Tuesday, March 20, 2018

EP Review: QUESTION Question (Caligari Records)

Cassette release limited to 200 copies
Country of origin: Mexico
Genre: Death metal
Release date: March 15, 2018
One of my latest predilections is shown in the new wave of classic death metal from Mexico. Question has an interesting, explosive perspective of the death metal genre, and created a new EP full of heaviness, rotten guitar riffs and great references to old bands from northern Europe like Convulse, Carbonized, Asphyx, etc. Of course their musical skills have been part of many bands from Queretaro, Mexico. All the tracks sound rotten, sick and complex, although they are straight to the point and very precise, which denotes a lot of work in the rehearsal room. There is no room to melody here. This band focuses on destructive guitar riffs complemented with cathartic vocals and knowledge of the real essence of death metal. My favorite song is Nefarious Conclusion with its killer bass intro, and mid-paced guitars, with orgasmic old school elements. Definitely another Mexican horde you should keep an eye on, if you are into great death metal nowadays. No generic bullshit! Just pain and blood!!! -Victor Varas

Band lineup
Marco: Vocals
Héctor: Bass
Roy: Guitars
Iván: Drums

Track list:
1. Holders of Nothing
2. Bone Breaking Cold
3. Nefarious Conclusion
4. Universal Path of Disgrace

Full Length Review: NORTHWIND WOLVES Dark… Cold… Grim… (Black Lion Records)

Dark… Cold… Grim…
Country of origin: USA
Genre: Symphonic black metal
Originally mixed and mastered by Christer Krogh
Remastered by Brett Batdorf
Originally released independently December 20, 2017
Release date: January 18, 2018 (remastered release)
Melodic, fierce and furious black metal, with tons of musical arrangements, keyboards and dark lines. I don’t think this is another boring black metal band trying to copy Emperor, Limbonic Art, Dimmu Borgir, etc. Actually, Northwind Wolves is a California band formed by musicians experienced in extreme metal, as you can see in the biography. All these tracks have great guitar riffs, some closer to the heavy metal genre, with brilliant moments like Chamber Of The Shadowlord. I hear passionate, honest compositions. Incisive keyboards are found in all the songs, and purists of the genre will mention the references above described. I won’t defend it, but I will not say it’s bad either. Of course it’s risky to add keyboards to black metal, but these guys have distinctive parts, eloquent passages and dark atmosphere (just listen to “Entrance To The Dark Universe”). The band owes a lot of its sound to old Nordic and Swedish black metal. I’m sure this debut album will not be their definitive opus. I would buy their next piece of darkness. For additional info. I remember the bassist's ex band Sepsism, a great death metal band from California. -Victor Varas

Band lineup:
Noor: Lead vocals, guitars, keyboards
Astaroth Sinstorm: Guitars, backing vocals
Lennis Robenson: Bass, backing vocals
Brett Batdorf: Drums, backing vocals

Track list:
1. Dark Skies For Black Sorcery
2. Specters In The Funeral's Mist
3. Cold Hearted Kings Of The Occult
4. Last Light Before The Darkness
5. Foul Wolves And Black Magic
6. Entrance To The Dark Universe
7. Majestic Fog On The Everlasting Mountain
8. Chamber Of The Shadow Lord
9. Celestial Extinction

Monday, March 19, 2018

Film Review: GRIND MIND: TO HAVE AND TO HOWL (Grind Mind Productions)

To Have And To Howl is a film short released online by Newfoundland’s Grind Mind Productions, in time for Valentine’s Day. The indie company, comprised of horror fans, actors, producers and first time filmmakers, is relatively new and learning as they go, so they say on their Facebook community.
The five minute short is about a werewolf and a vampiress booking a session with a marriage counselor after living together hundreds of years. Now I’m sure this isn’t the first time this premise was devised by an indie director; however the humor intended here seems to be the idea of what happens when monsters from the classic era get caught up in modern mediocrity, working night shifts at a warehouse, shopping for groceries, fixing around the house and resolving issues with a professional.
I should add this is Grind Mind Productions’ entry into the Nickel 48 hour Romantic Comedy Challenge. The contest guidelines were that a five minute romantic comedy be written, shot, edited and submitted within two days.
In the time frame they were allowed, the team behind the short managed to put something together that carried well from start to finish. Some of the main characters’ one-liners were corny, others were witty and had me thinking that I hadn’t considered approaching werewolf/vampire horror in such a way.
To Have And To Howl reminded me somewhat of a film series from 2009 called Monsters Anonymous, in which classic horror icons interacted together in the modern world in much the same way as the average human.
A major difference is the subtleties presented in the short, such as the marriage counselor being named Dr. Herbert Lectar (I’ll allow you to guess the reference there). -Dave Wolff

Single Review: WITCHES OF DOOM Love Will Tear Us Apart (Sliptrick Records)

Love Will Tear Us Apart (online single)
Country of origin: Italy
Genre: Goth/stoner doom metal
Release date: February 9, 2018
Witches Of Doom is a goth/doom/stoner rock band from Rome, Italy, who started in 2013 and released their debut single Needless Needle a year later. Since then they released two full lengths (Obey in 2014 and Deadlights in 2016) and recorded a cover of U2’s New Years’ Day with Paul Bento of Type O Negative and Carnivore as a tribute to the late Peter Steele. At the time of this writing the band are working on a new full length; in preparation for its release they have posted a new online single which they recorded at Hombre Lobo Studios in Rome last November. If you like post punk/new wave like Joy Division with unexpected twists, such as atmospheric keyboards, electronic effects and haunting vocals, you’ll want to hear this cover of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart. Granted the band’s crossover between goth and doom rock is not for everyone, especially the volume of the guitars and the despondent air surrounding the musicianship. Still, the volume and despondency serves to enhance the emotions implied by the original version of the song. The process of fusing together three subgenres of rock, reinterpreting and rearranging the song and adding their own touch is clearly the result of a gathering of open minds pooling their resources. Unafraid to think outside the box, they create something fresh and inventive, testing how far bands can explore uncharted musical territory if they dare to try. The impressions of Sisters Of Mercy, Marilyn Manson, Soundgarden and The Doors brings the 1980 Joy Division classic to the present. If you listen closely enough you may hear some of those impressions, or maybe even impressions of other bands I hadn’t picked up on. Love Will Tear Us Apart is available for streaming at Spotify, iTunes and Sliptrick Records’ official Youtube channel (where you can also hear their U2 cover), and can be downloaded at iTunes. -Dave Wolff

