Castle of the Living Halloween Horror Fest

Castle of the Living Dead (1964)

In the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, the land is beset by unrest and criminality. A travelling circus group are invited to the castle of Count Drago (Christopher Lee) to perform there for him. They encounter bad omens on their way, and find that the Count himself has some unusual – and deadly – hobbies.

And that’s about it, really. I watched this film to add yet another Christopher Lee performance to my stockpile – as always, he’s reliably sinister and is the best thing about Castle of the Living Dead. Donald Sutherland, in an early career role, also does a very fine job.

The film looks good in black and white, which adds a great deal to the creepy atmosphere. It’s not a fantastic film, but has enough quirky merit to be worth a watch.

7/10

The Addams Family (2019)

Regular readers will know that I try to cover some family friendly frights during Halloween Horror Fest. This most recent Addams Family outing – and animated portrayal with some great voice talent – provided some ghoulishly great entertainment for our household.

The animation is vibrant and totally appropriate for this creepy bunch, and Charlize Theron (as Morticia), Oscar Isaac (Gomez) and Chloe Grace Moretz (Wednesday) – along with the rest of the cast – gleefully get stuck into the characters.

Wednesday Addams seems a little underused here, but the whole “be yourself, be different” message of the film is well placed and much appreciated. Far better than I was expecting, this version of The Addams Family was a spooky and kooky delight.

8/10

Witchfinder Halloween Horror Fest

Witchfinder General (1968)

The ever reliable Vincent Price, one of the greats of horror, stars in this late sixties classic movie. Price plays Matthew Hopkins, a Witch Finder, at the time of the English Civil War. In reality, Hopkins is using his position for his own sadistic pleasure and monetary gain, whilst the country is in turmoil and the people are blinded by fear and prejudice.

Richard Marshall (Ian Ogilvy), a young Roundhead soldier, swears to avenge the crimes committed against his fiancée and her uncle, who is tortured and killed by Hopkins. We follow Marshall on his quest, against the backdrop of historical events. Will he be able to rescue his fiancée and end Hopkins’ reign of terror?

Great performances in this film, particularly from Price, make Witchfinder General worth seeing. Despite seeming more like a historical drama than horror film a good deal of the time, it’s still a fairly bewitching (!) folk horror.

7.5/10

Byzantium (2012)

Directed by Neil Jordan, who has also helmed The Company of Wolves and Interview with the Vampire, Byzantium is a modern take on the vampire myth.

Set in a crumbling English seaside town, we follow the fortunes of Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) and her mother, Clara (Gemma Arterton). Both are actually two hundred year old vampires, in hiding from a vampire group called the Brethren, who want them eradicated. Whilst Clara sets up a makeshift brothel in the rundown Byzantium hotel, Eleanor attends a local college. Tired of hiding, Eleanor befriends local boy Frank (Caleb Landry Jones), and her tale starts to unravel…

Whilst this film takes some dramatic departures from traditional vampire lore (such as how they come to be, amongst others), Byzantium is such a novel and well told tale that it doesn’t matter. Following Clara and Eleanor as the lead protagonists allows the audience a unique point of view; regardless of the inevitable bloody horror, we can’t help but be dragged along.

Byzantium is definitely recommended; it’s a thrilling tale and looks superb. And I’m not just talking about Gemma Arterton, who is, quite simply, absolutely gorgeous…

8.5/10

Halloween Horror Fest: Double Tap

Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)

Has it really been over ten years since Zombieland? Indeed it has, and in this long awaited sequel, we re-join the four main characters from that original movie for – well, pretty much the same as last time, really.

Our four post apocalyptic survivors – Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) – have settled in at a disused White House, where there’s a sense of stability and the humdrum, despite the zombie hordes. When the group become separated, we’re back on familiar ground as they attempt to reunite.

There are plenty of new ideas and fun gimmicks in the movie, despite much of the premise being somewhat obvious. A love triangle with bimbo mall chick Madison, some strangely familiar new characters and a bunch of pacifist hippies help add some fun and, yes, jeopardy to the proceedings.

Not as good as the first film, obvs – and featuring a pretty dumb monster truck stunt sequence near the climax – but still hugely entertaining. Definitely worth a watch. And spicing up a cast gifted with the stunning Emma Stone by adding the incomparably beautiful Rosario Dawson is a joy to behold.

I LOVE YOU, ROSARIO!

