Thursday, May 21, 2015

CD review: ARKHAM Raising Worms

ARKHAM
Raising Worms
Independent
http://www.facebook.com/arkhamdeath
Melodic death metal from El Bolson, Rio Negro, Argentina. Arkham formed as Croaton in 2008, went on hiatus in 2010 and returned in 2012 with a new, steady lineup (Oscar Orcellet: vocals, Fabio Nahuelquir: guitar, Juan Thedy: guitar, Leonel Martinez: bass, Ariel Sanchez: drums) and their new moniker. Since reforming they recorded a demo and a debut MCD consisting of five songs. Arkham have been making a name for themselves locally opening for fellow Argentinian thrashers Serpentor, Eternal Grave, Mastifal, Lethal, Osamenta, Evisceration, Inflection, Sindrome and Induxión Mental. For a lineup that has worked together for two to three years they display solidarity and combine their influences cohesively. As I perceive it their sound often draws parallels to Swedish death metal (Amon Amarth). I also hear recurrent hints of classic metal and thrash in Perpetual Red Line, Martyr and Eternal. When fusing styles like these together as a new band just starting to record, the completed product can either be convoluted or fused together tightly. In these songs Arkham manage to link their influences in the appropriate places and channel them with controlled energy. Eternal also interjects a brief interlude of folk music in the midst of their heaviness. All this makes for a good start to their career. -Dave Wolff

CD review: MISANTHROPE MONARCH Misanthrope Monarch

MISANTHROPE MONARCH
Misanthrope Monarch
Independent
http://www.facebook.com/misanthropemonarchband
For a small state of what Misanthrope Monarch are capable of, the four songs on their debut MCD made me want to hear more. The German death-thrashers assail you, shred your consciousness and depart before you even know what hit you. This is really two full tracks, an intro and outro but it’s difficult to deny the German underground metal community can still produce quality music once you hear it all the way through. It seems this self-titled release together with the track The Omega Embrace was released on Bandcamp to generate a social media buzz before the inevitable release of a full length. The band themselves formed as a three piece in 2014, and how they pulled their act together since then demonstrates their potential as professionals as well as musicians. There is a buzz being generated in print as well as on the net, which includes zine and independent magazine coverage and independent shirt sales in which you can order directly from them. The band’s determination to establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with in metal reflects their undeviating, unrelenting and multi-faceted style of death-thrash. Given the tight riffs, blast beats and occasional hints at Morbid Angel (not to mention the ambient theme introducing the MCD) there is more going on than you’ll experience at first listen. Dissonant chords and multi-layered guitars are only two aspects that establish Misanthrope Monarch as having their own identity in the field of extreme metal, showing the ability to branch out in yet another direction in a subculture that has consistently showed the potential for growth and maturity on its own terms. Visit the band on Facebook and discover this for yourself. -Dave Wolff

CD review: OTHERS Our Hearts Turn Black

OTHERS
Our Hearts Turn Black
Independent
http://othersgothichorror.bandcamp.com
Where Others’ single Heart Of Darkness (Tales Of Dracula) was captivating classically tinged gothic music, Our Hearts Turn Black is the uncompromising black metal you’d expect to come from Europe and Asia. When I began streaming this I expected to hear something like the aforementioned single but this was a more than pleasant surprise. I must clarify that Others is not a black metal band; rather they have made a tribute to black metal specifically for this album. What is unique about this band is they seek to make each release different from the last. Alternating between goth, punk and black metal, they create varying atmospheres on every new release. Our Hearts Turn Black is not all nihilism and misanthropy; Marquis DeBlood’s theatrical side reveals itself more than once. The intro Incantation (with a guest appearance by Les Hernandez), with a haunting soliloquy by Mistress Jessica as The Priestess, leads into the instrumental A Coming Storm, in turn followed by Immaculate Deception. The arrangement of these cuts makes for an inventive start that reaches poetic heights. The lyrics of Troy Usher do as much theatrically for this album as the music composed by DeBlood, and like many black metal albums of similar ilk, the collection of songs with all their components plays like a horror classic from the 50s to 70s era. At times I was reminded of Cradle Of Filth, other times I was reminded of Dark Funeral (Secrets Of The Black Arts era), still other times I was reminded of Charmand Grimloch’s Tartaros. The point is there is too much going on here for this recording to be pigeonholed into one category. And this is usually makes for worthwhile albums of any genre. -Dave Wolff

