RIP Frank “Killjoy” Pucci 1969 – 2018

Frank Pucci left this plane of existence for the great beyond on March 18, 2018 at the age of forty-eight.  The man otherwise known as Killjoy was among the founding fathers of American extreme metal; his long-running brainchild Necrophagia is considered to be one of the very first death metal bands to exist on US soil, releasing early demos around the same time as the likes of Death, Possessed and Master.  In addition to being the only constant member of Necrophagia, he would also go on to front a slew of other well-received projects such as Cabal, Killjoy, Wurdulak, The Ravenous and Haxxan.

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The Contraption (1977)

I first watched The Contraption late one night on the USA Network as a child and it has haunted the hell out of me ever since.  After many years of its twisted imagery rattling around in the back of my brain I finally found it on YouTube, and even though writing about films isn’t really my forte, I couldn’t help but share this psychological horror masterpiece with all of you.

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Get Hexed

a3203209171_10Regular IG readers and especially those that know me outside of music blog land are well aware of my affection for John Carpenter, and a sizable chunk of that affection is based on his soundtrack work.  Films such as Halloween and Escape from New York simply wouldn’t be as effective without Carpenter’s sinister, tension-filled electronic soundscapes as accompaniment.

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A word on brutality.

vulvectomy

Brutal death metal bands often get accused of promoting misogyny and violence.  I was thinking about this the other day while listening to Abusing Dismembered Beauties, the third and most recent album from Italian slammers Vulvectomy.  Here I am, enjoying an album adorned with cover art that features a variety of gruesomely murdered/mutilated women and song titles such as “Deformed Tits Collection” and “Orgasmic Sensation Through Fecal Ingestion.”  I guess at this point my fondness for slam and brutal death metal is no secret, but surely many fellow metalheads would call it in extremely poor taste, ignorant, hateful, misogynistic or some combination thereof.

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Mortician’s (death) metal machine music.

In recent weeks I’ve made several attempts to contact New York death metal duo Mortician for an interview.  Those attempts were not responded to.  The band hasn’t released an album since 2004’s Re-Animated Dead Flesh and only plays a handful of live shows a year, so one can only assume that this relative lack of activity has something to do with it.  I can’t say I blame them.  But, I’ve wanted to write about Mortician for a long time, and even without an upcoming national tour or new album on the way, there is still much about the band’s totally unique and oft-misunderstood take on death metal that’s worthy of discussion.
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Acid Witch – Stoned (Hells Headbangers, 2011)

Acid Witch is a band that appeals to me on so many levels that it’s virtually impossible not to like them.  On sophomore album Stoned, the Michigan monster squad’s use of horror soundtrack synths, down-tuned doom riffage, battery acid gargling vocals and Halloween decorations gone hallucinogenic artwork is irresistible, as if someone combined all of my obsessions to create one killer recording.  It’s also the perfect antidote to a metal scene that’s become a little too serious for my liking of late.  I mean, how many po’ faced transcendental post-black fruit-bot-core bands do we really need?
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I bet you’re gonna like it in A.D. (or the first trve black metal album).

“When you feel like you’re going too slow / I bet you’re gonna like it in / A.D. A.D / People gonna talk about / A.D. A.D. / Bloody hell and sacrifice”
-“Earth A.D.”

I’ve been listening to the Misfit’s Earth A.D. for over a decade now.  Every time I listen to it, I hear something different.  Sometimes I hear a bruising hardcore album.  Sometimes I hear proto-thrash.  I most often hear the roots of black metal.  Is it a mere coincidence that Quorthon started Bathory the same year or that Slayer’s Show No Mercy was released the same month?  Sure, Venom’s Welcome to Hell and Black Metal albums had already been released by the time Earth A.D. hit record store shelves.  But the Misfits of Earth A.D. possessed several things that Cronos and his cohorts, or just about any of the proto-black metal bands for that matter, severely lacked.

The first of these key components is speed.  I recently read in Steven Blush’s book American Hardcore  that Glenn Danzig had tried to get the rest of the Misfits to play slower during the sessions.  Thank goodness he wasn’t successful.  To my knowledge, the blast beat hadn’t been invented yet in 1983 (Mick Harris didn’t join Napalm Death until 1985), but the blistering speed of Earth A.D. often comes close.  A huge part of the album’s power comes from the reckless abandon with which the band plows through songs like “Earth A.D.” and “Demonomania”.  It’s a ragged, violent speed, the kind of speed that sounds like the band is going to fly apart at the seams at any given moment.  Somehow, the Misfits keep it together for the original album’s fourteen-odd minutes (reissues would include the tracks from the posthumous “Die, Die My Darling” single), but the approach lends a sense of real danger, menace and foreboding to the proceedings that would also be present on second wave Scandinavian black metal albums such as Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas or Burzum’s self titled debut.

The second element that pushes Earth A.D. over the edge is brutality.  Unfortunately the word “brutal” (and every permutation thereof) has been thrown around in the heavy music world so often that it has lost nearly all of its meaning as of 2011.  This is a brutal album.  Primitive, barbaric, nasty.  Black and death metal bands surely took a great deal of inspiration from the positively corrosive assault of songs like “Death Comes Ripping” and “Hellhound”.  Danzig himself sounds like a snarling hellhound throughout Earth A.D., ready to claw his way through your speakers and “rip your face off” while the rest of the band violates their instruments in a manner that’s probably legally questionable in more than a few countries.  Earth A.D. was the first Misfits recording where the aggression of the playing and production scheme matched the violence of Danzig’s lyrics.  It’s a level of rubbed-raw vitriol that makes early Venom, Slayer, Celtic Frost et al sound quaint by comparison.

What about atmosphere?  Earth A.D.‘s got it in spades.  Granted, this probably speaks more to Spot’s ineptitude as a producer/engineer (see also: Black Flag’s Damaged) or the lack of a recording budget (probably both), than it does to any grand design by Danzig and Co.  Still, the vibe of the album is pitch black and claustrophobic, it reeks of rage, hate and desperation.  It’s a document of a band ready to explode and doing their damnedest to take all of us down with them.  The fact that the Misfits broke up only a few months after the album was recorded (on Halloween, 1983) leads me to believe that the palpable fury bursting out of every part of Earth A.D. is much more than just for entertainment value (“and that blood’s so real / ’cause I just can’t fake it”).

If all of this doesn’t make for proto-black metal, then I don’t know what does.  Add the grotesque, lovably amateurish artwork and black and white band photos, and you’ve got the blueprints for the sound, style and overall aesthetic that Darkthrone would take to the next level almost a decade later with A Blaze in the Northern Sky.  Some call Earth A.D. “the speed metal bible”.  I’m more inclined to think it’s the goddamn Necronomicon.