Band lineup:
Danilo "Groova" Piludu: vocals
Federico "Fed" Venditti: guitar
Jacopo Cartelli: bass
Graziano "Eric"Corrado: keyboards

Full Length Review: SERPENTINE ARBORVITAE Rock The Goddess (Infinite Domain Music)

Rock The Goddess
Infinite Domain Music
Country of origin: USA
Genre: Pop, Darkwave, Electronic, New Age, World
Release Date: 1995
This full length release is twenty-plus years old, but I was struck with a sudden urge to listen to it again. Considering my long-standing dedication to extreme metal you wouldn’t expect me to appreciate stuff like this. Well think again because this rare underground gem has sustained a profound impact on me. I first heard Rock The Goddess when I began visiting Manhattan’s pagan community around the time it was released. I was so engrossed I made a point of catching local performances whenever I heard she was playing. From 1993 to 2008 she released a series of self-produced albums recorded with various musicians besides a best of compilation. Her shows were always captivating and what she released on CD was not like anything I had heard previously. Each of her recordings sounded different from the last, in direct contrast to the formulaic rehashed pop of the Spice Girls and Britney Spears that has dominated radio since 2000. There is a need for artists like this to challenge existing standards while creating something truly multicultural and timeless, not packaged as such by corporations. This is not to say her recording career is unsung, as she has performed major events across the U.S. and is also an accomplished jazz singer. Listening to Rock The Goddess is like being transported into a centuries-old world that you find is still vibrant and alive once you cross the veil from the modern world. A world where the lines between past and present are blurred to the point of nonexistence, along with the divisions between cultures and religious beliefs. It’s hard to pin down any one song that does this the most convincingly, as they all add up to the big picture so to speak. What I can say is that you can write a song with keyboards, guitars, traditional instruments and elements of Celtic and Mediterranean music, and make it work. Rock The Goddess throws the rulebook out the window and starts from scratch. To this day it holds up as testimony that there are no guidelines a musician has to follow to leave a lasting impression. Rock The Goddess is available on several internet outlets including Amazon, iTunes, All Music and CD Baby and can be streamed at Youtube Topic. -Dave Wolff

Track list:
1. Underground Ice
2. The Wheel
3. Heru-Ra-Ha
4. Invocation to the Moon Goddess (At the Sea)
5. Victorious
6. Rock the Goddess
7. Ride My Broom
8. I Am Your Husband
9. Into the Cauldron
10. Little Witch House
11. Sun Eats the Moon
12. Purification
13. Rock the Goddess II

EP Review: PHASE Point Of You re:mixes (Independent)

Point Of You re:mixes
Country of origin: UK
Genre: Post punk, alternative, psychedelic
Release date: September 7, 2017
This is the first release from Phase since their full length The Wait came out in 2014. The reasons for their hiatus is a mystery to me at this point, since they were receiving favorable press around the time In Consequence was made available to the public. The band has always had a unique sound and were unafraid to take chances with their direction. You’ll be able to tell this easily if you check out their back catalogue from 2010 to the present. You should know beforehand this band is an extremely acquired taste and their material is not for everyone. Though it has been a while since I listened to them I remember they didn’t sound quite like anyone else, and they were one of the first bands to incorporate psychedelic themes in their songs. Before Phase started, founding member Thanos Grigoriou played bass for the Greek black metal band Black Winter. Black Winter disbanded in 2008 and reformed in 2015 with a new lineup. If you’re interested you can check them out at https://winterhordes.bandcamp.com. Back to Phase: as you can see below four remixes of what is presumably a new single from the band were recorded for this release. Each of them offers a radically different perspective of the song, with their own sound, atmosphere and host of effects. If anyone reading this is familiar with Phase, this EP travels deeper into left field than anything they recorded in the early 10s. Fans of electronic and industrial who believe they’ve heard everything are in for a surprise or two should they take time to venture into the territory explored here. The second and third remixes have engaging drum programming to go with their respective themes. Imagine Alice In Chains and Nine Inch Nails on acid and you have something of an idea what to expect. The final remix has a computerized feel somewhat likened to early 80s video games. It also made me think of movies from that time period such as Tron. My personal favorite is the first remix which consists mostly of piano and keyboards, with hypnotic scales and minimal programming. While this depends on personal taste, this EP has a lot to offer a wide variety of listeners. -Dave Wolff

Track list:
1. Point of You, Too
2. Point of You (Moxxsy Mix)
3. Point of You (Mental Mix)
4. Point of You (8-bit Version)

EP Review: DEMONSCAR DemonScar EP (Independent)