CD review: VARIOUS ARTISTS Curse Of The Vampire

VARIOUS ARTISTS
Curse Of The Vampire
The Horror Of It All Productions
http://thehorrorofitallproductions.bandcamp.com
Curse Of The Vampire is a compilation released by Marquis DeBlood, host of the web series The Horror Of It All that airs during October at What’s Goin’ On Binghamton (whatsgoinonbinghamton.com). DeBlood contributes three cuts to this EP that are quite good. Kiss Of Blood, Halloween Night and Villisca are goth metal/horror rock with an inherent sense of entertaining fun, as if Vincent Price appeared on Elvira’s Midnight Madness (they did guest together on The Tonight Show in 1986). The songs interested me in watching episodes of his podcast this October and reminded me of John Hex’s Creepshow, only less punk-oriented. DeBlood is the owner of Horror-Punks.com, a news and media site that promotes music, art and literature. This community is worth checking out as much as this compilation. At What’s Goin’ On Binghamton and Horror-Punks’ Youtube there are several clips by DeBlood, including his virtual cemetery tours. Such clips are up my alley, so I stumbled onto something I’ll like watching at my leisure. The other tracks included here showcase diversity in the bands Horror-Punks supports. Recycled Zombies (Day Of Wreckening) and Hollow Bodies (Homicidal Night) head into heavier, thrashier territory while The Docktor has a song for fans of techno-industrial (GHOST5 The Haunted). If you like occult rock like Coven and classic rock like Bob Seger, Grace’s Ghost would appeal to you since their song Fire On has elements of both. Others contribute a punk edge with Horror Academy. All the tracks are new and unreleased, gathered exclusively for this EP, and links for the bands are provided at the Bandcamp link above. -Dave Wolff

CD review: SOCIAL DECAY Sick Society

SOCIAL DECAY
Sick Society
To The Point Records
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Social-Decay/128287203904298
It’s impressive how hardcore music has survived pop punk, nu metal, metalcore and other mainstream trends and emerged from the shadows cast by them stronger than ever. New Jersey’s Social Decay personify this accomplishment as they’ve been active since 1984, before hardcore bands even crossed over with metal. Once when I visited the LIU radio station, one DJ involved in metal and indie programming assumed no one today knew of Bad Brains. This would most likely be unthinkable to Social Decay. Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Urban Waste, Discharge and virtually all of hardcore’s originators are familiar to them as they’ve shared the stage with almost anyone you can think of. Their longevity and experience is evident on this full length which retains their roots all the way back to the early 80s while incorporating some elements of metal in an unforced manner that’s far more convincing than what passes for punk and hardcore according to most college stations these days. Listening to Sick Society you can almost feel going to a hardcore matinee or evening show, paying the single-figure cover charge and walking into the club, sweat and dirty bathrooms and all. It may be a cliché but I’d rather have a bathroom stinking of piss and puke than an upscale club turning out third rate “punk” bands whose only source of information is the aforementioned indie programming. What was lost in this transition, Social Decay bring back with a vengeance. Kind of gives new meaning to titles like Life's Not Hard… You're Just Soft (the title of the band’s debut EP). Any of the songs gracing this album will educate the uninformed and revitalize the faithful. -Dave Wolff

