Review: Ghost Bath – Moonlover


Gimmicks don’t always work out as intended. When I heard that Ghost Bath were not, as they once claimed, Chinamen from Chongqing Municipality, but rather well-mustached American hipsters, I believe my first question was “who?” But if this band’s efforts to fool fans before they actually had any comes off a bit less clever than stupid, my negative points end there. Moonlover is a pretty interesting work from its cover all the way to the closing track. Hailing from the far more obscure and frostbitten wasteland of North Dakota, Ghost Bath have forged a really solid sophomore LP that should stand among the better metal albums we hear this year.

Track: “Golden Number

After a brief, haunting intro track that definitely lends credence to their name, Moonlover makes an awkward but forgivable transition into a really uplifting number that has everyone on the internet comparing them to Deafheaven. With one of those explosions of emotional, half-heartbroken half-triumphant post-black metal glory that sounds more familiar every year, followed by a kind of punk lick underlined by passionate, poppy drumming straight off Amesoeurs’ Ruines Humaines and unearthly vocal shrieks, “Golden Number” is certainly in line with the trend of the day. It kind of feels like someone drug Woods of Desolation out of their basement and shoved them into a top-notch recording studio, and yes, the comparisons to Sunbather have their merit too. But if Ghost Bath are not necessarily pioneers, they are definitely refining the machine.

Much like post-rock, where you had a whole bunch of totally distinct bands making waves while everyone else ripped off Mono–and we could hardly complain about that–post-black metal is definitely developing a “standard” sound. “Golden Number” is that sound to a T, and I absolutely love the clarity with which Ghost Bath pull it off. This is a genre born of static noise. It was the realization that you could invoke a lot of emotion by hiding something pretty in an aural cesspool that really kicked off the scene, and even Deafheaven’s “Dream House”, for all its ability to swoon foreign audiences, was really heavily distorted. The noise carried the passion, but it was also limiting. Moonlover is a surprisingly clean album, and because of it the band can do subtle things that I don’t often hear. The tremolo at the beginning of “Golden Number”, for instance, is complemented by a second, barely audible guitar that’s tapping instead of picking. Maybe post-bm has gone that route before, but if so I never noticed it. The clarity on this song, at least relative to its genre, allows me to detect these things, and the end product feels so much more full of life for it.

“Ghost Number” ends with two minutes of piano, and “Happyhouse” picks the metal back up with a totally different feel from the song before it. Three minutes of melancholy plodding lead into a fresh vision of that ghostly guitar we heard in the intro track, and Dennis Mikula treats us to more of his otherworldly screams. Amesoeurs again comes to mind, and I have to believe Neige was an inspiration on this band in more ways than one, but to me Mikula’s vocals sound most reminiscent of Ygg, a short-lived but brilliant Ukrainian trio featuring former members of Nokturnal Mortum and Helg from Khors. “Happyhouse” erupts into black metal for only a passing burst of intensity before returning to its moody plod. Post-rock guitar ultimately defines the song’s direction, while Mikula’s outstanding vocal performance brings the depth. “Happyhouse” could be a cookie-cutter bore, but the band’s keen execution and knack for making their short repeated phrases consistently catchy turns it into something I can really embrace.

10 minutes go by before you hear another ounce of metal, but I would hardly call it a wait. “Beneath the Shade Tree” and “The Silver Flower pt. 1” are both dreamy guitar-driven visions of forests and streams, feeling perhaps a cross between Agalloch and Alcest. The nature effects on the latter track especially brought to mind the intro and outro to Alcest’s “Le Secret”, though I’m sure you could name a dozen other bands that might have played an influential hand here. The origins are quite irrelevant; these two songs only beg identification because they are so vivid and beautiful. The sound is ultimately the band’s own.

Track: “The Silver Flower pt. 2

When Moonlover‘s heavier half does return, it feels infused with the spirit of the instrumental tracks before it. “The Silver Flower pt. 2” floats along with no edge to speak of beyond the first minute, drifting on the dream that came before. If it weren’t for Mikula’s persistently tormented vocals–a bit out of place now, I must admit–it could pass as a moody but up-tempo rock song. The style feels strikingly familiar, yet I can’t put a finger on it. It’s sort of equivalent to how Katatonia were playing around with the metal sounds of their day in the late 90s, and it calls the whole “black metal” label for this band into question. Moonlover incorporates so much more, riding a dozen different stylistic approaches to take us on a journey. We started out with a burst of passion–a sense of fulfillment and life–on “Golden Number”, then road down a path into depression with “Happyhouse”. The commune with nature in “Beneath the Shade Tree” and “The Silver Flower pt. 1” revitalizes, moving the album from positive and negative extremes to an even-keel, smooth ride on “The Silver Flower pt. 2”. The final track, “Death and the Maiden”, sort of brings us around in a circle. The equilibrium of “pt. 2” picks up its pace here, growing in excitement until the return of a black metal sound breaks it. We’re back to highs and lows, and we end on the latter. The album trickles out in a dark depressing grind back into the haunting sounds of the introduction, and that opening melody repeats, now made even more ghostly through a synth whistling tone.

