a marvelous combo; felt it put together the piece really. Lyrics felt quite heart-felt, kind of made me think of those games where you are presented to the main character and them hear their tragic story or maybe the epilogue of the growing adventure, honestly I can’t tell either way, this is my third favorite track.
Truly: Made me feel it was a silly lovey song in that high-school crush type of way. Altho I liked the Truly (Again) version, felt more connected to it for some reason…
John Wayne: The opening made me shiver. The fact the lyrics speak of heartbreak kind of make me relate; we all have that one we knew better than to approach and date yet we did anyway.
Young & Dumb: Made me laugh at the lyrics, in a good way, since it starts in a joking way, the drum and voice was different from the other tracks in my opinion, this one was a bit more melancholic.
Flew so smooth I almost missed the fact it was almost over. -Sophia Cynthia Cabral

Track List:
1. K
2. Each Time You Fall In Love
3. Sunsetz
4. Apocalypse
5. Flash
6. Sweet
7. Opera House
8. Truly
9. John Wayne
10. Young & Dumb

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Video Review: Halloween Attractions at Fantasy Costumes

Halloween Attractions at Fantasy Costumes
Yet another new video self-produced by Frank Garcia (Nekropsy, Waking Chaos, Asphyxiator), this one in the spirit of Halloween as he visits the local store Fantasy Costumes for a brief tour. Fantasy Costumes (located on Chicago’s Milwaukee Avenue) is a place of employment Ray Roman, a friend of Garcia’s who has worked there for some time and “knows the place inside and out.” The displays being sold there this year are crafted by local artists who are imaginative and pay attention to detail, and the prices aren’t extravagant either. One display features masks by Zygone Studios that glow in the dark when black light is shone on them. The electric chair prop added to the display they’ve had for many years and is included for show. Another display close by has a prop designed in the likeness of Regan McNeill, portrayed by Linda Blair in The Exorcist. There is an adjacent showroom with wall to wall masks crafted by Zygone and the national company Trick Or Treat Studios. The latter company designs masks of villains from classic horror films such as Mike Myers, Leatherface, Pennywise, Evil Ash from Evil Dead II, the aliens from They Live, a zombie from Dawn Of The Dead, the Crimson Ghost, Blacula and Pinhead. There are masks based in Iron Maiden’s mascot Eddie including one released back in 1980. Another showroom features costumes black lights, window and lawn decorations, and even pet costumes based on Freddy Krueger and Beetlejuice. We see a custom prop of Beetlejuice and a full costume of Deadpool worth three figures (one of the only expensive products we’re shown). This is the nicest store I’ve seen since NYC’s Halloween Adventure and I’d recommend stopping by if you’re in Chicago this month. -Dave Wolff

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

EP Review: PROSTITUTION Egyptian Blue

Independent
Release date: October 10, 2017
Prostitution is a power trio from Williamsburg, Brooklyn who describe their third EP Egyptian Blue as progressive blackened metal. The first two independently released by the band are Prostitution from 2011 and Listless from 2013. Both of those EPs have two tracks each and Egyptian Blue, which was also released independently, has three. Already they are showing the potential to become another unique voice in the New York underground. From the manner in which they describe their music, Prostitution incorporate elements of thrash, black metal and psychedelic rock. Their efforts to make things unique is their psychedelic elements and the special attention paid to melody and harmony. Pink Floyd is cited as their most significant influences on this EP. This sounded intriguing in theory and I wanted to see how much they put their formula into practice. As I listened to its first track Hypergiant I could discern shades of Pink Floyd subtly written into it, deeply ingrained with the black and thrash metal influences they draw from. This is especially apparent in Russ Cowen’s guitars, as he plays the biggest part tightening their aggressive, extreme and spacey/psychedelic influences. Whether or not he intended it I perceived occasional death metal hints, obviously in the sections with down tuned guitars and double bass percussion from Jason Spence. For the most part this was more recognizable than the thrash influences, that’s unless you consider the moments calling Voivod (Dimension Hatross, Nothingface, Angel Rat) to mind. I makes sense seeing it this way since Voivod brought classic rock a la Pink Floyd and Rush into their brand of thrash metal in the late 80s and early 90s. I don’t know if they listen to Voivod regularly but The Boat and Elevated Droves (particularly its ambient, otherworldly conclusion) had me mulling over the possibility. Cowen puts loads of effort into directing each track through riffs and time changes that sound distinct from one another but linked tight with them. He has approaches to writing that differ from most, just enough to be noticeable. The notes written into his progressions, his solos and his use of dissonant chords embodies a style that can be instantly recognized. The only complaint I have is about bassist Jesse Adelson’s vocals which didn’t seem to fit the music as much as it would have if they were more similar to traditional black metal vocals. Even after releasing a few EPs the band is taking long strides in standing out from the rest, and Egyptian Blue demonstrates the fruits of those labors. -Dave Wolff