CD review: MOLOCH Verwustung

MOLOCH
Verwustung
Human To Dust
http://www.facebook.com/Molochukr
Ukranian black metal at its rawest, coldest and most misanthropic; take heed and beware the coming of night. Moloch is a one-man project birthed by Sergiy Fjordsson who plays all the instruments here (guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and vocals) and is known for his involvement in Psilocybe City Life, Saturn Form Essence and Silver Sphere Moon. His track record speaks of a musician who is experienced in his field, knows what he wants to do and is of many ideas to express. Fjordsson has done Moloch since 2004 and released an endless succession of demos, splits, compilations, box sets and full lengths. If MTV introduced you to black metal in the 2000s this might not be for you, but if you’ve been into it over the long haul and appreciate Burzum, Vlad Tepes and Fimbulwinter, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by seeking this out. Verwustung has similar cult-like themes, with no effort made to sugarcoat them. I again get that feeling I got from black metal in the 90s as if the old spirit never departed the ether; those old ghosts from the past still have much to say and who better than Fjordsson to be their spokesman? In traditional fashion the first track Todesstille sets the tone with cold, atmospheric keyboards, marking the transition from the world of light to the dark of Fjordsson’s imagination. Preparing you for the cuts to follow, this ambient track eclipses the stars, establishing visions of long forgotten crypts with tormented souls waiting to share their tales with the unwary listener. When those tales are given voice you feel inexorably drawn into this sea of crypts with a thin chance of escape, if any. The title track closing the album gives the impression that you are one of those spirits. For information about the different formats Verwustung was released in visit http://molochukr.bandcamp.com, -Dave Wolff

CD review: SALEMS LOTT Salems Lott

SALEMS LOTT
Salems Lott
Independent
http://www.facebook.com/salemslottband
My first thought of Salems Lott was that they reminded me of Loudness around the time Thunder In The East was out. At that time I was undergoing my transition from rocker/metaller to die hard thrasher (which in turn led to the eclectic musical tastes I have today). There was a long period when I shunned arena rock, but in this modern age of American Idol, boy bands and formulaic reconstituted pop I would take almost anything over the bad porn soundtrack that is Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time.” Salem’s Lott doesn’t pander to trendies. Touting themselves “violent Hollywood shock metal”, the band is creative, expressive, cutting edge and basically everything shock rock should have been in the 80s. Note that I said “shock rock”, not “cock rock”. If you’re expecting the latter you’ll be sorely disappointed, that’s for certain. Gene Simmons once stated you don’t play with your mind, you play with your dick; Salem’s Lott makes a more than convincing argument for the other side. The band take the darker visual elements of Motley Crue (Shout At The Devil) and EZO, combining them with the classical experimentation of the aforementioned Loudness and the late, great Randy Rhoads to spawn something frightening and original. Also added are some goth and thrash elements, something it was unheard of for glam bands to do when they were appearing on MTV from 1987 to ‘89. The band’s single/video “No Choice To Love” resonates a great deal with tales of vampirism somewhat similar to goth bands from the 90s to the present, and the rest of the album contains some unexpectedly brilliant moments with overlapping guitar solos and classical guitars. -Dave Wolff

CD review: DEADLY SINS Anticlockwise

DEADLY SINS
Anticlockwise
Independent
http://www.facebook.com/DeadlySins.Official
I don’t hear of many metal bands coming from France, but in those rare moments the experience is enough to remain with me for an indefinite period. Deadly Sins from Lyon, France are giving me one those moments as I listen to their full length Anticlockwise. This album is blistering 80s’s style thrash that assail your senses from the first note. Definitely an old school feel among these songs, and no mainstream friendliness to be found anywhere. Just rude and crass sounding songs, especially where the drums push the string instruments onward with a relentlessness that should be felt firsthand. For a French band they seem to have the vibes generated by German bands of the classic thrash era down pat, with some Bay Area themes added for good measure (a la Exodus, Testament). The lead vocals are somewhat reminiscent of Mille Petrozza (Kreator); at times there are hints of Sodom’s Tom Angelripper on In The Sign Of Evil; supported by backing vocals resonating of dangerously rowdy, heavily inebriated bar patrons. The musicianship conveys the songwriting in a harsh, unapologetic manner. At times the delivery is so intense I feel my skull is about to implode any second. With no ballads or mellow parts, the energy is made plain by the bloodcurdling scream accompanying the beginning of the first track and compounds itself as the album progresses, even leading to a blast section here and there. If more thrash bands were like this one, and there were fewer copycats of Metallica and Slayer, thrash may not have waned in popularity in the late 80s. -Dave Wolff