8/10

Halloween Horror Fest 2020

Good evening, guys and ghouls! Enter, my friends, sit down near the fire and warm yourselves from the cold outside. It’s dark, and many strange things are afoot this night. Listen closely, and I will tell you of them…

Yes, it’s October – and time for another Halloween Horror Fest! Many of you may be feeling that 2020 has been horrible enough, but I’m going to press on anyway. Regular readers will remember that every October, I try to watch a load of spooky or creepy films. Not all of the films may be true horror, but there will always be an element of the bizarre or supernatural that will make them appropriate for this time of year.

Here we go with the first Horror Fest movie of the year…

Dracula (1958)

What could be better than starting the proceedings with a Hammer classic? Titled Horror of Dracula in the US to differentiate this film from the 1931 Universal version, Hammer films followed up the success of The Curse of Frankenstein with another venture into Gothic horror.

Sadly, the plot of this film veers away from the original novel a great deal, something that always bothered me from first viewing many years ago. I guess the viewer just has to accept that this isn’t a faithful rendering of Bram Stoker’s tale, rather a condensed and re-engineered take on the story.

We still begin with Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen), arriving at Castle Dracula, where he is to take up employment as the Count’s librarian. In reality, Harker is there to destroy Dracula (a superb Christopher Lee) and end the counts reign of vampiric terror. Sadly this is not to be, and Harker meets his end at the fangs of the vampire count. Shortly thereafter, Harker’s vampire hunting colleague Dr Van Helsing (Peter Cushing – also excellent) is on the trail, and realises that Dracula is on his way to Harker’s home town, to enact revenge and turn the heroes friends and relatives into the undead.

Despite changing the story and confusing characters from the book, this film becomes a hugely enjoyable accomplishment. The sets are superb, James Bernard’s score is iconic and Director Terence Fisher masterfully keeps the suspense and action mounting. Although the gore and erotic undertone were restrained by the censor (something Hammer would deliver more of in the future), it’s a lush colour production that is simply gorgeous to watch.

Michael Gough as Arthur Holmwood, and Melissa Stribling as Mina Holmwood, provide great performances, as do all the cast. But Cushing and Lee elevate the film to mythic status – Lee in particular becoming the embodiment of Dracula with a power and menace that makes his role unforgettable.

Hammer’s Dracula may not be definitive, if you’re a fan of the source novel, but it’s bloody good entertainment.

8/10

Firewind Album Review

Firewind – Firewind

AFM Records

Release date: 15/05/2020

Running time: 48 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

7.5/10

 

We all make mistakes.  Some of us blunder all the time, and the consequence of those slip-ups can be catastrophic.  And some of us don’t like to admit when we’re wrong.

Confession time: I volunteered to review this Firewind album because I got them mixed up with another band with “fire” in the name (or possibly a couple).  I was slightly mortified when I realised that this band weren’t what I was expecting: none of the sludgy comfort blanket that I usually wrap my ears in.

Firewind are – Zeus help me – a melodic, power metal band.  Not a corner of metal that I’m particularly well versed in, or a fan of.  I fucking hate Helloween, for a start.  And Queensryche.  And fucking Europe.  This was going to be a challenge.

Yet your old pal Al is nothing if not a trooper.  They’re (partially) Greek, which intrigued me being a huge fan of the country.  I plunged into this assignment with an open mind – and do you know what?  This isn’t bad at all.  In fact, I quite enjoyed it.

Opening track “Welcome to the Empire” begins with some fine acoustic guitar before erupting into a big, bombastic rock monster.  It is, like most of the album, totally over the top – but also loads of fist pumping fun.  This ain’t pop music.  It’s fast and powerful (see “Devour”), and while not quite as brutal as my usual preferences, packs a mighty whallop.

The musicianship is exemplary.  Guitar genius Gus G has plenty of flair, but can throw out some crushing, crunchy riffs when required: “Rising Fire” and “Space Cowboy” being a two great examples.  Fast, flashy solos ain’t my scene, but there’s plenty of chugging metal to keep me interested.

The rhythm section – Petros Christo (bass) and Jo Nunez (drums) go beyond textbook and play excellently throughout the album.  Give “Orbitual Sunrise” and “Overdrive” a go for evidence.

Vocals provided by new singer Herbie Langhans are dramatic, in a typically Teutonic fashion.  This guy is straight out of a Wagnerian epic; despite being somewhat more operatic than I’m used to, he can certainly belt it out.  On every single song.

Sorry to disappoint any readers who thought they might actually read a less than positive review from yours truly.  Firewind isn’t my usual cup of absinthe with opium chaser, but I found it very easy to appreciate.  This album is well played, well written, well produced and delivered with some love and pride – all of which manages to steer this album away from trite cliche.