Track list:
1. Hypergiant
2. The Boat
3. Elevated Droves

Monday, October 16, 2017

Single Review: PARAGON COLLAPSE The Stream

The Stream
From their upcoming debut The Dawning to be released by Loud Rage Music
Entangled amidst a web of nine atmospheric minutes lies the heart and soul of blossoming Romanian doom group PARAGON COLLAPSE with their newest single release ‘The Stream’ taken from their upcoming debut album which is set to be released via Loud Rage Music. The group's overall sound is one of conventionality not without its occasional quiddities. At the beginning of the song you really get the sense that it owes a great deal to the pioneers of the doom genre although those comparisons are diminished a tad upon hearing the vocals which, quite frankly, are probably of a better quality than your traditional doom singer. Chunky guitar delay and operatic vocals are the main focus for the first three minutes until the track pacifies itself into a haze of cushioned dreaminess. Such changes in velocity, volume and ambience are indubitably a regular occurrence in what the group have to offer from a creative standpoint, which is why for the rest of the song you do notice a lot of these changes throughout. Another key factor of their sound is the usage of violin, (probably for orchestral sensibility above anything else) and I have to say I was impressed with the sonic quality of the violin. Upon hearing it initially I suspected the operatic quality of the vocals would clash with the stripped-back style of the instrumentation but the addition of the violin balances it out quite nicely, - in fact I'd like to hear a violin solo on one of their other tracks. Nonetheless the track continues its perennial thud until around the sixth minute mark where one is intrigued to hear march-style percussion upon layers of droning acoustics. Upon regaining its original pace and volume the track maintains its credibility as a doom song and ultimately an artistically decent release. -Jaime Regadas

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Full length: PESTILENCE Consuming Impulse (Reissue)

Consuming Impulse (Reissue)
Release date: October 13, 2017
More than thirty years after their inception in 1988, Holland’s Pestilence are being honored as having spawned the finest recordings of death metal’s formative years, according to Hammerheart Records. From their 1987 demos Dysentery and The Penance to Malleus Maleficarium their debut full length in 1988 to 1989’s Consuming Impulse) their inspiration from German and American thrash evolved into early death metal. Consistent, unrelenting touring helped to secure their status as innovators of the genre. This was when death metal was not yet mapped out completely, many chapters of its book had yet to be written and anything was possible as far as where it could be taken. On their sophomore release Pestilence carried the technical wizardry of Evil Chuck & Death to the next level, adding the heaviness of Sepultura and the immeasurable desolation of bands like Paradise Lost. Also, improving upon thrash metal’s diatribes of being mortally wounded and facing one’s impending decease, penning lyrics that were more descriptive and personalized. Perishing of thirst in the desert, choking to death under skies replete with pollution and having your body succumb to an unknown disease after a lengthy struggle and other themes were there to experience in graphic glory. Even the cover art suggested great mortal peril brewing inside, right to the horrified expression of a nameless someone being devoured alive by fire ants. At this point their thrash influences were still prominent in their songwriting, only more downtuned and more primal. Pestilence were furthermore one of the first bands to enhance their songs with occasional keyboards and contribute a horror element to the imagery cited above. In all these ways this disc is a classic and a must have for newer DM fans who were just recently introduced to it. Hammerheart is re-releasing Consuming Impulse with remastered production, a demo track for the 1989 release, and finally songs borrowed from live shows in 1988 and 1989 for all you veteran tape traders out there. The label has obviously taken pains to compile this reissue and give DM fans more for their hard earned money, so show your appreciation by giving the hits to the album’s Bandcamp link and picking up a copy. Hammerheart is offering the reissue on CD and various shades of vinyl via online ordering, in addition to shirts and other merchandise. -Dave Wolff