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Band Interview: INTROSPECTION

Interview with Virghon of Introspection

Start off by discussing the current state of the metal underground in Brazil and your hometown. What are some of the independent print zines and webzines that are currently active these days? How about bands and venues?
Brazil is an extremely large continental country; therefore underground metal here has different characteristics. For example, we are from Maceió-Alagoas in northeastern Brazil. Here the city has very few shows in the year; when it happens it is a promoter bringing bands from other cities, generally in the south and southeast. But the northeast is very large and has several cities. Here we have many Black Metal shows. Death and Heavy Metal in general is oriented toward the northeast as a whole. Fortaleza-Ceara in the Northeast has a strong attraction with various bands. Recife-Pernambuco (the neighboring state to Maceio, our city) has a regional scene but made inside to speak of underground metal. But it still has several international attractions. But as in all of Brazil there is hyper appreciation for the bands of the south of the country and even foreign bands. Already southern Brazil has many more underground shows with little public because the public only appreciates foreign, European or American bands. What is being built is a great fragmentation in the Brazilian underground. And, in a way, it is even good. But on the other hand, our country is a melting pot; we are very mixed. Thus, there is an internal and external culturalization that collides ideologically. It's funny and at the same time confusing to see bands with their culture transcending ideologies. Brazil has many independent zines in various cities. The most famous metal webzine of the country is Whiplash.net. But the number of zines is so large that it is difficult to list them here. Therefore it would be an unfair choice. But in fact, there are many dedicated warriors in every Brazilian state; I would say we have serious and valiant zines from the national scene in every state. But printed zines and webzines are too small. Here in the city there are two Black Metal bands, but it seems that no material has been released yet. It has some old bands that persist in the struggle. In terms of Death Metal there are three great ancient bands in our city: Lammashta, Goreslave and Nós. We came from seeing these bands and going to their concerts. Thinking about it, time passes very fast; we will complete ten years of the band in 2015. We have three independent demos and we are launching our first official CD recorded in Peru in Latin America. We have a tape to be released by a record company in Costa Rica, and a representative and digital distributor of our work in the United States. And also, we have some splits and participation in various zines and national, European and North American collections. We need to take a living doing what we love, and we want to play our Death Metal to death. That is the law. Despite living in Maceió, northeast Alagoas, it's been three years that I have lived from season to season in São Paulo in the city of Guarulhos, the second largest city in the state of São Paulo. In São Paulo the scene is stronger, and the constant attractions are greater. I'm in the city studies completing my Masters in Philosophy. If the doctorate is approved I will have to put up with this for four years, and then we will inevitably be playing live, writing and participating in the local scene.

Describe Whiplash zine and indicate how well known it has become in Brazil? Name some of the bands that Whiplash has featured of late? How long have Roadie Crew and Rock Brigade been active in Brazil and how many readers know of it?
Whiplash.net is a site about rock and metal in all its sub-styles. The philosophy of the site is to invest in the community that exists around these styles; more than being the largest source of information on bands and artists, we want the site to be the largest meeting point for users interested in this subject. Whiplash.net today is most likely the most important vehicle of communication about Rock and Heavy Metal in Brazil. Although many people think Whiplash.net is a site just about heavy metal or heavy music in general, the site also covers classic rock bands and pop rock. The misconception comes from the early days of the site in 1996, when we used skulls in the background. Users of the old school site still complain that it was good at the time. Damn skulls in the background. Accusations that the site is selling out and starting to publish material about pop bands to have more hits date back to 1996, when in the fourth or fifth field site we published something about Nirvana. The site was opened in June of 1996. In 1994 Whiplash existed as a zine on paper and then circulated as a distributed messaging in the areas of BBS (the "prototype" of the Internet) text. Various known and unknown bands have access to the site. All bands in the scene are always disclosed by the magazine. Besides Whiplash we have two great heavy metal magazines in Brazil, Roadie Crew and Rock Brigade. I think they have been around more than ten years; I don’t know exactly.

