Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Nachtvorst - "Silence" CD

Forward-thinking post-doom-black metal with swirl and drone...

Nachtvorst are a Rotterdam, Holland-based duo, and their second album, "Silence", shows a remarkable ear for texture and mood, especially for a black doom metal-oriented act. Opening with the epic 11-minute "The Serpent's Tongue", Nachtvorst combine the bewitching ferocity of black metal with classical, drone, post-rock, and electronic textures. "After..." is a lovely piano and string-laden instrumental interlude that shows these guys have skills and interests well beyond the usual, and the album opens up deeper from there.

"Nightwinds" is a moody, atmospheric 9-minute drone/post-metal that strikes hard, while the depressive "Gentle Notice Of A Final Breath" could be a distant cousin of Mono, building to a crushing crescendo before....the track simply cuts off. Not cool. A terrible shame, especially considering this may have been the album's high point. "A Way Of Silence" closes it out with 14 minutes of mid-tempo atmospheres, from speedy thrash to mopey, melodic darkwave. It's a strong track, to be sure, taking us on a journey across a landscape of sorrow and loss. A brilliant ending to a strong, but flawed album.

Beer: O'Fallon Brewery - Sticke It To The Man

Solid and unique altbier with balls!

Among the 1200+ beers I've tasted, I've never had a "sticke alt", but thanx to some quick research on the world's best beer site (beeradvocate), I discovered it's a hyped-up, heavier altbier, so I'm glad to have sampled this one. 

O'Fallon Brewing, based just outside St. Louis, has been experimenting with some unusual styles, and I've never had a bad beer from them, so was anxious to dig in to this one. Had 2 bottles, 2 separate days, to get a firm grasp on the flavor profile and overall characteristics.

Pours a clean ruby-amber, with substantial off-white head. Exquisite, detailed lace. Beautiful! Nose is caramel malts all the way. Hops here are dialed way back. Malt fans, rejoice! Taste is also a more toasty caramel malts, with subtle hints of an almost fruity note submerged beneath. Sticke Alt is a rich tasting experience, with nary a hint of the high 7.5% ABV. 

Many thanx to Paul Byrne at Byrne PR for graciously "hooking me up" with this brew!

Anti Tank Nun - "Fire Follow Me" CD

Regressive butt-rock from Poland

This Polish band with an absolutely embarrassingly bad name features frontman Tomek "Titus" Pukacki (also of Acid Drinkers) and 15-year old guitarist Igor "Iggy" Gwadera. "Fire Follow Me" is their second album of classic-style hard rock/metal, but the overall effect here is a wanky, generic take on 70s stadium rock. 

Titus' vocals are as hammy as Gene Simmons, and his lyrics, like the ridiculously sophomoric "Sake Crazy", play into the whole party rock mindset. Ugh. "Hurricane Kazz" has elements of Iron Maiden, but it lacks that band's unique sound and strong vocal presence. To his credit, guitarist Iggy is more than capable with his strong metal leads, but it isn't enough to salvage this album of regressive rock. Perhaps they'd be much more effective and convincing on stage, but this is pretty unbearable.

Sake: g fifty Jumnai Ginjo Genshu Sake

Delicious and complex sake -- made in America!

Clocking in at a hearty 18% ABV, this premium sake, brewed in Oregon (rather than the traditional Japan), stands as a superlative and complex brew that invites further sips to nail down those subtle flavors and nuances.

The aroma hints at a slight fruitiness, with notes of mint, black pepper, dried dark berries, and rice, with a sharp but smooth flavor profile.  With a dry and warming finish, g fifty is a seriously top-shelf sake. The attractive black bottle feels more like pottery than glass, and further enhances the overall experience. 

Overall, I rate g fifty a superb sake, and one I'd gladly return to.

A special thanx to Skye Morgan at Charles Communications for graciously providing the sample for this tasting!

Accion Mutante - "Worse Than A Virus" CD

Brutish grind-punk from German thugs

Accion Mutante is a veteran grind metal/punk act from Germany who's been around since the late 90s, but they haven't released a proper album since 2002. Well, they make up for that with this 17-song gutter-grind-punk barn-burner.

Opening with the spoken word intro, "Narcissism of Mankind", the band launches into the primitive punk/metal of "Stop FGM". The remainder of the tracks are equally as barbaric -- steamrolls of classic  grindcore chug and vomit-style vocals. With bands like Accion Mutante, the tracks nor their subjects matter. After all, this could be political, or it could be about the pain of an ingrown toenail. The gutteral grunts are competent, but hardly unique, and the bare-bones music is, well, really quite forgettable. 

"Satan's Sex Party 1970s Collection" DVD

Old-time proto-porn with dark inclinations...