1. Dehydrated
2. The Process Of Suffocation
3. Suspended Animation
4. The Trauma
5. Chronic Infection
6. Out Of The Body
7. Echoes Of Death
8. Deify Thy Master
9. Proliferous Souls
10. Reduced To Ashes
11. City Of The Living Dead/Antropomorphia (Live Veghel 1989)
12. Parricide (Live Veghel 1989)
13. Echoes Of Death (Live Veghel 1989)
14. Subordinate To The Domination (Live Veghel 1989)
15. Commandments (Live Veghel 1989)
16. Out Of The Body (Live Veghel 1989)
17. Chemotherapy (Live Veghel 1989)
18. Cycle Of Existence (Live Veghel 1989)
19. Suspended Animation (Live Veghel 1989)
20. The Trauma (Live Veghel 1989)
21. Subordinate To The Domination (Live Bochum 1988)
22. Cycle Of Existence (Live Bochum 1988)
23. Extreme Unction (Live Bochum 1988)
24. Chemotherapy (Live Bochum 1988)
25. Bacterial Surgery (Live Bochum 1988)
26. Systematic Instruction (Live Bochum 1988)
27. Consuming Impulse (Demo)

Video Review: SUMMONER'S CIRCLE Become None

Become None
From their upcoming full-length Tome
Video shot and edited by Thomas Mortveit.
Produced by Yanic Bercier at Wavetransform Studios.
Starring: Summoner's Circle, Morgan Brooke McCarty, Summer Salmon, Larry Bainum, Charles Dyson, Travis Bainum, and Brant Chastain.
Doom-metal; a genre frequently criticized for its repetitiveness and over-reliance upon sludge-driven riffs has potentially managed to redeem itself in the wake of a ten minute concept video epic by SUMMONER'S CIRCLE. The song is titled 'Become None' and it is probably one of the most captivating metal songs I've heard in a while. If repetition is what gravitates one away from listening to doom-metal then I'd strong suggest reevaluating. This track is a whirlwind rollercoaster of ever-changing riffs, atmospheres, moods and time signatures. For the first two minutes the song is a brooding instrumental until bursting into cacophonous rage at the first utterance of words, meanwhile the video depicts a young woman in a library of sorts, enchanted by the presence of what appear to be Satanic-esque verses. Upon reading the book thoroughly she starts to get followed by Ghouls, some of whom are masked and some of whom are upholstered in elaborate theatre makeup. The chorus kicks in at the fourth minute and you hear the first real 'climax' of the piece. Guitar solos reign throughout the ordeal while swirling Hammond organs permeate the vanguard. The Ghouls depicted in the video begin to make more of a prominent statement with their presence as the music shifts to a 9/8 setting. Upon this daunting time signature you get the first real glance of daunting imagery as the protagonist begins to experience a level of demonic possession as she removes all the attire she's wearing and is then immediately gruesomely murdered by one of the Ghouls. The epic drama suite of keyboard-laden doom ends with a striking image of the young woman paralyzed in stagnation in funeral attire whilst in the presence of a dimly-lit chamber. -Jaime Regadas