Explain how Introspection got together and decided to be a death metal band, how you chose the band name and started to spread word among the local and national underground scenes etc.
Introspection was founded in the summer of 2006 by Virghon, who was in the corridors of Philosophy course at the Federal University of Alagoas, Brazil. Virghon proposed to revive a subdivision of the Death Metal genre that mainly focused on more traditional death metal without ignoring more classical fusion thrash-death metal or even old school death metal, thus highlighting a thematic and philosophical sense that values a turn towards more technical compositions. As such, Introspection currently performs music that incorporates a perspective based on atypical metal, without losing the traditionalism that characterized underground fusion thrash-death metal from the 80s and 90s. In terms of the issues addressed in the lyrics, Introspection highlights the critical values that conservatives throughout history have used as an instrument to instigate the suicide of humanity. Introspection means “insight” in the narrow sense of the word, suggesting an awareness of internal emotions through observation and reflection on one's own internal workings as the subject itself. Thus, the individual is the subject of knowledge and the object of study in self-observation. From its genesis to the present day, the band has released three independent demos; "Suicidal Psychology" (2007), "The Beast With Return The Past” (2008) and “Domination Of Death” (2009/2010) and has participated in many underground Brazilian compilations and zines. Presently Virghon, the main proponent of the ideas driving the music, is in the process of composing his latest artifact in order to support members invited to achieve the next album from Introspection. The latest release, "Human Emancipation”, was released in late 2013/early 2014.

How long had Virghon been studying philosophy at the Federal University of Alagoas before starting Introspection? How does he channel his education into the band’s lyrics? What critical values of conservatives does the band write about?
I began graduate studies in philosophy in 2005. Before even finishing the first half of 2005 I met the band Death. I've liked Death Metal produced in the city of Tampa since 2000. The idea of creating Introspection was hatched in the halls of this university course in philosophy. In fact the building was in law school. The course of philosophy is one of the ancient woes of the state and even today does not have its own building. So the idea of creating a band that could play Death Metal materialized after I met Darlan Lourenço, a student of philosophy studying in the same room as me. He introduced me to his cousins, Paulo Oliveira and Pablo Oliveira. Paulo entered the band and we played together until today. The first lineup was Virghon on bass and vocals, Darlan Lourenço on guitar, Paulo Oliveira on drums and A. Casado on guitar. Pretty soon A. Casado left because he played with me since before when we had a Black Sabbath cover band. A. Casado could not stand the aggressiveness of Death Metal and jumped out. Soon afterwards Pablo Oliveira took over on bass. So in that period I, like the rest of philosophy students in this course, was in love with the ideas of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Thus, the letters try to engage with the concepts of philosophers. The idea is based on the critique of modernity and at the same time it’s a return to unity between the Greek gods Dionysus and Apollo. It was on the idea of a fierce critique of Christianity and metaphysics, exposed to the announcement of the death of God. If you see the title of our songs you will notice the clear influence. "Eternal Return" and "Death Of God". Today we do not abandon this criticism, but we think it is enough just to criticize the topsy-turvy world. This is the religious world. A topsy-turvy world is an inverted world. You need to put things in their proper place and talk about the real world. Hence the title of the current CD is Human Emancipation; it speaks of man in his world. We continue criticizing the fantasies of religion, but now with not so much emphasis. Therefore, the consequences of this inverted world are produced by the real world. When I wrote this the band was still influenced by the ideas of Nietzsche. He speaks of nihilism, and nihilism divided into active nihilism and reactive nihilism. The active nihilism that is interconnected with will power and the idea that man is master of his own life, so it must create its values from himself, asserting his will to live and surpassing oneself. The reactive nihilism is one that referred to conservative values that deny life. Enslaving the life of man’s alienated will. Christianity is as nihilistic as Nietzsche. But it is a reactive nihilism that denies life. And it is a conservative driving toward suicide of humanity. Not suicide as something biological, but as existential negation, as a kind of spiritual bondage and self-forgetfulness.