I like it. Moonlover feels like a complete package, flushing out a musical narrative that consistently develops from track to track. It might not match up precisely to the picture it painted in my mind, but a progression is definitely there. Ghost Bath refuse to restrict themselves to one genre, incorporating a wide array of styles into a really coherent whole. The drums are tight, the guitarists can pull off some neat noodling but know when to keep it simple, and the album is book-ended by its two best tracks. I don’t think it would have hurt Dennis Mikula to chill out on the screaming for a bit on “The Silver Flower pt. 2”, but over all I love his vocals. There’s not much I can complain about. And since I want to start making a point to link where you can purchase the albums I ramble about: go adopt a moon on Bandcamp.

What a Lovely Day To Be Mad Max: Fury Road


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We have the first official trailer (not teaser which the others last year had been) for the upcoming vehicular masterpiece mayhem from the mind of George Miller. It’s been a couple of decades since Miller played in the post-apocalyptic world of one Max Rockatansky.

A special teaser trailer was released during last year’s Comic-Con in San Diego and it was universally-hailed as mind-blowing and melt-your-face in it’s awesomeness.

Today we get the first official trailer and, most likely, the only one since the film is nearing it’s release date. So, watch and try not to melt your face as you stare into the mayhem before you.

Mad Max: Fury Road is set for a May 15, 2015 release date.

Song of the Day: Since I’ve Been Loving You (by Led Zeppelin)


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To say that I’m a huge fan of Led Zeppelin would be an understatement. They’re the band that combines both my love for hard rock and, ultimately, an even bigger love for that most American of musical style, the blues.

Led Zeppelin have always been rooted in their blues foundation. They’ve been an integral part of the British rock invasion to the US that was steeped heavily in blues rock. With classic blues heavily influencing their sound, Led Zeppelin would take the US by storm starting in 1968 and would continue to do so until the band’s dissolution in 1980 soon after John Bonham’s untimely death.

It’s a song from their third album that, for me, epitomizes Led Zeppelin’s early days. These were the years when they reigned as the blues rock kings of the rock world. They would later experiment and try new sounds with their later albums as the band began to branch out into new, diversified musical styles. Yet, for me, the band will always be that blues rock band from London, England who were the first supergroup.

“Since I’ve Been Loving You” is straight up blues and Robert Plant sings it with such emotional intensity that anyone hearing the song for the first time could easily mistake him and the band as one of the classic American blues bands. The song also makes the latest “Song of the Day” not just because it’s one of my favorites but also because of Jimmy Page once again demonstrating why he’s one of the best rock guitarists.

It’s not often a song starts off with a guitar solo, but this one does and Page does so in a slow, blues tempo that would segue into Robert Plant’s vocals. The second guitar solo arrives after the song’s second verse and would have a more blues rock sound to it, but no less impressive.

Since I’ve Been Loving You

(guitar solo)

Working from seven to eleven every night,
It really makes life a drag, I don’t think that’s right.
I’ve really been the best, the best of fools, I did what I could. (Yeah)
‘Cause I love you, baby, How I love you, darling, How I love you, baby,
My beloved little girl, little girl.
But baby, Since I’ve Been Loving You (yeah). I’m about to lose my worried mind, oh, yeah.

Everybody trying to tell me that you didn’t mean me no good.
I’ve been trying, Lord, let me tell you, Let me tell you I really did the best I could.
I’ve been working from seven to eleven every night, I said It kinda makes my life a drag
Lord, that ain’t right…
Since I’ve Been Loving You, I’m about to lose my worried mind. (Watch out!)

(guitar solo)

Said I’ve been crying, yeah. Oh, my tears they fell like rain,
Don’t you hear them, Don’t you hear them falling?
Don’t you hear, Don’t you hear them falling?

Do you remember mama, when I knocked upon your door?
I said you had the nerve to tell me you didn’t want me no more, yeah
I open my front door, hear my back door slam,
You know, I must have one of them new fangled, new fangled back door man.

I’ve been working from seven, seven, seven, to eleven every night, It kinda makes my life a drag…
Baby, Since I’ve Been Loving You, I’m about to lose, I’m about to lose, lose my worried mind.

Just one more, just one more, oooh, yeah,
Since I’ve been loving you, I’m gonna lose my worried mind.

Great Guitar Solos Series

Here’s the Promo for Fear The Walking Dead!


So, as you probably heard, AMC is doing a spin-off of The Walking Dead.  It’s going to be called Fear the Walking Dead, which is not exactly the greatest title that I’ve ever heard.

(Seriously, Fear the Walking Dead sounds like it should be the title of a low-budget, Asylum-produced mockbuster version of  The Walking Dead...)

But, despite that imperfect title, Fear the Walking Dead is still highly anticipated by Walking Dead fans.  (Is Chris Hardwick going to host Talking Fear?)  Apparently, it’s going to be a prequel, dealing with the early days of the zombie outbreak and maybe it will even offer up some clues as to why it all happened in the first place.  Even better, it’s going to take place in Los Angeles so we won’t have to deal with any dodgy accents.

Here’s the first promo for Fear the Walking Dead.  It aired last night during the Walking Dead‘s season finale.  It really doesn’t tell us much about the show itself but, at the same time, it does have a nicely ominous feel.