Country of origin: USA
Genre: Heavy rock, classic metal
Release date: September 8, 2017
This is the first official EP released by DemonScar, following four singles they released in 2017. Three of those singles were songs recorded for the EP; the fourth was a traditional Christmas hymn. I have little background information about the band, except to say they’re natives of Manhattan. However the complete lyrics are available at Bandcamp which helps if you want a broad picture of where they are coming from. DemonScar’s sound has strong ties to rock, but this doesn’t mean you should expect something soft, polished, pleasant or palatable. What you get is somewhere between Black Sabbath. Motorhead, Metallica and Cycle Sluts From Hell, with a pervading atmosphere of nighttime surrounding the musicianship. Accompanying this is a slight hint of grittiness, indicating the grimy East Village streets rather than the paved roads of Beverly Hills. But this is only to enhance their edge and you won’t find it excessively harsh. As far as the lyrics are concerned, DemonScar forego escapism by bringing life’s darker experiences to light, indicating that life is not all about partying and bedding members of the opposite sex. Though the lyrics are growled rather than sung, this approach works for the material, speaking of a drive to overcome and discover one’s own answers rather than dream of reaching earthly heaven. You get the revelation that you unknowingly sold your soul and wonder where it went, the revelation that you were deceived by other men through religion, the knowledge that circumstances are tearing you apart internally, the knowledge that things you believed were good for you are now dragging you deeper into the abyss. Demonscar write about hardships and their impact on the soul, but also maintain it’s better to confront them instead of pretending they don’t exist. In this sense they’re more likened to early grunge before it became a trend. Whether the lyrics make for a positive or negative experience is up to the listener. But I noticed that bands who look at life this way often have more longevity. -Dave Wolff

Band lineup:
Nza - Vocals, Bass
Meds - Guitar, Vocals
Brian - Drums, Vocals

Track list:
1. The Fire Still Rages
2. Unhealed
3. Pray on the Prey
4. Blackened Rose

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Full Length Review: NORTHWIND WOLVES Dark… Cold… Grim… (Black Lion Records)

Dark… Cold… Grim…
Country of origin: USA
Genre: Symphonic black metal
Originally mixed and mastered by Christer Krogh
Remastered by Brett Batdorf
Originally released independently December 20, 2017
Release date: January 18, 2018 (remastered release)
Formed by Astaroth Sinstorm and Brett Batdorf of the melodic death metal band Sinstorm, Northwind Wolves heralded the new year with an album that transcends the limits of human imagination, and heightens what we know as musically creative and expressive. It has long been established that black metal can advance beyond its elementary groundwork. You’ll know this if you listened to Ihsahn, Covenant, Sear Bliss and Charmand Grimloch’s Tartaros. Those bands didn’t seem to be trying to demonstrate how progressive they could be, but accepting and summoning the most darkling mystery in their own souls. While finding it is never a leap of the imagination if you know where to look, the most difficult task is interpreting those discoveries through scales and tablatures that haven’t been tried. People still don’t realize talent and technical prowess are a requirement for musicians to achieve this. By dismissing the rulebook, this band can pose a challenge to prog-rock musicians. Before you scoff, lend an ear to it. Dark… Cold… Grim… is late 1990s black metal at its most seductive. Caustic, atmospheric and vampiric are apt descriptions for it, but can only say so much about the band’s abilities and the response they can evoke in devoted fanatics and newcomers alike. The production has that scraping quality that still appeals to genre fans, but it doesn’t overshadow the dexterity the band display, or the subtlety by which the keyboards ease into the material. Keep in mind this is the first full length the band recorded after releasing an eight song demo in the summer of 2013. I haven’t gotten a chance to hear it yet, but going just by this album I can tell they’ve established what their vision is and hinted at how they intend to refine and cultivate it as they grow more adept at their instruments. The lyrics avoid the kind of blasphemy people expect from extreme metal bands, instead describing the boundaries between the physical world and the undiscovered realms beyond what we see, touch, hear or taste while we’re alive. It suggests with enough commitment and knowledge gained throughout our lives we can achieve even greater things when we finally cross those boundaries. It may come as a surprise after all. -Dave Wolff

Band lineup:
Noor: Lead vocals, guitars, keyboards
Astaroth Sinstorm: Guitars, backing vocals
Lennis Robenson: Bass, backing vocals
Brett Batdorf: Drums, backing vocals

Track list:
1. Dark Skies For Black Sorcery
2. Specters In The Funeral's Mist
3. Cold Hearted Kings Of The Occult
4. Last Light Before The Darkness
5. Foul Wolves And Black Magic
6. Entrance To The Dark Universe
7. Majestic Fog On The Everlasting Mountain
8. Chamber Of The Shadow Lord
9. Celestial Extinction

Podcaster Interview: 13 O'CLOCK PODCAST (Jenny Ashford)

Jenny Ashford and Thomas Ross
Interview with Jenny Ashford of 13 O'CLOCK PODCAST

Social media and the internet has seen a rise in fan-run review sites covering movies, TV and books, and more web surfers are taking notice. How do you account for its increase in popularity?
I think this is definitely a case of both the democratization of media and the fragmenting of it. People have always shared their opinions with friends about movies, TV shows, and video games they liked, but now that you can have what is essentially a global platform for your opinions. That's going to be a very attractive proposition for some. I also think that people like to hear the opinions of "amateurs," or maybe just regular people would be a better way to put it. I think there has always been a strain of distrust for people who have been educated in a particular topic and get paid for writing about it, i.e. paid film critics. I don't necessarily feel like the distrust is wholly justified, but I can see where people are coming from. For example, I'm a lifelong horror fan, and in the past I did feel like a lot of mainstream critics didn't really care for horror, or didn't really get it. But now I can go to a fan-run site that only discusses horror and is made up of reviewers who love the genre; I'm much more likely to listen to their opinions because I think they have a better handle on what they're talking about and a better appreciation for it. I tend to read a wide swath of reviews, though, from mainstream media critics to smaller sites, just to get a sort of rounded view of things. That said, I think the impact that fan-run sites has had on larger mainstream review sites has been enormous, and as time goes on, I don't really think there will be much of a distinction anymore.