Full Length Review: OSCULUM INFAME The Axis Of Blood

The Axis Of Blood
Release Date: May 22, 2015
Usually not my cup of tea but decided to try something new, after all, life is always great when trying new things musically speaking for me…
ApokalupVI: It is the intro of this interesting album. It’s honestly a great mood setting piece that flows smoothly from beginning to end.
Cognitive Perdition of the Insane: It’s a dark vocal style with some heavy drums and great guitar riff, while it’s not my style I do dig the instrumentation.
Kaoïst Serpentis: I disliked the high pitched sound for the start, but it was quickly fixed with the speed-drumming and the guitar riff those were both intense.
Honestly the break part, to call it somehow- was… a bit confusing although that might be because I’m not used to the genre. The fading from the break to the last part was cleverly designed.
My Angel: The guitar riff with the drumming is interesting, keeping the attention of the listener. The whole song kind of made me think of those good old boss battles with a dark touch. All in all it can be considered as an epic tune.
Absolve me not!: The intro is interesting, a bit psychedelic in my opinion and for some reason I thought of a nuclear wasteland when hearing it. Short and intense, would probably use it on a Fallout-esque movie.
Let there be darkness: A bit of a play with the guitar, wasn’t bad but wasn’t memorable either. It however, has a mysterious but energetic vibe; probably I’d use it for suspense… or for a chase, depends of context.
Inner Falling of the Glory of God: One of the memorable things of this track for me is the feeling of falling due to how the instrumentation was arranged other than that I must praise the drummer’s precision.
White Void: The melodic line over the guitar and drum was something that caught my ear, made me feel it was a Tim Burton movie, like those scenes where the villain tells the protagonist why they went to the dark side and so on, felt a bit nostalgic on this one and it’s what I could consider my favorite of this album.
Asphyxiated Light: I liked the guitar line; it wasn’t boring and felt dynamic. The vocals were a bit sad in my opinion; in general it’s a solid track.
I in the ocean of Worms: A very energetic opening with the drums and the guitar, felt it was a bit re-used but other than that it’s a good start. The track itself I don’t feel fully solid, felt some doubt on the guitar, as a guitarist myself, I can relate, sometimes we just aren’t “in the place” really, physically we are but our minds are elsewhere.
Solemn Faith: Loved this intro in particular, while it does stick to the drum/guitar combo it has an interesting touch on the riff, makes me think it could be used a theme for a character in a show; more specifically the bad ass guy that really isn’t the one you want to mess with. The track itself made me remember of snakes for some reason. It is the second and last favorite for this album. -Sophia Cynthia Cabral

Track List:
1. ApokalupVI
2. Cognitive Perdition of the Insane
3. Kaoïst Serpentis
4. My Angel
5. Absolve Me Not!
6. Let There Be Darkness
7. Inner Falling of the Glory of God
8. White Void
9. Asphyxiated Light
10. I in the Ocean of Worms
11. Solemn Faith

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Song Review: AXEMASTER Black Dungeons

Black Dungeons
Remastered track from Blessing In The Skies (And Other Cuts From The Chamber), released on Pure Steel Records October 6, 2017
Originally appearing of the 1991 demo 5 Demons (Imperative Is Their Demise)
Ohio, USA’s Axemaster returns with two offerings for autumn. Their new full length The Crawling Chaos is scheduled to come out late November, but advance copies are reportedly getting enthusiastic reviews. In the meantime you have Blessing In The Skies (And Other Cuts From The Chamber) to listen to. Having been active since 1983, Axemaster are survivors of the thrash movement that aboveground labels failed to notice. It’s a shame since many worthwhile bands emerged from that era including Whiplash, At War, Hirax and Blessed Death as well as this band. Thanks to social media and the business savvy to found independent labels of their own, those bands and others are still leaving impressions on extreme music. It’s an appropriate time for Axemaster to continue releasing their work for the new generation of thrashers, who have much to catch up on here. Their demo cut Black Dungeons was uploaded to Youtube late September to treat longtime fans. 5 Demons (Imperative Is Their Demise) may have been released five years after thrash and power metal’s underground peak, but the classic feel is forever represented and it’s commendable for the band to remember where they were musically after all those years of releasing singles, splits and full lengths. Axemaster make a point that their material has been refined and improved upon since the glory days of thrash and power metal. Still this is a fitting preview for the Halloween season and for new fans seeking a full history of the band from ’91 to today. From the Vincent Price/Hammer Horror-esque spoken word intro to the malevolent opening riffs to musicianship reminiscent of Nasty Savage and Armored Saint. This combination admittedly might be considered badly dated to some listeners, still you don’t have to be a record collector to appreciate a piece of the band’s history to see how far they’ve come through the 1990s and 2000s. The song is part of a conceptual tale the band devised for the demo, in which each song is about a demon who seeks to destroy society. I personally liked the song’s horrorific narrative, the mental pictures the lyrics called to mind and most of all how easily the musicianship took me back to the mid-80s. My sole complaint was that the guitar solos tended to sound slightly sloppy, but aside from that the playing is solid and most importantly honest. Black Dungeons and Blessing In The Skies is a decent tide over until The Crawling Chaos comes out next month. -Dave Wolff