Artist Profile: Tom Lovell (1909 — 1987)


1-Tom Lovell - Evacuated At Night

Tom Lovell was born in New York City and sold his first illustrations when he was a junior at Syracuse University.  He was a prolific illustrator whose work appeared both in the pulps and in issues of National Geographic, where Lovell took great care to make sure that his paintings were historically accurate.  When asked about his work, Lovell once said, ” “I consider myself a storyteller with a brush. I try to place myself back in imagined situations that would make interesting and appealing pictures. I am intent on producing paintings that relate to the human experience.”  Tom Lovell was inducted into Illustrators Hall of Fame in 1974.

A sampling of both his pulp work and his historical paintings can be found below.

Detective Tales Dime Mystery 2 Dime Mystery Tom Lovell - Fire Outside the Window Tom Lovell - Panama Threat Tom Lovell - Silver Culture Tom Lovell - The Corpse Was Beautiful Tom Lovell - The Name is Betty vikingossaqueanmonaster x-a-viking-selling-a-slave-girl-to-a-persian-merchant-tom-lovell x393600-blackangel xlovell_theironshirt xTom Lovell - The Beach

Film Review: Going Clear: Scientology and The Prison of Belief (dir by Alex Gibney)


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Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief is one of the most genuinely creepy documentaries that I’ve ever seen.

Going Clear, which premiered on HBO earlier tonight, created a stir at Sundance earlier this year.  Based on a book by journalist Lawrence Wright and directed by veteran and award-winning documentarian Alex Gibney, Going Clear is both a history and an expose of the notoriously secretive church of Scientology.  Featuring interviews with 8 former members of the church (including actor Jason Beghe and Crash director Paul Haggis), there’s a lot of information to be found in Going Clear but most reviews seem to concentrate on the picture that the documentary paints of two of Scientology’s top celebrity adherents, John Travolta and Tom Cruise.

And yes, there is a lot of speculation and, in Cruise’s case, accusations about the two men to be found in Going Clear.  But, honestly, Going Clear is about a lot more than just celebrity gossip.  Ultimately, it’s a disturbing portrait of a cult that uses the facade of glamour to hide a culture of abuse, exploitation, and paranoia.  It’s easy to laugh at Scientology because, by this point, we all know about evil lord Xenu and we’ve all seen that South Park episode.  We’ve seen The Master, which featured Philip Seymour Hoffman as an almost likable charlatan.  Going Clear, however, makes a very convincing case that Scientology may be silly but it’s also nothing to laugh about.

The film opens with the story of L. Ron Hubbard, who is portrayed as being a pathological liar who channeled his need to tell stories into a prolific career as a pulp novelist.  We hear an intriguing story about Hubbard’s brief friendship with occultist and scientist Jack Parsons.  When Hubbard writes a self-help book called Dianetics, a mix of pseudo-science and pseudo-psychology, he launches the movement that will eventually become known as Scientology.

And, for the first 40 minutes of this film, it’s still easy to be rather dismissive of Hubbard.  When he’s seen in archival footage, he’s a ludicrous but deceptively non-threatening figure, a con artist who got lucky.  In fact, when he first appeared and started talking about his “beliefs,” my first reaction was to marvel at how perfectly Philip Seymour Hoffman captured Hubbard’s voice and mannerisms.

But, as Hubbard attracted more and more followers and became more and more powerful, it became apparent that Hubbard was much more than just a flamboyant con artist.  We hear about how he grew increasingly paranoid.  We hear about how schemed to destroy his enemies and just how easy it was to become one of those enemies.  We hear how he eventually retreated onto a boat where his followers obeyed his every whim.  Worst of all, we hear about how he kidnapped his youngest child and then taunted his wife by telling her (falsely) that he had the child killed and cut into little pieces.

Perhaps one of the creepiest scenes in the film is when Scientology’s second-in-command, David Miscavige, is seen announcing the 1987 death of L. Ron Hubbard.  Dressed in what looks like a military uniform and speaking in perhaps the smarmiest tones ever, Miscavige announces that Hubbard has gone on to another state of being and then salutes a rather ludicrous picture of Hubbard dressed like an admiral.  If Going Clear portrays Hubbard as being mentally ill, the portrait that emerges of Miscavige is far more disturbing.

Indeed, the film can be split into two parts.  If the first part is about Hubbard’s Scientology, the second part is about the organization under the direction of David Miscavige.  The majority of the people interviewed in the film were members under David Miscavige and all of them tell stories about a greedy and secretive organization that uses its tax-exempt status to essentially act outside the law.  Stories are told of mental mind games, physical abuse, and constant harassment.  In one of the documentary’s most haunting scenes, Sylvia Taylor (who was John Travolta’s former publicist) tells how she was forcefully separated from her baby and sent to work in a forced labor camp.

But, as disturbing as the interviews may be, the actual footage of David Miscavige himself is almost as unsettling.  Though Miscavige, Travolta, and Cruise all refused to be interviewed by the film, Going Clear is full of archival footage.  We see Miscavige speaking at a series of Nuremberg-style rallies and we listen as Miscavige give speeches that could just as easily pass for a Joel Osteen sermon.  When Miscavige announces that the IRS has recognized Scientology as a religion, he does so at a rally and finishes by reminding the huge and well-dressed crowd that their donations will now be tax-deductible. We see Scientology recruitment videos, which all feature clean-cut white kids with permanent and robotic smiles across their faces.   Much like the earlier footage of Hubbard, it would be silly if it wasn’t for what we know about the organization.