Besides having a handle on what they review, many sites present in depth analyses, with honest opinions about good and bad points rather than just praising everything. How important are efforts to challenge the sameness in TV and movies?
I definitely do appreciate the more in-depth analysis that a lot of fan sites give. Though I'm leery of sites that praise everything, I also intensely dislike sites that go in the opposite direction, i.e. the ones that just shit on everything for the sake of sounding cooler or more edgy or what have you. I do like a balanced overview, where you can point out something's flaws without going overboard and comparing the movie or video game in question to cancer or Hitler or whatever, haha.
I'm not sure I'd categorize today's TV and movies as being "samey," or at least no more so than in previous eras. While I don't particularly care for big-budget Hollywood blockbusters in general (though there have been some I quite enjoyed), I didn't like them when I was growing up in the 80s either, mostly preferring independent or art films. I think that some of the blockbusters of today are better-looking and better-written than ones of the past. As far as TV goes, I actually think we are seeing a renaissance in the medium, as it really seems as though original cable series as well as series produced by Netflix are truly an embarrassment of riches. Not that people shouldn't be picky in their entertainment if that's what they want to be, but I'm just floored by the amount of quality programming that's out there; far too much for me to ever have time to watch it all. Combine that with the impact of crowd-funding, which for example brought back my favorite TV show, Mystery Science Theater 3000, plus the ease with which pretty much anyone can make their own shows and movies fairly cheaply and get them out into the world, and I really think we couldn't be living in better times, at least in regards to the entertainment available to us.

As an aside, do you consider Mystery Science Theater 3000 the first of its kind in its approach to classic entertainment? Are you familiar with Rifftrax, a recent project of the actors who apply the formula to mainstream productions?
I don't think MST3K was necessarily the first of its kind as far as that sort of call-and-response funny film critique style. It took elements of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, What's Up Tiger Lily, and local "horror host" type shows and codified them into a winning and pretty original formula. But for sure it was the most culturally relevant, and its influence on today's brand of snarky internet commentary on movies really can't be overstated. And I am indeed familiar with Rifftrax! I have a bunch of them, always download new shorts (which are my favorite), and have even gone to some of the theater events, including Birdemic and their revisiting of the classic Manos: The Hands Of Fate. I really am a complete geek about that show and all its offshoots; I even gave a very large amount of money that I couldn't really afford to the Bring Back MST3K Kickstarter!

Considering how important it was to you to support MST3K’s Kickstarter campaign, how much more “fan power” does crowd funding give to fans? Is it on a par with social media?
Crowdfunding has really been such a huge boon to DIY entertainment, and I really love that we are heading more toward a culture of Patreon and Indiegogo, where fans can support their favorite creators directly. It's a much more one-on-one experience, and people who create things you love are a lot more accessible. That said, I still think social media is much more powerful, if only because it's much easier to just hit the ‘like’ button or share something than it is to actually put up some of your own money in support.

What review sites have you been watching besides your podcast? What do you find sets those programs apart, so that you can immediately recognize them?
Probably my favorite review show on YouTube is Welcome To The Basement (the channel is The Blame Society, and I also love their other show, Beer And Board Games). Two guys, Matt and Craig, who are passionate about film, come from theater and stand-up comedy backgrounds, just sitting on a couch watching a movie, making jokes, and then doing really in-depth and informed discussions about the movies afterward. They do a broad range of flicks: new and old, art films to blockbusters to cult trash, just a vast panoply and I love it. I love the variety, I love their wit, and I love how unashamedly into movies they are. They're funny, but they're also humble and earnest, and not concerned about seeming cool or flippant. They're also about my age, and grew up in the same type of 80s punk/alternative framework as I did, so I can relate to a lot of their opinions and experiences. They don't like some of the movies they feature, but they are always very articulate about the reasons why, and when they disagree, they are civil and adult about it. So they're easily my favorite. I also love Brandon Tenold, who tends to do more Z-grade films and has more of a riffing, MST3K vibe, and other channels like the Shit Flick Critic and Shitcase Cinema. Specifically for horror, I quite like Bloodbath And Beyond.

Why do you think more people are watching channels that critique movies from a fan’s point of view as opposed to clips that endorse movies funded by big companies? Do you think it inspires people to start their own channels?
As I said, I definitely think people are more inclined to believe something a fan says rather than something from the perspective of a "professional." I don't necessarily think that's a great attitude to have in all areas of life (like people believing some random idiot on the internet about curing their cancer rather than listening to a real doctor, to take an extreme example), but for movies I don't think there's any harm in it. People expend a lot of time on their various fandoms and they like to watch other fans discuss the topic, and perhaps argue about what they liked or didn't like. And I definitely think it inspires people to start their own channels, which I think is fantastic. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of the DIY attitude of the punk era (which yes, I am old enough to remember). Most of the channels people start are probably not going to be that good, but a surprising amount of them are pretty brilliant (again, just like the punk era).

What inspired you to start 13 O’Clock Podcast amid the expanding number of Youtube channels? Did you see an opportunity to attract more viewers by joining Youtube?
We had actually been kicking around the idea of doing a podcast for a while before we actually got around to doing one. We thought it would be fun, just because we like to talk and we think we have a funny back and forth with each other which our friends have always found amusing. We also thought it might be another avenue for getting the word out about my writing. But we didn't actually get off our butts and start the thing until after we met the horror writer Armand Rosamilia at an event here in Orlando. We got to talking to him and he had a podcast and a network that it was hosted on, and he suggested we should start one, because we had a good rapport with one another that he thought would be entertaining. So we did. We were initially on his network, but then went our own way when we wanted to start our own Patreon. We've since expanded to two episodes a week, one a paranormal or true crime topic, and one a movie review. It's a lot of work to produce, but it’s fun too, and we've got to meet so many awesome people because of it.