https://youtu.be/p6WP3QnwjNo

Friday, October 13, 2017

Full Length Review: THE LONG LOSTS To night…

Independent
Release date: October 1, 2017
There is a new voice in punk and gothic music, thanks to this New York City based duo. The Long Losts were formed in 2012 by Anka and Patrick who compose songs inspired by their mutual devotion, the intrinsic grace and refinement of the season between summer and winter when nature prepares for slumber, and the one night when the barriers between worlds is at its most translucent. Their two full length releases Scary Songs To Play In The Dark and To night…, available for streaming at their Bandcamp profile, are statements that goth is more than wearing black, worshipping the devil and telling everyone to fuck off, as many superficially presume about the lifestyle. Much of the most picturesque, visionary, mournfully dramatic music I have heard came from goth culture (bands like Voltaire, Dead Can Dance, London After Midnight, Sisters Of Mercy) and anyone who has been part of it for a long time will tell you it has more to offer than you would expect. A theatrical ambience runs through their albums adding color and texture to their songwriting, making the songs feel like narratives. The Girl With The Haunted House Tattoo, To Be Like Lily (an ode to The Munsters) and I Love Him For His Horror Movies are fine examples from their debut. If you ever wondered how Blondie and Bauhaus would have sounded if they collaborated it may have sounded something like Scary Songs To Play In The Dark. There the duo evince commercial potential without trying to brighten their instrumentality. Three years between their debut and their latest effort To night… gave them more than sufficient time to increase their histrionics to directly involve the listener. This is perceptible in Big Dark Room, To____, Baby Fangs, Your Grave Eyes, Tonight and One Night At A Time. In those songs Anka and Patrick (joined by bassist Bret Calder and drummer Brian Shonen) are introducing you personally to the horror they capture on paper and the warmth to be found in mutual solitude. Their straightforward openness makes the visuals of cemeteries, haunted houses and monsters all the more tangible. The Blondie and Bauhaus influence is still present; you can add Sonic Youth and Diamanda Galas in some places. Anka in particular has been compared to Siouxsie but it sounds like she has been finding her own voice since the beginning. You might want to consider adding The Long Losts to your next Halloween mix as anything from either of their albums would work alongside songs by any other goth band. While you're at it check out their videos on Youtube. -Dave Wolff

Track list:
1. Big Dark Room
2. Shiny Objects
3. Fritz Throw the Switch
4. To____
5. Baby Fangs
6. Your Grave Eyes
7. Skeleton Thief
8. Tonight
9. Bishop's Grave
10. One Night At a Time


Lyric Video Review: ASPHODELIA Welcome Apocalypse

Welcome Apocalypse (official lyric video)
From their upcoming debut album "Welcome Apocalypse" (Metal Scrap Records)
Mixed and mastered at 16th Cellar Studio
Video and graphics by Dark Light Digital Arts
If 'cinematic metal' was an apt sub-genre then I really feel such a title rightly belongs to Italian group ASPHODELIA, whose distinctive brand of symphonic arrangements and stattaco-fueled guitar lines are becoming an essential factor to their blossoming sound. Their new video 'Welcome Apocalypse' is not far from extraordinary and the standards of artistic perfection. The song itself is good as it owes a lot to a catchy chorus, melodic verses and high displays of rhythmic intensity but the actual lyric video itself adds to the cerebral and emotional impact the track has to offer. With each accentuated snare / double bass hit the video begins to shake and quiver in unison, partially to add drama but also to demonstrate a point of just how epic the mood is supposed to be. The vocals are superb, the keys are always present yet not to the degree of ubiquity and the bass remains a consistent factor of continuity in itself. For fans of existing symphonic-inspired metal groups a la LACUNA COIL and EVANESCENCE this will definitely be of major interest. -Jaime Regadas

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Single Review: SKINNED We Are The End