One reoccurring theme to be found in Going Clear is just how much Scientology values and exploits celebrity.  Yes, the film does explore Scientology’s relationship with both John Travolta and Tom Cruise.  The film goes so far as to portray Travolta as essentially being a prisoner of Scientology blackmail, a high-profile hostage who will never leave the church because the church knows too much about his private life.

And while it’s hard not to feel some sympathy for Travolta, it’s far more difficult to feel sorry for Tom Cruise.  Before I saw Going Clear, I always assumed that Cruise was just another actor with a strange belief.   In Going Clear, however, Tom Cruise is portrayed as being a knowing participant in Scientology’s abuses.  As Scientology’s most famous member, Cruise is waited on hand-and-foot by adherents who, we’re told, make 30 cents an hour.

Much like David Miscavige, Cruise refused to be interviewed for the documentary but he’s ultimately undone by archival footage.  We watch Cruise salute both Miscavige and a portrait of Hubbard.  We watch him give a self-congratulatory speech that sounds just as smarmy as anything we’ve heard from Miscavige.  Perhaps worst of all, as far as Cruise’s credibility is concerned, we watch a video of Cruise vacantly laughing as he explains what Scientology means to him.

(What’s ironic, of course, is that for all the extra benefits that Cruise gets as a Scientologist, it’s pretty much destroyed his career.  Edge of Tomorrow was one of the best movies of 2014 but, at this point, who wants to spend two hours with a Scientologist?)

The film ends with a look at how Scientology deals with people who leave the church.  All 8 of the film’s interview subjects have chosen to leave the church and all 8 of them have been harassed and threatened as a result.  And, whenever one is tempted to laugh off the craziness of Scientology, they should remember the footage of several Scientologist thugs conducting a surveillance operation on the house and family of a former member.

A portrait of abuse, brainwashing, and greed, Going Clear is a documentary that everyone should see.

Review: The Walking Dead S5E16 “Conquer”


TheWalkingDeadS5E16

“Simply put, there is a vast ocean of shit that you people don’t know shit about.” — Sgt. Abraham Ford

[spoilers within]

The Walking Dead has been derided as badly-written (early seasons definitely had it’s story issues) with recycled themes and subplots with characters that barely rise above one-dimensional. Only the most ardent fan would take those criticisms of the show and dismiss them outright. The series has had it’s many flaws and the three mentioned have been ones earned through the show’s first three seasons of revolving door showrunners.

There was the show’s original creator, Frank Darabont, who injected a cinematic quality to a tv show that could easily have gone campy (Z Nation), but whose need to control every aspect of the show made him lose the support of the very studio that helped him get the show up and running. It didn’t help that his first half of season 2 where the group searched endlessly for Sophia almost sunk the show.

With Darabont given his walking papers the show turned to series writer and producer Glen Mazzara to right the ship after a listless first half of season 2. Things definitely turned for the better with Mazzara in charge and for the first half of season 3 it looked like Mazzara might have finally figured out what sort of show The Walking Dead should be. In the end, he too ran out of steam as season 3 limped into an underwhelming season finale.

Scott M. Gimple took the reins and things for the show has been improving at a steady rate since season 4 and finally culminates in a season 5 finale that was both full of suspense, action and melodrama in equal amounts that has been the mark of his current tenure as series showrunner. If the show has an award for series MVP it should be handed gladly over to Scott M. Gimple.

“Conquer” starts with a cold opening that already signals that great things are afoot for the rest of the season finale’s extended 90-minutes. We find Morgan asleep (quite peacefully) inside a derelict car in the middle of the woods. We see him wake up and go about what’s probably a daily ritual for him when his breakfast gets interrupted by a stranger who happens to be sporting a “W” mark on his forehead (with dirt instead of carved into). He’s the first person we meet who seems to be affiliated with the very Wolves this second half of the season has been working up as the next Big Bad to threaten Rick and his people. It’s a sequence that gives us a clue as to the sort of bad guys these “Wolves” are going to be for Rick and Company. With some fancy staff fighting and a zen quality to his actions, Morgan more than holds off the two “Wolves” looking to steal his gear and add them to their collection of “W” marked zombies.

The rest of the episode takes on three different storylines involving Rick, Father Gabriel and Glenn.

With Glenn we see him follow Nicholas seen climbing over the walls of Alexandria. While not the most smart thing he has done of late, Glenn has a right to be suspicious of Nicholas who has done nothing but get people (both his own and Rick’s) killed while pumping himself out to be a strong protector when Glenn and the audience know that he’s far from it. It’s a sort of chase sequence as Glenn and Nicholas end up going at it mano-y-mano with Nicholas starting it off with a failed ambush that only wounds Glenn, but does hurt him enough that at times during the episode there was a great chance it was going to be him that would be the significant death to mark the season finale.

The writers (Scott M. Gimple and Seth Hoffman) don’t do the obvious and kill Glenn off, but does make him teeter on the brink of doing what many in the audience hope would happen and that was kill Nicholas once he finally had him beaten down. Instead, Glenn shows that despite his extended time out in the savage wilds outside the walls of Alexandria, he still has some compassion (misguided it might well turn out to be) and the need to see justice done. While Glenn might not have died in this finale his growing role as the voice of reason and compassion in a group that’s become fractured emotionally and mentally means his days on the series could very well be numbered.