How long had you known each other before you started talking about doing a podcast show? Have you both written for local zines or music papers?
We had probably known each other for about seven years, and been a couple for five, before we started the podcast. Many years ago I used to write for a local music magazine in Florida, and I've also written a bunch of fiction and non-fiction in the years since. I also have a horror blog called Goddess Of Hellfire, though I don't write as much long-form stuff on there as I used to, because I just don't have the time. Tom is more the idea guy, the pitch man, the comic relief, haha. I'm usually the one who does the research for the shows and does all the technical stuff. When we record the show, half the fun is me just talking about the topic and then Tom putting in his two cents, because I'm never sure what he's going to come up with. He's like the audience surrogate.

What kind of fiction and music reviews were you writing before you started reviewing movies?
Almost all horror fiction. I had written two books of short stories and a couple of horror novels before I started reviewing. When I first started the blog, I would often put up short stories from the books and excerpts of the novels just as teasers, and sometimes I would post short stories I wrote that hadn’t been published. I also posted descriptions of particularly interesting nightmares I had, haha. As far as music reviews go, I pretty much wrote reviews of gothic and alternative stuff. This was in the early to mid 90s. I remember writing about Nick Cave, Julian Cope, Robyn Hitchcock, David J, Alien Sex Fiend, stuff like that.

Is anything you have written still in publication today? Can it be purchased or downloaded on the internet?
Pretty much everything I’ve written is available somewhere! All of my fiction and nonfiction is available on Amazon; my author page is Jenny Ashford. The fiction is available in print and eBook formats, the nonfiction is available in print, eBook, and audio book. I’m eventually going to get around to doing audio book versions of my fiction too, I just haven’t had time to do it yet. Plus some short horror stories I’ve written have turned up in various anthologies over the years, like History Is Dead (zombie stories with historical settings) and The Nightmare Collective. Easiest way to find those is to go to my website, click on the Books tab, and there’s a big list with links of pretty much all my stuff.

How long has Goddess Of Hellfire been online, and where on the internet can it be found? Are classic horror movies mostly reviewed there, or do you also cover other materials?
It's at goddessofhellfire.com. I started writing it in mid-2014. At first I just put up things like short stories and novel excerpts I'd written, articles about various creepy topics, and so forth, but then I got into talking about horror movies, books, and even horror-themed toys I loved growing up. Then I started picking out some of my favorite scary scenes from horror movies and discussing why I thought they were frightening, or why they had made an impression on me. I also did a series on silent films, with funny commentary. Once we started the podcast, I also started promoting the podcast on the blog. But since we've been doing mostly older movies on the podcast, I've lately taken to reviewing newer horror films on the blog. In fact, a couple years back, I started a Horror Double Feature category, where I pick two fairly recent (i.e. post-2010) horror flicks at random on Netflix and review them. So the blog has reviews of everything from horror classics (The Haunting from 1963, Don't Look Now, The Tenant, Dead Ringers, Blood on Satan's Claw) to silent movies from the earliest days of cinema (Haxan, The Phantom Carriage, The Hands of Orlac), to recent independent horror (Starry Eyes, The Invitation, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, They Look Like People). It's kind of a mixed bag. As I said before, I'd really like to write more long-form reviews on there, but the past few months have been kind of crazy and I haven't really had time. I have a huge list of movies I want to write about, both old and new.

What other movies are you thinking about reviewing for Goddess Of Hellfire?
As far as newer movies go, I’ve watched a large batch of indie horror movies lately that I want to review, including Creep 2 (I already reviewed the first one, which was awesome), Anguish, The Ritual, Abattoir, Tag, and Before I Wake. I just posted reviews a few days ago of the horror comedies Ava’s Possessions and Welcome to Willits, both of which I really enjoyed, and I was pretty stoked that the guy who wrote Welcome to Willits, Tim Ryan, saw my review on Facebook and shared it around and friended me! As far as older movies, I still want to do some more classic silent films, like The Golem and The Man Who Laughs. And other movies I want to do are Cemetery Man, Carnival of Souls, Ravenous, Blood and Black Lace (I’ve written about a lot of giallo movies on my blog, but haven’t got around to doing the big heavy-hitters yet), more Dario Argento movies (since I’ve only written about Suspiria), The Brood (definitely need more Cronenberg on the blog; I’ve only done Dead Ringers so far), and probably Inland Empire and/or Lost Highway, because David Lynch is my favorite.

Does your approach to reviewing differ greatly from the sites you have watched recently? How much room do you two have to discuss movies you grew up watching? What is your criterion for choosing material to discuss?
Our approach to reviewing wasn't really something we thought a great deal about. We just decided we were going to talk about movies, particularly ones we really liked growing up and that kind of shaped our personalities, and that was it. We never really have a script or much of an idea what we're going to talk about; we just watch the movie, maybe read through the Wikipedia page to remember all the actors' names and stuff, and then turn on the mic and start yapping, haha. Sometimes we go off on tangents, sometimes we relate personal anecdotes about seeing the movie, stuff like that. And our approach to picking the ones we review is completely random. We have a list we want to get around to eventually, and sometimes fans will recommend some good ones, but most of the time we'll just be talking about something else and one of us will say, "Hey, remember that movie from 1978 with the tentacle monster, that really scared me as a kid" (or whatever) and then we'll do that. We usually do older movies, like 70s and 80s, but we've done newer ones too, like Blade Runner 2049 because we loved it so much, and I reviewed David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, which is one of my favorite movies ever. We don't have any rules or set criteria, we just pull stuff out of our butts most of the time. Hahaha.

What sort of ideas does Tom come up with for the show? Are most of them adapted into your podcast?
He mostly likes paranormal topics; it was his idea, for instance, to do reviews/discussions of episodes of the show "A Haunting" on some of our episodes, and that's really worked out well. A lot of people really responded to those, and those particular episodes have been responsible for some of the show's beloved catchphrases, such as "Where is that raccoon?!?" and, "Man said it would be fun!" Hahaha. Tom is also into weird history, UFO and space type things. Some of the topics he championed on the show were the ones we did on Nazis and the occult, the shows on Aleister Crowley and Anton LaVey, myths about the Maya, the triangle UFO phenomenon, history of "life on Mars" stories, failed doomsday predictions (that was a fun one), and the one we did about crazy cryptids. On the whole, he's way more into conspiracies and crazy theories on the fringe of science, whereas I'm more the skeptic type who prefers to talk about weird murders, or debunking various paranormal topics (for example, one of my favorite episodes we did was about Houdini's campaign against the spiritualists and how he busted fake séances. We didn't get a lot of hits on that one, but it was still great fun for me to do).