We Are The End
First single from their upcoming full length Shadow Syndicate
Blasting, brutal death metal at its most outstanding, with an additional hint of black metal. The Colorado band has been pounding their way to infamy since 1995. As indicated by our first taste of their next studio effort, they endure as vehemently torturous as ever. I had just been watching Silence Of The Lambs and its sequel Hannibal; thus I was in the proper frame of mind to sample what the band is cooking up for the soon-to-be-released Shadow Syndicate. I wasn’t disappointed as We Are The End opened with accelerated hyper blast from Jonathan Valdez, who pushes the track with the abandon of Flo Mounier of Cryptopsy. I’ve invariably drawn that comparison to Cryptopsy since being stirred by None So Vile back in 1996 or ‘97. Valdez’s finesse at surmounting the quickest blast is unhindered by his time and diligence in the band. Observing his performance through the tempo changes, he dispenses impermeable transitions as guitarists Travis Weickum and Matt Ackerman and bassist Greg Keenan present clever guitar progressions that range from barbarous to dissonant and back again, then on to crunching and on to hypnotic. Not a trace of groove to be heard, just straightforward commanding aggression where it proves hard not to pay attention to the band’s expertise. The low-pitched death metal vocals and caustic black metal vocals are apt at complementing each other without fighting for attention; this reminded me of what I once heard about the lines between those two genres having thinned over the years. The lyrics aren’t as hard to make out as one might reckon. At three minutes and forty seconds it seemed a little too brief for me, but you could say it’s to be expected when you evaluate the endurance the entire band shoulder through the song. Updates on the release of We Are The End are at the official Skinless website. -Dave Wolff


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Film Review: Black Snake Moan by Sophia Cynthia Cabral

Drama
Date of release: December 9, 2006
Companies involved: Paramount Classics, New Deal Productions,Southern Cross the Dog Productions
Director: Craig Brewer
Produced by: Stephanie Allain as producer, Ron Schmidt as executive producer, John Singleton as producer
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Christina Ricci
Plot: An abused and broken girl found in the road beaten and battered almost dead by a God-fearing blues musician that will eventually cause their fates to intertwine, the journey; has begun.
Review: What happens when you mix empathy, blues and kindness? That’s right you get the reagents for a movie that is quite solid in my humble opinion. Good old Sam actually learned how to play guitar so you can see his grade of commitment. Sometimes, even the lost ones have redemption. Sometimes, even the broken ones have a bit of a fix. It’s just a matter of not giving up and a strong will. Sometimes, the little acts of kindness are just half the battle. Honestly I’d love to see a sequel telling us what happens with the happy couple or prequel to this story, where we can see Lazarus’ past. It’s one of those movies where the acting, the script and the music is quite solid from the start; also I’d say this is one of my all-time favorites. -Sophia Cynthia Cabral

Full Length Review: CEPHEIDE Saudade

Saudade
Independent
Release Date: October 4, 2017
I kind of liked the fact the band has very curious name. What is my favorite track? I’d have to say “Madone”; it has that mix of mystery, melody and rhythm that tells a story. My second favorite, I’d say is “Le cinquième Soleil” since it has that atmosphere of melancholy and darkness in my ears and finally third and last, “Auréole” for the mood setting guitar intro. One interesting thing about this band is that they recorded, mixed and did the art for the album nowadays I haven’t seen many do that really, must just pay a sound engineer and drawing artist to just focus on recording which personally speaking is a bit of a “it’s my baby but I’m letting someone else raise it” to an extent. The most memorable thing about this record in general I’d say the guitar/drum combo, if felt complemented quite interestingly. The only thing I didn’t liked about the album is the vocals; honestly I had issues hearing them and most of the time it felt like just random coyote howling to say it somehow. -Sophia Cynthia Cabral

Track List:
1. Une nuit qui te Mange
2. Madone
3. La lutte et l’Harmonie
4. Le cinquième Soleil
5. Auréole

Single Review: FS PROJEKT Kredo Tvoyo (Thy Creed)