Father Gabriel was the more frustrating segment of tonight’s finale. His time with the group has found him to be both naively stupid of the new world around him and mentally unstable because of what he had to do to survive. Yet, we find him talking a walk outside the walls in a bright, clean white shirt like he has cleansed himself prior to make sure he dies with a clean conscience. Instead, the instance a zombie was about to do what he seems to want he finally decides to want to live. But then does another 180 degrees and decides to leave the compound’s gate unsecured knowing it means zombies will definitely wander in.

The writers don’t seem to know what to do with Father Gabriel. From the moment he was introduced they seem to be flailing in the dark with so many ideas on how to treat an unstable man whose faith has been shattered by this new world where the dead don’t remain dead and those who survive must turn to their darker instincts (him included). One moment he’s trying to poison the minds of Deanna about Rick and his people while not confessing to the dark deeds he has done. Next he’s trying to atone for those very sins only to turn around and do something that would add more sins to his ledger.

It’s a shame that Father Gabriel has become such an albatross this season for the show since Seth Gilliam is such a great actor (as his time on HBO’s The Wire has shown). There’s still a glimmer of hope for the fallen priest as we saw when Maggie arrives just in time to keep Sasha from killing Father Gabriel. Will Maggie’s own Hershel-like act of mercy be enough to finally turn Father Gabriel towards something more concrete (whether as a good guy or a bad guy) would have to wait for season 6 this coming October.

We finally come to Rick who is in a sort of timeout after his total breakdown in the previous episode. He finally understands that he might have gone a bit Shane-like and overboard with his behavior, but he also still believes that Alexandria’s best chance of surviving beyond the luck they’ve had before their arrival was for them to stay and takeover. Whether they take over by the examples of their words and deeds or through force if the Alexandrians try to kick them out would depend on the very people who don’t seem to understand what’s truly at stake.

Rick gets a sort of visit from all the differing voices within his group. There’s Glenn and Michonne who wonder if Rick never wanted for their stay in Alexandria to work. Then there’s Carol and, to a certain extent Abraham, who has seen enough of how Alexandria operates to know that these people are like children who have had the luxury of never having been confronted with a no-win situation to wake them up from their fantasy of trying to rebuild civilization. It’s the sort of angel and devil on the shoulder bit that could’ve gone terribly cheesy, but ended up being natural and poignant to the episode’s narrative. A narrative that showed how both Rick and Deanna have been both wrong and right in their stances of how Alexandria should be led.

It would take a death to someone Deanna holds dear for her to finally understand what Rick and his people have bee trying to tell her and the rest of the Alexandrians. Abraham (who has become the show’s go-to-guy for memorable one-liners) said it best himself during the night meeting to decide Rick’s fate. In the only way Abraham knows how he says, “Simply put, there is a vast ocean of shit that you people don’t know shit about.”

In the end, Abraham was correct in that the Alexandrians just do not understand the world they’re living in. They might have the strong walls (not so strong that people can’t climb over them) to keep the zombies out. They have power and running water and some luxuries of the life long past dead. Yet, they’re naive and delusional to think that they won’t have to get their hands dirty to keep their way of life going. These people need people like Rick Grimes and his band of survivors. They might not be the best examples of how society and civilization was before the zombie apocalypse fell on everyone, but they were the ones who best adapted to it and still kept a semblance of their humanity in some way.

So, season 5 ended with not just Rick using a brand of reasoning and a recent example of how things could easily go from good to bad to make his point, but with Daryl and Aaron bringing Morgan back to Alexandria for a reunion between the first two characters we met on this show. Last time we saw Rick and Morgan together was in season 3’s “Clear” and Morgan was definitely not in his right mind while Rick was still holding onto his pre-apocalypse principles. with their latest reunion it looks like things have reversed with Rick looking more and more like the Morgan of “Clear” while Morgan has recovered from his crisis of conscience to come out the other side clear of mind.

We already know that there will be a season 6 and a season after that (AMC knows a goldmine when they see it and this show is literally printing them cash). The questions left unanswered by tonight’s finale looks to be the driving force for the next season. The Wolves now have an idea that Alexandria exists (from the knapsack full of pictures Aaron dropped at the canned food warehouse depot) and will probably try to visit them soon. Then there’s the question of how will Glenn finally expose Nicholas’ cowardice and duplicity to the Alexandrians and whether Nicholas will remain a problem for Glenn moving forward. The biggest question remains on whether these Wolves will involve Negan of the comics in some capacity or just the tip of a bigger danger.

The season closes with a very appropriate scene before fading to black. A car in the canned food depot marked in stark white spray paint with the words: “Wolves Not Far.”