When you and A. Casado were involved in a Black Sabbath tribute band, what songs by Black Sabbath were you covering?
Only a few songs. This band that played covers of Black Sabbath lasted from 2001 to 2004. In 2005 we created Introspection. A. Casado was part of the first band, but did not last long. Following are the Black Sabbath songs that we rehearsed: Iron Man, Paranoid, War Pigs, N.I.B, Black Sabbath, Electric Funeral, Children Of The Grave and National Acrobat.

Does Introspection cover Black Sabbath songs in their live show? Are there other bands whose songs you have covered?
we are rehearsing our version of a Black Sabbath song to play live, Electric Funeral. We are rehearsing a song by Brazil’s Sarcófago to play live and we soon intend to play A Fine Day To Die by Bathory. We are not a cover band, but it's always good to play the classics. We also like Dissection a lot.

Are you Introspection’s main lyricist? How did you begin to channel your education in philosophy into the band’s lyrics? Is Introspection the first band to exclusively explore philosophy in your lyrics, or are there other bands doing the same?
In 2015 I realized it was possible; my intention was to defragment my life. I remember at that time I only studied philosophy and was beginning to create Introspection, so I thought, why not address philosophy of themes in the lyrics of the band? And, by the choice of the title of the band itself, that's what I did. There are many bands that do that. Remember, Death’s The Sounds Of Perseverance places a quote from Nietzsche in the album booklet.

How widely were your three demos distributed in Brazil and other countries? How much interest in the band was generated in the tape trade network? Can you quote reviews your demos received from fanzines?These first three demos had restricted distribution. The truth is they were test drives where he served more for the band to study than to promote. The three previous demos were an internal study, and therefore without wide distribution. These were the learning discs. The opinions were more to support the band because it was the band that was starting its work. In the beginning it was more connected to the lyrical content of that instrumental music, though in particular I always thought they were two important aspects and therefore deserved the same attention.

Name the compilations you have appeared on since the release of your demos. Were they released on physical CD? Which of your songs were included on the compilations you listed? Which of those compilations have gotten you the most exposure?
The collections were launched in physical CD and digitally. Here are a few: Odicellaf Zine Compilation/Bahia-Brazil; Underground Zine Compilation/Bethlehem-Brazil; Undergrondzine Sampler Review-Italy and Extreme World-Poland. The last we participated in was Extreme World Volume 5. The song was Human Emancipation. We have gotten a good response outside Brazil, especially in italy, Poland, Austria, Germany, Peru, Brazil, Russia and Western Turkey.

Were you introduced to the writings of Nietzsche when you were taking philosophy courses? Which of his books were you assigned to read and what first interested you in his philosophy?
I knew the philosophy of Nietzsche more rigorously in the course of Philosophy. Here in Brazil, in particular, newsstands sell various Nietzsche books but the German translation into Portuguese is very bad. The publisher is bad actually. So I already knew a little, but the assumptions of my interpretations were quite different than I really got to know in the course of philosophy. About the books: The Antichrist, Thus Spake Zarathustra, Ecco Homo. These three in particular I have much appreciation for. Certainly the critique of Christianity; the notion of freedom; existentialism in power and the idea of love fate.