Metal wearing its heart on its sleeve and with a refreshing honesty, I just couldn’t bring myself to hate Firewind.   If I can dig it, then fans of this genre will love it.

Read more like this review on the Ever Metal website.

Find out more about Firewind on their official website, Facebook and YouTube.

And you can visit AFM records here.

Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #18

 

Join me once again, relaxing in the waters of the Virtual Hot Tub, for Singles Night.  No,  this is not a dating event: rather, it’s just me, spinning a stack of – as yet – unplayed 7 inch vinyl.  Combined with reasonably heavy drinking.

You see, there’s a load of 45 rpm records that I own and need to play.  So I play ’em, one after the other, side a then B.  No skipping discs allowed.

Here’s the playlist from the latest evening of tunes:

  1. Hawkwind – “Silver Machine” / “Seven By Seven”
  2. Diana Ross – “My Old Piano” / “Where Did We Go Wrong”
  3. Slade – “My Friend Stan” / “My Town”
  4. Paul Paray & Detroit Symphony Orchestra – ” The Ride of the Valkyries” / “Lohengrin (Prelude to Act I)”
  5. Barry White – “Never, Never Gonna Give You Up” / “Standing in the Shadows of Love”
  6. Tracey Ullman – “Breakaway” / “Dancing in the Dark”
  7. Toto Coelo – “I Eat Cannibals Part 1” / “I Eat Cannibals Part 2”
  8. Carly Simon – “You’re So Vain” / “Anticipation”
  9. The Beach Boys – “Lady Lynda” / “Full Sail”
  10. The Cars – “Drive” / “Stranger Eyes”
  11. Duran Duran – “My Own Way” / “Like an Angel”
  12. Sinitta – “So Macho!” / “Cruising”
  13. Daryl Hall & John Oates – “Private Eyes” / “Tell Me What You Want”
  14. Cockney Rebel – “Mr Soft” / “Such a Dream”
  15. Paul Hardcastle – “The Wizard (Part 1)” / “The Wizard (Part 2)”
  16. Roxy Music – “Dance Away” / “Cry Cry Cry”
  17. Robert Palmer – “Some Guys Have All the Luck” / “Too Good to be True”
  18. Emerson Lake & Palmer – “Fanfare for the Common Man” / “Brain Salad Surgery”
  19. Bangles – “Eternal Flame” / “What I Meant to Say”
  20. Kim Wilde & Junior – “Another Step (Closer to You)” / “Hold Back”
  21. Mud – “Tiger Feet” / “Mr Bagatelle”
  22. Status Quo – “Something ‘Bout You Baby I Like” / “Enough is Enough”
  23. Sister Sledge – “Lost in Music” / “Thinking of You”
  24. Sarah Brightman & Hot Gossip – “I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper” / “Do, Do, Do”

BOOM!  There you go – a right random collection of singles, varying from the classic to the down right cheesy.  Kicking off with the amazing Hawkwind track “Silver Machine”, as sung by my old mate Lemmy – I picked that up at a record fair ‘cos I had to have it in my collection.

I loved The Cars and Roxy songs, sheer class.  Plus you’ve got a harem of some of my favourite pop ladies with Kim Wilde, Susanna Hoffs and Sinitta all present and correct.  By the way, the Sarah Brightman song was a favourite of mine when I was 5 years old, thanks to the rip-off Star Wars noises etc!

And what can I say about “Ride of the Valkyries” on 7 inch vinyl?  Only “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

See you soon for another Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub!

1980s Skateboard Style

We’re going back in time in this week’s edition of STYLE.  My never ending odyssey to explore the secrets of STYLE journeys to a fabled corner of my wardrobe.  We may not reach Narnia, but we do arrive somewhere very special indeed…

Gateway supermarket car park, 1989.  Yes, you wanted it – nay, DEMANDED it – and so have I provideth: Skateboard STYLE, circa late 80s.

Amazingly, some late 80’s skate merch still resides in my possession.  The pinnacle of awesomeness in this collection are my original Powell Peralta sweatpants.  Originally purchased from Split Skates in Manchester, by some miracle I can still (just about) get in them.

You see here the Rat Bones design, with rodent skeletons crawling up the side of each leg.  Oh, how I coveted these pants for months before I owned a pair: they cost a bloody fortune, but eventually Mum relented and I got a pair for my birthday.  They got some heavy use back in the day; amazingly they still exist (but in a pretty tatty state up close).