Notes

  • Tonight’s season finale was directed by series exec. producer Greg Nicotero and written by showrunner Scott M. Gimple and series writer Seth Hoffman.
  • The Wolves seem to be a new group made just for the show. They don’t seem to correspond to any past group that the comic book has had Rick encounter and/or fight against.
  • The trailers trap full of zombies with the “W” marks on their foreheads was reminiscent of a similar scene and trap from Resident Evil: Extinction.
  • Aaron had his own moment during the escape out of the car that was straight out of the original Dawn of the Dead. machetezombie
  • Kill of the season has to be when Daryl took the chain, whipped it around his head to take the top of the heads of three zombies with precision. that’s kill of the week stuff that even Zombieland would be proud of.
  • When Father Gabriel fails to secure the main gate and then his subsequent behavior and confession to Maggie at the chapel was also reminiscent of a character from a George A. Romero zombie film: Day of The Dead. When Pvt. Salazar decides to commit suicide by letting in zombies into the secured compound.
  • Lennie James was trained to use a walking/fighting stick by the original Donatello from the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
  • The scene at the meeting where Pete accidentally kills Reg and the aftermath was straight out of the comic book frame for frame.
  • Talking Dead guests tonight are Morgan, Carol and Daryl (Lennie James, Melissa McBride and Norman Reedus) from The Walking Dead.

Season 5

Review: Pyramids – A Northern Meadow


Pyramids are four seemingly random Joes from Denton, Texas, who have managed to attract some huge names in the world of music, possibly through their completely ridiculous album covers. Well, maybe not that, but the genre-defying oddity known as Pyramids and their associated acts have shown an uncanny knack for recruiting stars to their projects. Originally signed to Aaron Turner’s (Isis, Old Man Gloom) acclaimed Hydra Head Records, they managed a transition to metal’s newest cutting edge label, Profound Lore, as soon as the former went defunct. Their self-titled debut in 2008 scored Colin Marston (Krallice), Vindsval (Blut Aus Nord), and Justin Broadrick (Godflesh, Jesu), among others, to contribute to a remix album, while band leader R. Loren’s White Moth and Sailors with Wax Wings projects have featured David Tibet (Current 93), Alec Empire (Atari Teenage Riot), Jonas Renkse (Katatonia), John Gossard (Weakling), Simon Scott (Slowdive), Hildur Guðnadóttir (múm), and Aaron Stainthorpe (My Dying Bride), to name… a few? The 2009 follow-up, a collaborative album with Nadja, featured Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins), and there’s an Ulver remix of it floating around out there. They also lead some cassette tape project with 49 bands I’ve never heard of and This Will Destroy You.

In spite of the absolutely ridiculous, confounding string of names I just threw out, this band remains pretty damn obscure. A Northern Meadow, their first full-length since 2009, may well change all that, with positive reviews on sites like Pitchfork Media ensuring them a moment in the spotlight. Moreover, Colin Marston and Vindsval are active guest musicians this time, with pretty encompassing roles.

track: “In Perfect Stillness, I’ve Only Found Sorrow

The opening track, “In Perfect Stillness, I’ve Only Found Sorrow”, kicks off with Marston’s quintessential tremolo and Vindsval’s equally iconic drum programming, while R. Loren’s vocals quickly cue us into the fact that this isn’t going to be a straight metal album. Instead, we face a prolonged melancholy that finds its essence in the vocals and never really resolves into anything. This brooding approach carries throughout the album, but as the minutes tick by you can notice a slight sort of development–little hints at a more complex animal below the surface. “The Earth Melts Into Red Gashes Like The Mouths Of Whales” rises out of the plod for thirty seconds of really catchy guitar before dissolving back into bleak noise. “The Substance Of Grief Is Not Imaginary” feels like a Blut Aus Nord song in slow motion, offering all of their accustomed madness with none of the speed or volume, while Loren briefly confounds the mood with a really beautiful but short lived vocal melody. “Indigo Birds” extends the vocal presence, with Loren singing longer with more effects and range. As the song dissolves out into distorted droning and ultimately three minutes of dissonant synth, the album approaches a modest transition in character. The interlude resets the mood, allowing the remainder of the album to take, I think, a slightly more abrasive or confrontational approach.

Track: “I Am So Sorry, Goodbye

The second half of the album is more distinct, with more drive in the guitar and a faster rate of transition. “I Have Four Sons, All Named For Men We Lost To War” starts off with the most crushing tones on the album, enhanced in their finality by the still slow pace set by Vindsval’s drums. “I Am So Sorry, Goodbye” has a really memorable industrial groove, with some synth tones that invoke for the first time in me a real vision of something… perhaps ancient, a sort of primordial ruin made all the older by Loren’s forlorn, beautiful vocals. Like “Indigo Birds”, the song dissolves out into low-tuned guitar and synth droning, but the feeling is more complete. The substance of the song gives you more to reflect on in the haze of noise that follows.

On “I Am So Sorry, Goodbye” and growing throughout the remainder of the album, Loren’s vocals start to sound subtly reminiscent of Chino Moreno to me–high-pitch meanderings that feel slightly unstable yet always harmonious. It’s an effect he pulls off well, and it makes the album feel rather back-loaded to me. “Consilience” wraps things up with a turn back to the darker side. More chaotic, and with a new touch of pessimism to the vocals, it concludes an already morbid album on a particularly bleak note. Oppressive synth creeps its way in a bit earlier, and a hard stop takes us to fading noise and silence.