What do you most appreciate about Nietzsche’s books The Antichrist, Thus Spake Zarathustra and Ecco Homo?
The Antichrist is impossible to deny the concept of nihilism, and more, as the thinker characterized Christianity itself, which is, as a negation of life, Christianity as a form of nihilism. Christianity is nihilistic, but it is a negative nihilism, reactive without supplements for human life, on the contrary, it removes the right to life to the detriment to the ideals of worship, abstractions, and transcendent beings. Also in this book, which draws attention is also the concept of happiness. It is what we want to overcome. It is the feeling of passing of victory, that we can overcome an obstacle. This is the way Nietzsche defines happiness, I think of a rare depth. In Thus Spake Zarathustra it is difficult to characterize only one aspect. The whole book is very interesting, in the exhibition and in more detail the content itself. The notion of superman. The notion of man as a bridge. The presence of Dionysus. There are several aspects and wealth of thought in this book, which the author stated as the one most important of his career. On the other hand, in the Ecco Homo, the most interesting is the notion of love-fati destination of life, what cannot be changed. Will not meant as a destination for history preescrita fantastic beings and that we should follow. Here, it seems to me that there is a great contribution to the psychology of Nietzsche. It seems to me that this aspect, love-fati became a disposition to deal with things past. The past is something that once was, the important thing is build our present without worship of idealities. No cults or illusions. These illusions are not necessarily religious core. The individual also has no religion that creates multiple illusions, conditions for their own happiness, and think you can only be happy when you get them. Their lives trapped in an ideal and they cannot be happy here and now. Happiness is power that creates more power.

Explain in greater detail your studies of the Greek gods Apollo and Dinonysus?
Before Nietzsche, gods were present in mythology. It was the polytheistic religion of the ancient Greeks. Apollo is the god of wisdom, moderation, reason etc. Dionysus, on the other hand, is the god of wine, the orgy, happiness etc. Philosophically, in Nietzsche, especially in his first book "The Birth Of Tragedy, Or Hellenism And Pessimism" the German philosopher, who actually was a philologist, created a thesis. The thesis is that before the advent of Socratic philosophy, there was Plato’s philosophy known as the richest moment of philosophical classical Greece. Before that, in the pre-Socratic period, or cosmological, there was a unification of the Apollonian and the Dionysian. And as for Nietzsche that was the richest time of philosophy. It went against the whole philosophical tradition that celebrates Socrates and Plato. For Nietzsche, philosophy decays with Socrates and Plato, it begins to decline, because with these philosophers, also born the art of making concepts, metaphysical philosophy is the philosophical basis later taken by the Catholic Church in the fourth century before Christ to support Christianity on the rise. So, I think the exaltation of unification between Apollonian and Dionysian in Nietzsche is a way to criticize the philosophical metaphysics and also Christianity drinking this metaphysics. As Nietzsche would say, "Christianity is Platonism for the people". And extolling Dionysus in one of its aphorisms: "If I believe in any God, that God would be a dancer", referring to Dionysus. In criticizing metaphysics, you kill metaphysics, the philosopher also want consequently to martyr the Christian God. This is the meaning of the idea "God is dead", that is, metaphysics is dead.

What is your interpretation of ‘will to power’ from what you have studied?
The will to power is a category that exists in every aspect of life, particularly in human life. Actually, this category was inherited from Nietzsche's philosophy of Schopenhauer, especially his magnum opus, i.e. World as Will and Representation. But Nietzsche’s idea of will power is replaced in two fields of philosophy, ethics, and epistemology. That is, what the metaphysical philosophy has always sought, namely, a truth in and for itself, is nothing but a will to power. There is no truth about everything; that there is will power of certain people that drives a truth should be acceptable. Nietzsche criticizes that using this concept. In ethics, it is quite evident that established values are all fruits of the will to power.