What did you two discuss about LaVey and Crowley? Do you usually research the obscure topics featured on your podcast?
The Crowley show we kind of turned into a “fun myths about the man” discussion, because there are a lot of crazy stories about him that are kind of entertaining but probably untrue. The Anton LaVey one was mostly just a straightforward talk about his life and the ins and outs of the Church of Satan, with a short discussion about his association with Jayne Mansfield. I try to do as much research on the topics as I can, within time constraints. I’m also a writer and a graphic designer, so when it comes down to crunch time I really only have a day or two to research whatever topic we’re discussing. I try not to make mistakes, but sometimes they slip through just because I didn’t have time to get a really broad view of the subject. That said, we still just want it to be a fun, casual show, so we try not to worry too much about crossing every T and dotting every I. We never script it really, I just write a brief outline of the topic and we turn on the mic and wing it.

How long have you studied graphic design? Have you designed any graphic art for 13 O Clock Podcast?
I actually got a degree in graphic design back in the mid-90s, and I’ve been working in the field since 1997. I’m completely freelance now, which is nice. I did indeed do all the graphics for 13 O’Clock, including the logo, all our t-shirt designs and various promo materials. I’ve actually done design for lots of bands, including the post-punk/gothic band from Miami, Astari Nite, and some death metal stuff like Sons of Ragnar and Withering Earth. I designed the Black Metal Chef’s cookbook, The Seitanic Spellbook, from cover to cover, and I'm pretty proud of how that came out. I also do tons of posters for Goth nights and various gigs around central Florida. Plus I do a bunch of package design and some corporate promo stuff as well, to pay the bills.

How often do you design posters for Goth parties and local performances? Can your work be viewed online?
I do all the posters for the goth/industrial night Tom and I host (along with our friend DJ Lavidicus) called Memento Mori. That's the third Monday of the month in downtown Orlando. I also do two or three posters for Astari Nite gigs per month, and I do posters for pretty much every death metal show at The Haven and Bombshell's Tavern in Orlando. Sometimes I also do posters for various nights at Rok Bar in Daytona Beach. A lot of my posters and other designs can be seen on the Portfolio area of my website.

Are there other occult based topics you might be covering on future podcasts?
We have a few occult-style topics on the list. Someone recommended we do a show on Fox Hollow Farm, which is a serial killer story and a ghost story all in one, so we’re definitely going to do that. We’re probably going to do ones about Illuminati theories as well, one about Ouija boards (another listener recommendation), and maybe less occult but more mystery-themed, one about creepy uncracked codes, the Voynich Manuscript, the Elisa Lam case, and a few other topics.

What Illuminati theories have you been reading about of late? Who is/was Elisa Lam and what is the Voynich Manuscript?
The Illuminati stuff I haven’t got too much into yet, because we’re probably not going to get to that episode for a few more months. It’s just been requested a lot, and we eventually wanted to do one, plus it's something Tom is kinda fascinated by. Elisa Lam was also a requested topic; that’s the girl who was caught on video acting very strangely in a hotel elevator and then later found dead in the hotel’s huge water tank on the roof. No one’s really sure if she somehow climbed in there herself or if she got murdered or what; it’s a pretty disturbing story. The Voynich Manuscript is this weird book from the 15th century that has all these drawings of unknown plants in it and is written in some strange language or code that so far no one has ever been able to decipher. I love anything about mysterious books and codes, so I’ve been wanting to do a show on that for a while, even though there have been several documentaries done on it.

How did you  hear of the Voynich Manuscript? Did you get to watch any of the documentaries made about it?
I'm pretty sure I first heard of it from the History Channel, maybe on one of those "historical mysteries" type shows. I have watched a few other documentaries about it. It's always been such a fascinating subject to me, not only because no one has really been able to figure out what it says or what it means, but also because it was definitely made in the 15th century, and if someone was "faking it" for some reason (i.e. making a bogus spellbook or grimoire or something that was just written in some gibberish, made-up language), then that's an interesting story by itself. I'm enthralled by people who create crazy stuff like that for fraudulent purposes or just for shits and giggles. It's the same reason I'm dying to do a show on Han van Meegeren, the guy who painted a bunch of fake Vermeers and sold some of them to the Nazis; I just really admired his grift, I guess, haha.

How often have you chosen movies from the 70s and 80s because of the sentimental value that comes from discussing them? Name a handful of those movies and what you remembered the most while you two shared your thoughts on them?
Most of the time we choose films that had some significance for us during our formative years, and though some of that is surely sentimentality, I'm also interested in revisiting movies from our childhood and seeing how they hold up now that I'm an adult. For example, we recently reviewed Disney's The Black Hole from 1979. Tom remembered it fairly well, but was still surprised at how much he still liked it. I recalled seeing it in the theater when I was seven years old, but didn't remember hardly anything about it, so I was curious to see why it hadn't left an impression. And I was also quite surprised by how much I enjoyed it, considering I had barely remembered it at all. I was also very excited to review Time After Time, also from 1979, because I had very fond memories of watching that film over and over on cable in the early eighties. I still love it, and can recite it practically word for word.