A Northern Meadow leaves me with pretty mixed feelings. R. Loren has a clear aural agenda that he sticks to throughout, yet I can’t escape the feeling that the album’s highest points were those most distant from the overarching theme. The beat-down opening of “I Have Four Sons…”, the synth early in “I Am So Sorry, Goodbye”, Marston’s driving 30-second sweep in “The Earth Melts…”, the short-lived vocal burst at the start of “My Father, Tall as Goliath”… I find myself anticipating these finer moments through a lot of the moody grind, rather than just enjoying the ride and taking the highs as they hit me. That grind has a lot of character at times, especially the further into the album I get, but not enough to match the talent Loren was working with here.

I guess I would say that A Northern Meadow is a very unique album, and I love Loren’s dedication to uniting awesome musicians, but I don’t feel very compelled to keep listening to it as the novelty begins to wear off. If its slightly chaotic morbidity strikes a chord with you, you might love it, but if you can’t connect to that feeling it will inevitably grow tedious at times. Marston’s noodling isn’t extensive enough to keep me constantly engaged the way a Krallice album can–a tall order, considering how equally brilliant that band’s other three members are–nor do I think Vindsval’s drum tones hold up in this sort of mono-tempo drag. It doesn’t help that both musicians inevitably play themselves. Like say, Humphrey Bogart or Morgan Freeman, they are so distinctly themselves that you feel like you’re hearing the actors, not the characters they are meant to portray. There is nothing of the instrumental synergy both produce in their main bands. I don’t hear the chemistry of two great musicians working together here. I just hear two great musicians, like some mash-up with Loren mixing vocals and synth into the pot. There may be some truth to that: if I understood Loren’s recent interview with Decibel Magazine correctly, I’m pretty sure Vindsval and Marston had no direct communication while crafting this.

I’m not saying A Northern Meadow is bad. Not at all. But it does leave me wanting something more. I can’t help but wonder what could come out of Loren, Marston, and Vindsval sitting down in a recording studio together, and I suspect it would be something more substantive than this, with a lot more motion and a lot less gloom. But that meeting might be pretty difficult to arrange, and who knows whether they would see eye to eye if Loren had allowed them less freedom to do their own things. I might yet get into this, if I can get over what it isn’t sufficiently to appreciate what it is.

The Daily Grindhouse: Project Nightmare (dir by Donald M. Jones)


Project Nightmare

Earlier tonight, the Late Night Movie crew and I watched Project Nightmare, an obscure little film from 1987.  (Actually, it would be more correct to say that the film was released in 1987.  Judging from the clothes, the cars, and the hair, the film was actually made at some point in the 70s.)

The best word that I can think to describe Project Nightmare would be weird.  This is just a weird and trippy movie.

The film opens with Gus (Charles Miller) and John (Seth Foster), two friends who played football in college and who are now in the air conditioning business together.  Gus is insecure and angst-ridden.  John is confident and spends almost the entire movie with his shirt becoming progressively more and more unbuttoned.  Gus and John go on a camping trip.  As the film opens, they are both running from something that they think attacked their camp site.  They’re not quite sure what it was and their descriptions remain frustratingly vague.  Even when their mysterious pursuer comes near, we never get a clear look at it.  Instead, we just hear buzzing on the soundtrack while the sky changes colors.

Gus and John come across a house sitting in the middle of nowhere.  Inside the house is Marcie (Elly Koslo).  Marcie doesn’t have a telephone but she does have a bottle of Scotch.  As Gus and John drink, they sit on the floor because Marcie doesn’t appear to have any furniture in their house.  Their conversation is stiff and oddly stilted and we’re left to wonder if this is the result of bad acting or if it’s just another sign of the film’s overall surreal atmosphere.  Gus admits that he wants to sleep with Marcie and then proceeds to tell her a long and confusing story about why he and John are such good friends.  John, meanwhile, dreams of a little boy running in a cemetery while a priest makes unintelligible sounds.

The next morning, as the two men leave the house, we hear a howling wind and yet none of the surrounding plant life appears to be swaying.  Was this just bad filmmaking or was it another example of the director trying to create a sense of unease?  It’s not an easy question to answer but I’m willing to give director Donald Jones the benefit of the doubt.

The two men walk.  A mysterious light pursues them.  They come across a man sitting in a car.  Gus and John get in the car.  The man lays down in the back seat and promptly dies.  They drive back to Marcie’s house and manage to get Marcie to come outside right before the entire house vanishes.  Eventually, they somehow come across an airplane sitting in the middle of the desert.  Gus gets in the plane and flies away, leaving John and Marcie behind.  Both Marcie and the car vanish.  John wanders alone.

And then the movie really starts to get weird…

How weird?  I mean weird as in a character finding a pyramid in the middle of the desert.  I mean weird like a room where a woman dances in slow motion while a group of shadowy men applaud.  I mean weird like a big floating head that taunts those below it…

I mean weird.

And here’s another odd thing about Project Nightmare.  I’ve done a google search, I’ve read what it says on the imdb, and there is next to no information out there about how this film came to be.  As I previously stated, the film was obviously made nearly a decade before it was actually released.  Director Donald Jones served a director, writer, and editor on this and three other films but hasn’t had a film released since 1993.  Meanwhile, the film’s cast is also similarly obscure.

Project Nightmare is an enigma.  Everything about this film — from the obscure storyline to the miniscule budget to the unnatural dialogue to the stiff acting — comes together to create an otherworldly viewing experience.  And that’s why you simply must watch it at least once!  Whether it was meant to be or not, Project Nightmare is something of a surrealistic masterpiece.