Another relic from the past is my Santa Cruz hooded top, again a purchase from Split Skates (on a different trip).  This dates from the days when hoodies were a fresh sight on UK streets and were yet to be adopted by chav scrotes.  Hoodies are an essential part of any gentleman’s wardrobe, regardless of unsavoury stereotypes.  I love this SC dark blue number.

In these photos, I’m wearing a Santa Cruz Road Rider wheels t-shirt.  In the late 80’s, I actually only owned two skate t-shirts: a bright yellow Thrasher Pus-zone T and a red Vision Street Wear one with a manhole graphic.  Both are long gone now.

On my feet are a pair of hi-top Vans, which despite being stylistically accurate are actually a more recent acquisition.  I could never afford Vans when I was a kid, I had one pair of red Converse and then had cheap Chuck knock-offs for years (‘cos I’d shred ’em in a month).

But God bless Vans, a deeper look into their wonder will no doubt grace a future edition of STYLE.

The look is completed by a Vans trucker cap (again, a newer rehash of 80’s style); a Casio digital watch and a Quiksilver hip-bag.  The hip-bag was absolutely necessary as the sweatpants had no pockets (probably would’ve pushed the price up even more).  I had a Hot Tuna one back in the day.

As I recall, skaters in the late 80’s pioneered a few fashion items ahead of them becoming part of the mainstream.  As well as hooded sweatshirts and hi-top trainers we wore knee length shorts (thus dragging the human race away from budgie-smuggler short shorts).  Hip bags became “bum bags” and were fashionable for 5 minutes with everyone, before everyone decided to dump ’em (bring them back!).

As a result, my adoption of skate STYLE did little to reduce the ridicule received from my peers that I had suffered previously.  But I didn’t care ‘cos I was a skater and outside of their world by choice.  Plus, I always had the last laugh when six months later, they were all wearing Converse, knee length shorts and surf wear.

Sometimes we stumble upon STYLE.  Sometimes STYLE just happens along when we least expect it, enraptured by something else.  We just need to roll with it and remember that fortune favours the brave.

NOTE: Yes, I look a bit chubby in these pics – but how many clothes from 30 years ago can you still fit in?!

You can read about the Santa Cruz Street Creep shown here on this blog.

Clothes model’s own.

Brown Acid: the Tenth Trip – Album Review

Various Artists – Brown Acid: The Tenth Trip

Riding Easy Records

Release date: 20/04/2020 (?)

Running time: 33 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

 

Between me and you, I’ve been wondering when this series of proto metal/heavy psyche long-lost artifacts would start to go off the boil.  This is the tenth instalment now, and any listener could be forgiven for thinking that maybe, the well might run dry.  That the party is over, the acid has worn off, and the hippies have traded in their kaftans for the last time.  I mean, how much of these rare, forgotten nuggets can there be left, for the rock’n’roll gravediggers at Riding Easy Records to exhume?

Well pardon me for being a fanboy, but the Brown Acid trip is far from over.   In fact, this could be my favourite volume so far.

Yes, it’s more of the same: fuzzy, psychedelic late 60s/early 70s heavy rock; somehow cast aside for around fifty years, waiting to be rediscovered.  Gems that pre-date and redefine the genealogical development of metal and hard rock; throwing the long-standing theories of origin into dispute like some musical Antikythera mechanism.  But this time, if anything, the tunes are better than ever.

Here we have Sounds Synonymous with “Tensions”, a fuzz-rock monster with a “Wild Thing” feel and washes of freaky organ not a million miles removed from Steppenwolf.  Witness also the wonder of “Never Again” from Ralph Williams and the Wright Brothers, melding melodic vocals with an “American Woman” style desert rock vibe.   “Babylon” by Conception rolls with some funky, Hendrix-like riffs and a great pop sensibility, not to mention a fabulous bluesy instrumental section.

Bitter Creek deliver “Plastic Thunder”, which has a Who meets Stooges aggressive sound.  On “Mr. Sun”, First State Bank (rad name!) provide a Mountain-covering-the-Kinks lesson in far-out groovery.  Then there’s Brothers and One with the saucily titled “Hard On Me”, which has a little Hawkwind on a road to Maiden’s “Running Free”.

Probably the best track is “The Roach”, by The Brood (another quality name).  It’s a MC5/Sabbath garage rocker with apocalyptic horns and keys, heralding the end of peace and love and the arrival of the age of doom.

Freaky, fuzzy and far-out: that’s the latest edition of Brown Acid.  If you’re late to the party, jump on the magic bus right now and let your hair down.  Signs are this festival is gonna run and run.

 

Here’s a link to the Riding Easy Records website and their Bandcamp.