Other classic movies reviewed at 13 O’Clock include Logan’s Run, Blade Runner, Westworld and Suspiria. Were these all personal favorites of yours? How much detail went into your discussions?
Suspiria is for sure one of my favorite horror films of all time, and it was one of the first movies I wrote down when we were coming up with a list of movies to review. Interestingly, I ended up reviewing Suspiria on my own (as I also did with David Lynch's Mulholland Drive) when Tom was out of town taking care of a family emergency. Tom had never seen Suspiria, and doesn't like Italian or surrealist horror in general, so I figured I would just get that one out of the way while he wasn't home, haha. Tom is way more into sci-fi. I like sci-fi too, and I definitely wanted to do Logan's Run and Blade Runner because those were beloved movies from my childhood, but usually if we do a more sci-fi oriented flick, it's generally Tom's pick, though I like the movies as well. I tend to be more of a fan of cerebral horror, ghost stories, surrealism, arthouse type stuff, which Tom doesn't usually have much patience for. So we try to hit a happy medium, where those genres intersect with one another. Like, we're both super into The Legend of Hell House, Videodrome, Salem's Lot, and John Carpenter's The Thing, so those were no-brainers for us to review. For other movies we usually have to gauge how much each of us loves them/knows about them to see if it will make a good discussion. I like it when we find the sweet spot of a movie where it's a movie we both like, but we like it for different reasons or we each have a unique reading of it. That happened on our recent review of the 1977 movie Demon Seed, which Tom interpreted in a different way than I did, so we had kind of a spirited talk about it and what we thought it meant.

Describe other occult and paranormal topics you have covered of late.
We recently did a show on the Winchester Mystery House, although we talked less about the actual reported hauntings and more about the strange construction of it and whether Sarah Winchester really believed she was building the house to keep the ghosts confused. We also did episodes on the Belmez Faces (where faces spontaneously appeared in floor and wall tiles in a house in Spain, though it was almost certainly a hoax); the Moving Coffins of Chase Vault in Barbados (which was probably a fictional story that got conflated into a real event); and fire poltergeists (like the unexplained fires that broke out in the Italian village of Canneto di Caronia in the early 2000s). We also did episodes on spontaneous combustion, the haunting at Summerwind Mansion, EVPs, the so-called "witchcraft murder" of Charles Walton in England in 1945 (which seemed very much like a ritual sacrifice), sea monsters and ghost ships, the Black Mausoleum, Haitian zombie lore and the making of so-called "zombie powder," and the Scole Experiment. Oh, and we did a show about Tom's own poltergeist experience from when he was a kid back in 1982, the Mammoth Mountain poltergeist. We wrote a book about that as well.

Would you say the subject matter you and Tom prefer make for a kind of balance that’s unique for your podcast?
I do think we have an interesting dynamic going. I guess most podcasts similar to ours are either one or the other, i.e. all paranormal mysteries or all true crime, but from the very beginning, we wanted to have a looser framework where we could discuss pretty much anything that interested us. And since we have a bunch of different and kind of idiosyncratic interests, the topics are sort of all over the place, which I like because I like a lot of variety. I would get bored just talking about ghost stories every week, but I’d also get bored talking about horrible murders every week. And people really have seemed to respond to our sort of ramshackle format, haha. Plus we’ve gotten a lot of feedback that listeners seem to like the personal dynamic between Tom and me, the sort of funny rapport we have with one another, which I think is another thing that makes our show stand out from the pack a bit. It never really occurred to us that other people would find our interaction entertaining, because we've known each other so long and the way we act with one another is something we don't think about, but apparently other people are amused by our shenanigans.

Some time ago you did a feature on Elizabeth Bathory, who perhaps can be considered a serial killer. A few others from recent times have been the focus of your discussions. Would you discuss other modern era serial killers?
We're definitely going to do more serial killers. We've been asked to do some better-known ones, like Jack the Ripper, the Phantom Killer, and the Zodiac, for instance, and we'll do those at some point, but I'm always more interested in ones that aren't so well-known. Like we did an episode on the Atlanta Ripper from the early 1900s, and I was amazed how little-known that serial killer is, even though it's thought that he killed from 8 to 22 women. I also want to do a show on female serial killers, and ones on Jack the Stripper, Bible John, Dean Corll, the Monster of Florence, the Doodler, the Beauty Queen Killer, the Highway of Tears murders, the Alphabet murders, maybe Albert Fish or Carl Panzram. The show we'll be recording this week is actually going to be about serial killer Herb Baumeister, who I only heard about because I saw an episode of Paranormal Witness about his former house, Fox Hollow Farm. So it's like a serial killer show and a haunted house show all in one!

In addition to the podcasts you have posted, what untapped topics do you consider worthwhile to discuss?
Anything having to do with mysteries or the grotesque, really. I tend more toward true crime, creepy unsolved murders, urban legends, that kind of stuff. Tom is more into paranormal, conspiracy theory type subjects. We try to get a good mix of topics in there, plus we get a lot of great ideas from our listeners.

How often do listeners suggest ideas to you for discussion? Are there any fan suggestions you decided to go with that turned out well for the show?
Oh gosh, we get so many suggestions, and most of them are great. I still have a huge list of topics that have been recommended that we haven't gotten around to doing yet. Some of the best suggestions we've gotten were the murders at Corpsewood Manor and the Wineville Chicken Coop murders (which we did as one episode), mysteries of rock & roll (which was a blast to do) the Bloody Benders, the Smiley Face murder theory, the Russian Sleep Experiment, and Elizabeth Bathory. We still have a bunch more suggestions coming up, and I'm really looking forward to doing some of them!

There has been a lot of talk on Youtube about what is known as the Dark Web or the Deep Web in the last year or so. Would you ever consider a feature on it?
Oh yeah, that is definitely on the horizon. Matter of fact, I was just researching “creepiest videos on YouTube” with the hope of doing a show on that sort of thing soon. I don’t know how much into the really terrible shit on the Dark Web we want to go (like snuff videos and child porn, for instance), because I’m more fascinated by just the out there, weird stuff that people make that no one else can figure out the reason for. So there will likely be an episode discussing that topic in the coming months.