This "Grindhouse Triple Feature" combines three 1970 adult films onto one disc, but those expecting some hardcore action will likely be disappointed. Filmed quickly in the pre-hardcore porn era, these are all sexploitation, pure and simple, but lacking much besides (what seems like) simulated sex and nudity. For fans of the "au naturel" look (if you get my drift, man), unkept body hair, and crazy swingers' outfits and hairstyles, this is a set for you.

The first film, "Madame Satan", is a shallow "supernatural"-themed quickie. Plot be damned, though. It all begins with a promise of a seance. Then we quickly dispense with that, and head straight into sunny jazz music and bedtime scenes. A hammy, lamb-chopped brute engages in a number of orgy-like frolics, and the men never actually achieve erections. Huh? 

Second film up is "Sex And The Single Vampire", which features John Holmes himself as a solitary (and awkward) vampire whose home is invaded by a group of horny swingers. Holmes himself doesn't really get involved, but he likes to observe, anyway, as all of his once-vacent bedrooms are made much, much warmer.

Finally, the last film here is the short (36-minutes) "Devil's Handmaiden", which is a weird and almost psychedelic vignette featuring a creepy facepainted loon who stalks free-love kids, while arranging sexual liaisons for them, in exchange for their souls. Yes, it's odd and certainly beyond freaky.

A couple of these films suffer a bit from some scratchy prints, but that's not unusual for these long-lost gems of early adult cinema. And though these may not be essential, fans of obscure adult filmmaking will find these fascinating, if not titillating.

Monday, July 1, 2013

"The Life After Death Project" 2xDVD (director: Paul Davids)

Curious documentary for supernatural and Famous Monsters fans...

With the main feature here focusing predominantly on the great Forrest J. Ackerman (of "Famous Monsters Of Filmland" magazine fame, and the undeniably greatest collector of classic sci-fi and horror memorabilia of all-time), this full-length documentary examines the man's post-mortem legacy. That is to say, this is full of testimonials and evidence that "Forry" (as he was lovingly called) still maintains contact with his friends and loved ones.

As well, other famous horror writers and personalities (including Richard Matheson and Whitley Strieber) reveal their own personal "ghost stories". It's a compelling watch, with an array of literate, intelligent, and scientific folks detailing their paranormal experiences first-hand. Sometimes these experiences are Forry-related, other times not. Nonetheless, the vast archive of Ackerman-related photos and films is priceless.

The second disc is an entirely different documentary, also by Paul Davids. Subtitled "Personal Encounters", this film is a collection of paranormal experiences related by many other people. Apparently, Davids did some extensive traveling to compile this exhaustive and rich selection of "ghost stories".

Some fascinating viewing here, for anyone intrigued by the possibilities. And a must-see for Forrest Ackerman admirers.

Yellow Hat Productions

Burial Vault - "Incendium" CD

Melodic death metal, effective but ultimately generic

On their second album, German metal marauders Burial Vault unleash a torrent of melodic death metal. And it's pretty well solid work, with excellent production and a deadly double-pronged guitar attack that is both refined and sharpened. 

"Peculiar" breaks down with a section of melodic (non-regurgitated) vocals, which is quite a shock within the band's usual sound. But the following cut, "The Nightly Horror" returns to the standard speed-laced death metal, and it's quite effective indeed. And the rest of the album proves to be a more than amicable selection of epic metal sounds, too, with "cookie-monster" vocals and lightning fast guitar solos. For fans of the style, Burial Vault deliver.

Ayria - "Plastic Makes Perfect" 2xCD

Silly synthy-techno for teens

On her 4th album, Canadian Jennifer Parkin crafts a solid, if, well, plastic set of melodic synthpop tunes with touches of trance, industrial, and ethereal gothic sounds. Call it "futurepop" or whatever, and you're in the right realm. Parkin's melodic vocals are certainly more "pop" than anything else, and the music (which features some production and programming from Icon Of Coil's Sebastian Komor) is edgy dance pop, with plenty of hard-hitting beats and Euro-techno sequences.

Tracks like "All That Glitters" could rope in plenty of teeny listeners, if not for the heavier beats. "Games" is purely dance pop, and could be almost mistaken for a Disney radio icon, to these jaded ears. Sure, Ayria's clean and crisp pop-dance sheen is well-produced and club-worthy, but there's just not much else of depth here.

The bonus disc of remixes (included only with the limited edition box version) ups the ante with some heavy-hitting names. Project Pitchfork deliver a clubby mix of "Missed The Mark", whereas Daniel B (of Front 242)'s complex and muscular mix may be the best track here. Aaimon's mix of "Games" is nicely ethereal, tempering the beats, but the rest of the cuts are just variations on the trance/dance club vibe. Of marginal interest, I'm afraid.