And guess what?

It’s on YouTube!

Watch it now before it gets taken down.

 

‘It Follows’ Review (dir. David Robert Mitchell)


It-Follows-poster

**Leonard Wilson posted a great review of the film earlier this week, so read that as well!**

‘It Follows’ – which rocks a 70’s vibe and kickin’ score – earns high marks and much admiration in my book for taking an atmosphere that has been done before – and adding enough craftsmanship and creativity – to make it feel fresh, terrifying and surprisingly meaningful.

I am hesitant to go into much detail about the film’s premise. Not because of potential spoilers – this review may contain some so be warned – but because it might come off as too gimmicky to possibly result in the praise that follows. All I can say is trust me…it isn’t.

The film stars Maika Monroe (from the kick-ass 2014 gem ‘The Guest’) as Jay – a girl on the cusp of adulthood. She spends her days lounging in her pool or hanging with her friends – all of which are experiencing the boredom that encompasses those late stages of adolescence. To the disappointment of Paul, one of her male friends who has a crush on her, Jay has recently started dating an older boy named Hugh. He seems nice enough – but an incident at a movie theater hints at something very wrong with him. Jay doesn’t think much of it and on their next date they sleep together. It is a rather uneventful moment – but what comes next leaves everyone shaken and changed. Hugh drugs her – and she wakes up tied to a wheelchair in a rundown building. Hugh doesn’t intend to kill her – instead he wants to force her to see what she will be up against. As he explains – she will now be hunted by a supernatural creature that is part of a curse passed on through intercourse. “It” is slow – only ever being able to walk to its victim – but it never gives up. Anyone afflicted can see this entity – but it is only able to kill the last one to receive the affliction – and will then move down the chain of people who have had it. This leaves Jay stuck having to outrun this persistent and frightening being – all the while she must decide whether to “pass it on” to someone else. Luckily she isn’t alone, and with the help of her friends she tries to find out if this thing can be stopped.

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The emotion and fear here is earned – which is all I ask for in these films – though it also exceeded my expectations on all fronts. It did what many of my all time favorite horror films have done – like ‘Halloween’, ‘Black Christmas’ and ‘Repulsion’ it contains a slow building level of suspense and dread. A constant feeling of unease even at its calmest moments. It is the sort of horror that leaves you on the edge of your seat – not in anticipation of the next jump scare – but because you can’t help but frantically search each frame – from corner to corner – to see what or who may be lurking; and it is impossible to trust anyone. On top of that is a fine level of craftsmanship by director David Robert Mitchell on display. The camera brilliantly acting like a jittery onlooker – often spinning and scanning the horizon. This is made all the more heart pounding by the remarkable and kinetic score by Rich Vreeland. As the pressure and suspense builds, so does the score – and it is all released in incredibly effective bursts throughout.

But no matter how effectively scary it is, perhaps what I appreciated most was that like ‘The Babadook’ last year – if you strip away all the supernatural horror aspects – at the very core is still an emotional and layered story worth telling. In ‘The Babadook’ it was a mother dealing with a troubled child and the death of her husband – and with ‘It Follows’ we get a genuine coming of age tale about sex, responsibility and the fears that comes with impending adulthood.

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What do I mean by that last bit? For me the ‘It’ wasn’t just some evil monster – but can be seen as a manifestation of the mundanity and uncertainty of the possible future in store for these teens. Some may view the film as being about the consequences of sex. But I never saw it like that. Yes, sex is the catalyst of the curse, but the film never viewed the actual act in a negative light. You are not supposed to walk out thinking “Well I am never having sex again!”

It is just another part of growing up. It is the “growing up” part that really matters. It’s something that often sneaks up on you – but once you pass a certain moment in your life you are forever followed by a sense of responsibility that never leaves. These feels are reflected by Hugh who mentions how he wants to be a child with no worries and a whole new life ahead of him – or by Jay explaining how when she was young the world seemed so open and free; but once she actually grew up she realized there really wasn’t anywhere to go.

I think it is no coincidence that these characters live in Detroit – a broken down city whose future is unknown. They even live with broken parents unhappy with their own lives – Jay’s mother drinks heavily. One can only imagine that these things weigh heavily on them, whether we see that directly or not. Is it any surprise that “It” often takes on the form of those that love and care for them, or are people who are gone that they miss? These are all themes that run through most coming of age stories. That weight, those worries, are what are truly haunting these people. This makes the last scene all the more brilliant and effective for me. Like ‘The Babadook’ there is this idea that these sorts of worries, emotions and struggles don’t just fade away. You can’t just get rid of them and you cannot just run away and hide. But by facing them head on and together with those you love, they can at least be managed. I found it to actually be quite a hopeful way to end. But that’s just my take. The film never tries to shove such a specific meaning down the viewer’s throat. I think there is just enough ambiguity to allow the viewer to find their own – and it is layered enough to require multiple viewings.

At the end of the day I think this is surely worthy of being deemed an instant classic. One that can stand the test of time. Not just because of how effectively scary it is – but also because it deals with themes that can be appreciated from generation to generation. That, along with just how damn well made it is, makes it the best film I have seen so far this year – and a must see by everyone.