Many rumors about the deep web are just rumors. How would you be able to tell the difference while preparing your podcast?
I suspect most of the stuff that's on the deep web is exaggerated. I read somewhere that the bulk of the information on there is rather mundane; secured transactions, secret military stuff, corporate trade secrets, that kind of thing. I'm not saying there's not a lot of child porn and snuff and shit on there, because I'm sure there is, but I think when people think of the deep web, that's the first thing they think of, when probably that's just a small percentage of it (although even that small percentage is too much). As far as approaching it on the show, I generally always take a fairly skeptical or objective view of whatever topic we're doing, not to be contrary exactly, but because I know how easy it is to want to exaggerate something to make it sound scarier or more exciting. I usually present the information on the show as a sort of, "Well, some sources make this fairly outrageous claim, and these other sources have disputed it," and I'll usually fall on the more skeptical end of the spectrum. For instance, we did a show on H.H. Holmes, and even though he's quite well known for being "the serial killer who built the murder castle hotel with greased corpse chutes," I discovered that a lot of the claims about that stuff didn't come out until a bit later, that some of it came from his own confessions which were wildly embellished and self-aggrandizing, and that the newspapers hyped the hell out of the macabre story to sell copies. So was Holmes a killer? Definitely. Did he purpose-build a hotel with trap doors and special rooms for gassing people and stuff like that? Maybe, but I don't know if it was exactly like the legends. I tend to take the same approach with stories about the deep web, and especially nowadays, when it's so easy to fake things.

Where would you like to see the podcast in five years, going by its present growth? Would you like to eventually see it airing on a public access channel or a cable channel? Or would you like to continue building it from the grass roots?
I think I would like to see it continuing to expand, and I'd eventually like to get into some better production values, maybe incorporate video of us instead of just our voices and still images. I don't think I would want it to be a TV show necessarily, but who knows. The more people get involved in a project I'm working on, the more stressed out I get, haha. I wouldn't call myself a control freak necessarily, but I definitely like to do most of the work and not really be beholden to anyone else. It's why I started my own publishing company to put out my books, because I want to design my own covers and do my own book layouts and not have to depend on anyone else or hew to anyone else's timeline. It's the same with the podcast; I like to choose the topics and design the graphics and put everything where I want to put it when I want to put it there. So I hope we can just keep it independent and see it continue to grow.

How much potential for growth do you see building 13 O Clock Podcast independently?
Hopefully quite a bit. Since it's kind of a side gig that Tom and I do because we enjoy it, if it does well then that will be really great, a sort of nice surprise. It's actually already done much better than we were expecting, and we haven't even been going for two years yet. So I can see it continuing to build slowly, which is fine with me. If at some point it becomes huge, then that would be fantastic as well, and perhaps if that time comes we can take things to the next level, either by associating ourselves with a larger network or whatever else that might entail. I'm just happy that people are listening and responding to it; anything else is just the cherry on top.
jennyashford.com/ is a general site with links to everything on it, including all my books, my design portfolio, a bio, etc.

Goddess of Hellfire is my horror blog, which also has links to all the podcast episodes and movie retrospectives we've done, but also has lots of written movie reviews and essays about the genre, short stories, book excerpts, and more fun stuff.

-Dave Wolff

Sunday, March 11, 2018

EP Review: SIMON AND THE BAR SINISTERS Didn’t I Piss You Off This Time?? (Independent)

Country of origin: USA
Genre: Punk
Recorded at: Oceanus, Rockaway Beach, New York, February 2018
Engineer: Matt Walsh
Producers: Simon Chardiet and Matt Walsh
Release date: February 19, 2018
I saw Simon and the Bar Sinisters at the 2015 Tompkins Square Park Riot 27th anniversary show. I remember a sunny late summer’s day in August, about a month before autumn would start creeping in, and the bands and attendees were there to remember a rather unpleasant day in New York history. You may have read about it here or elsewhere on the net, but for those of you who are unfamiliar with the incident, NYC police clashed with protestors over a curfew imposed on Tompkins Square Park that lasted for hours. Ironically the neighborhood was divided over the homeless and squatters there but were united in their condemnation of the police department after the riot, which is commemorated to this day. Other bands appearing at the 2015 memorial were The Blame and Sewage with Jesse Mosher. While my visits to Manhattan are less frequent, attending this show felt just like the old days, with the angst and activism as tangible as ever. Simon and the Bar Sinisters capture the feeling of those memorials quite well. Didn’t I Piss You Off This Time?? is their third EP after Who Knows (December 2017) and The Rooftoppers Play For… YOU! (January 2018). For an EP recorded and released to Bandcamp within a month it embodies the outer fringes of modern punk with its dangerous vibes and rejection of anything amounting to mediocrity, whether in news or entertainment. You know the story. The grit I’ve written about reviewing other bands from the city is channeled through each guitar chop and vocal line. Life Coach has something of a Ramones feel with some implications of pop punk but this promptly changes with the blazing hardcore feel of Mass Incarceration. Drive ‘Em Out is a personal favorite, retaining the attitude of the bands who railed against the curfew so long ago and the Quality Of Life agenda a decade later. The lyrics are every bit as choleric as the music, adding to the determination of the New York punk scene to stay afloat and continue spreading information through music and print, to generate change for the better. Why Are You Stupid sounds more personal, with snotty vocals that made me think of Johnny Rotten in his heyday with the Sex Pistols. Worth checking out if you’re curious about NYC punk. -Dave Wolff

Band lineup:
Simon Chardiet: Guitar, Rickenbacker bass, 12 string bass, vocals
Tommy Mattioli: Drums

Track list:
1. Life Coach
2. Mass Incarceration
3. Drive 'Em Out!
4. Why Are You Stupid