You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

This article first appeared as a review on Ever Metal.  Please use the electronic super highway to pay them a visit via this link.

Weed Demon – Crater Maker Album Review

Weed Demon – Crater Maker

Electric Valley Records

Release date: 03/04/2020

Running time: 46 minutes

Review by: 9/10

 

“Crater Maker”, by Columbus Ohio rascals Weed Demon, begins with the warm and welcoming hiss and crackle of vinyl.  Then we’re into the first track “Atmospheric Drag”, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’re in the wrong section of the record shop.  It’s a dark, folky country number that sounds like you’ve just stumbled into a saloon in a God forsaken Western town.  I was taken by surprise, but this song is both awesome and a fitting introduction to an album that isn’t afraid to wander off the obvious path.

When track two, “Birthquake” lumbers in, we’re in familiar doomy Sabbath territory.  It’s a stark contrast to the opening song, but brilliant as that was, this is what we came for.  Big, dirty riffage that’s slow yet powerful, the result is an instrumental song that relies purely on dynamics to excite and uplift.  This is bloody great stuff.

The next track, “Serpent Merchant”, is even heavier and more relentless – with growling vocals making a demonic appearance.  It all descends into a masterful, psychedelic break before the pummelling returns.  The album’s title track delivers a groove laden sludge, which again dissolves into a mellow passage at pretty much exactly the halfway mark.  Gradually becoming fuzzier, this soon explodes into a frenzied, aggressive section.

The remaining tracks offer more crunching guitars, thudding bass, booming vocals and pounding rhythms, always concentrating on the all-important doom riff.  Final track “Sporelord” wanders through several segments, before briefly fading away and returning with a quirky reggae style outro.

With four of the six songs here over the 8 minute mark, there’s a lot to explore and digest with “Crater Maker”.  Weed Demon have created a dense album that I enjoyed from the first listen and I’m still returning to weeks later.  Meandering into psychedelic space rock, groovy doom, country and ear-splitting sludge ensures “Crater Maker” is a complex release that’s worth hearing.

All this talk of weeds reminds me of a funny little escapade with my old mate Keith Moon.  Moony lived next door to his big pal Ollie Reed, who asked the loony drummer to keep an eye on his mansion while he was in Europe, filming some naff horror/arthouse nonsense.  Moon had a party, got totally blitzed and remembered at about 4am that he hadn’t mowed Ollie’s lawn for him.  Well, you can imagine the laughs we had, as Keith tried to start the ride-on petrol mower in the dark.  Without going into too much detail, a split fuel pipe and a discarded cigarette resulted in most of Reed’s garden looking like it had been napalmed.

Ollie wasn’t best pleased when he returned to see the unholy mess Keith had left him with.  But Moon just blamed Ringo Starr, who made a quick exit when drunken Ollie brought out his shotgun.  Ringo had the last laugh though, by marrying the most beautiful woman in the world.  Jammy git.

Weed Demon are on Facebook and Bandcamp, plus find them on Instagram here.

Check out Electric Valley Records here.

And go have a gander at Ever Metal, tell ’em Platinum Al sent you.

Son of Boar – Stoned Wail Single Review

Son of Boar – Stoned Wail

Self-released

Release date: 26/06/2020

Running time: 18 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

9/10

 

Singles don’t often get reviewed here at Ever Metal, purely because there’s so damn many of them.  They just can’t compete with the album reviews.  But rules are made to be broken, and this release from Son of Boar demanded some attention.  Having witnessed the live onslaught of this band at Pentre Fest earlier this year, Son of Boar have risen on to my personal favourites list, and I’m damn near rabid for any new material.

Waves crash as a mesmeric bass begins to chime, creating a deceptively ambient vibe.  Guitars and drums warm the sound as the band slowly build momentum.  They’re in no rush, but when the main riff kicks in, it’s worth the wait.  Luke’s vocals roar and the song rises like a leviathan from the depths.  “Stoned Wail” is 9 minutes of powerful, groove laden doom rhythms: thundering bass, churning guitars and crashing drums.  This fisherman’s tale is indeed a whopper of humungous  proportions.

With two additional live tracks (“Outlet” and the boogie influenced “The Weekend”), this is a great introductory package to a band destined for big things.  “Stoned Wail” is taken from the forthcoming debut album, which, to be honest, I’m shitting my shoes off in anticipation for.  TUSKS UP!

Get yerself on over to witness Son of Boar at Bandcamp and Facebook, or maybe YouTube if you fancy it.

Twitter and Instagram are: @son_of_boar