FS PROJEKT
Kredo Tvoyo (Thy Creed)
Independent
FS Projekt was birthed in 2011 by Efes a Russia-based poet, musician, composer and producer who christened his brainchild “fantasy metal.” This solo project is an example of how categorizations only go so far to describe a musician’s work. Handling the music, lyrics, arrangements, production, vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards and castanets, Efes put his new single together with a handful of vocalists and musicians who recorded their parts in various studios, assimilated them into the track and managed to make it work. Kredo Tvoyo is an argument of how flexible and broad minded prog/symphonic metal is still capable of being tantamount to. Samples and percussion instruments added to the instruments Efes recorded Kredo Tvoyo with may be the next step in expanding underground metal’s range, depending on how widespread the promotion and how receptive his audience is. His Youtube channel has been uploading promotional videos since 2013; if you’re inclined you can sample as many as you want and decide how groundbreaking the songs are. In the end it depends on your tastes but still it’s difficult to place this track into any single category. Kredo Tvoyo was released in January 2017 and was based on the computer video game Assassins Creed. While this is the first I’ve heard of a song based on a video game, after listening to Nintendocore I’d say anything is possible. Another major difference between FS Projekt and most progressive/symphonic metal bands is the lyrics are penned in Russian. Writing lyrics in languages other than English isn’t something that hasn’t been done before if you’re familiar with underground scenes in Europe, Asia and South America, but doing so on this track contributes greatly to FS Projekt’s unconventional innovation. Efes trades lead vocals with guest vocalist Anna Mishina and their partnership is an integral part of the big picture. The keyboards and strings introducing the song (by Efes and Oleg Mishin), the sample processing of Mikhail Trubetskov, the abrupt, consistent change in atmosphere, divergent keyboards and Latin instruments of Rodrigo Abelha form a monumental narrative if you’re attentive to the statement being made. Paweł Jaroszewicz directs the song through each tempo change which is good as a solid drummer is needed to hold everything together. You should make a point of checking FS Projekt out at least once. -Dave Wolff

Article: Hey Ho, Let’s Go by Alison Stone

Hey Ho, Let’s Go
By Alison Stone, October 9, 2017
 One critic said that British punks sang anger, Americans, pain. But punk was more than emotion, more than the sense of humor the Ramones brought to the mix, more than the adrenaline rush of a live show, more than the aura of sex around everything. Watching Riff Randell blow up Vince Lombardi High in Rock ‘N Roll High School, I felt that freedom was possible. Though classmates bullied me for my music, taunts of Your hair’s blue changing to Your hair’s green as my Krazy Kolor faded, and though I dutifully regurgitated teachers’ beliefs–Rochester’s blindness made him and Jane equal–bands like the Ramones offered a different paradigm–that we could make our own meaning, equal to anyone, buoyed by song. Reader, I married them.
Shivering in a tiger mini and torn shirt I’d fabric markered with the cartoons from Rocket to Russia, I clutched my fake ID, breath held until the bouncers let me in. One two three four! No costumes, no audience banter. Just the Ramones and their music, the energy of the crowd joining the energy of the songs, magnifying it and sending it back and forth between audience and band. Dee Dee handing out guitar picks, which I later poked holes in and wore as earrings. Joey’s arm extended like a preacher’s.
I saw the Ramones whenever they came to town. My system for getting to the front — turn slightly, put a shoulder forward, step, turn, repeat – worked every time. Pressed against the stage, I was part of the experience rather than mere spectator. I left sweaty, satisfied, and spent.
Since blowing up my school wasn’t an option, I skipped senior year and headed for college. Brandeis had a rep as radical, but my classmates dressed conventionally and listened to popular rock. My school life and club life were separate worlds.
When the ballots for campus concert came out, one of the choices was the Ramones, with ex-Doll David Johansen as opening act. My sole punk Brandeis friend and I campaigned. We knocked on doors. Called in favors. We begged and cajoled, extolling the Ramones’ praises until our victims agreed to vote for them just to get us to leave. Still, numerous students would have to choose the Ramones on their own. Only two years ago I’d been ridiculed, but people were catching on. The Ramones/Johansen ticket won. I joined the Hospitality Committee to meet them. Quiet and slouched, barely interacting with each other, the Ramones ate pizza in a conference room. Joey ambled over, stuck out his hand. I’m Joey. (As if I didn’t know.) This was my chance, but for what? Not a groupie, not a peer, not wanting him in bed, not knowing what to say, I managed only, Would you like another slice?
The gym was packed, a crowd far larger than at local clubs. As the first chords blasted, the non-event of meeting them receded. What mattered was the Ramones and me in the dark, the music loud and necessary. And the band played like they’d never stop.
This article can also be read at First Of The Month. -DW