Can you cite some Introspection songs and explain what they mean to you personally?
Fetishized Form and Human Emancipation are the two songs with the strongest meaning. In the sense that certain ruling class in the fourteenth century made a revolution in the head and body of society, put down all the values of the medieval world and today says that the possibility of revolution no longer exists. It is understood as alienation, loss of control. And the Human, by their more general character, there is talk of an emancipation, a full human freedom and truth in a universal level. Without favoring classes, castes, intellectual groups, etc.

I understand you are looking for distribution in the United States. How many U.S. labels or distros have you contacted so far? Are you working on any new Introspection material? How soon do you plan to record a second full length and what do you have in mind for it?
In the United States today, our distribution is digital. But we plan to get a physical distributor. We actually have a novelty for our next CD. I'm always working on new songs and new riffs. And in ideological terms we will get into the field of anthropology.

Introspection

-Dave Wolff

Band Interview: POST MORTAL POSSESSION

POST MORTAL POSSESSION
Interview with Jake McMullen (guitar), Tim Church (bass) and Eddie Gremba (vocals)


Having started in 2013, Post Mortal Possession is comprised for former members of several bands including Tyrant and Dead By Dawn. Did you know one another beforehand? Does your collective experience as musicians benefit the band?
Jake McMullen: We all knew each other from being in bands and playing out in the Pittsburgh metal scene. Nick played in Enbludgeoned and A Moment Of Clarity, Tim played in Victims Of Contagion and Tyrant, me and Brian played in Torrential Bleeding and Tyrant and Ed was the singer in Dead By Dawn with me and Nick a good twelve years ago. I and Nick played in another band in between Post Mortal Possession and Dead By Dawn called Wretched Decay. Tim has played in so many bands I lose count so I'm not even going to attempt to go over that list. Seems like in a lot of places including Pittsburgh guitarists are a dime a dozen, then you got only a handful of bassists and drummers to go around.
Tim Church: I’ve been in a ton of bands. That’s also another great thing about the Pittsburgh metal scene. There are so many musicians here and different styles of metal that it’s like a playground for bassists who really want to push their own abilities.

Are the bands you listed above still active in the Pittsburgh scene?
Jake McMullen: The ones that have broken up that I listed are Dead By Dawn, Wretched Decay, A Moment Of Clarity, Embludgeoned and Tyrant. Just because they broke up doesn’t mean the bands members aren’t still active in the scene cause a lot of them are. The only band that one of us has left that is still a functioning band is Tim’s last band Victims of Contagion.
Tim Church: Victims Of Contagion is great. It was a hard decision for me to leave that band but sometimes you gotta make choices. I love those guys and miss jamming with them. I wish them all the best in the world and if anybody knows any sick bassists send them Victims Of Contagion’s way.

Does your collective experience working with other bands and musicians benefit PMP today?
Jake McMullen: Our experience in other bands definitely influences how we approach writing music. We all have a part in the writing process and we all get a say. For me playing with other musicians and different styles of metal has forced me to write out of my typical realm of what to do and where to do it. It seems like there was always a formula early on. The formula changes from song to song now, so once we have an idea or a real good riff we build from that and see where the song takes us. Other times one of us will come up with allot of the song on our own. Me, Brian and Nick all write guitar parts and we collaborate in different combinations. Doing it that way really helps keep our music sounding different and fresh. Also keeps things interesting for us.

Explain how the band formed and what the current lineup had in common musically.
Eddie Gremba: Me and Jake met in high school and shared a lot of the same musical interests. We also both had it in common that we played the guitar. Shortly after high school we started our first band (Cenotaph). With some musical differences the band disbanded after about two years. In early 2001 we answered an ad for a drummer looking for a metal band. That drummer was Nick and that is how Dead By Dawn started. Me, Jake and Nick played together for about three years then went our separate ways. I left the scene altogether but through the years Nick and Jake played in a few different bands together and at some point started playing with Brian and Tim who were in a band called Tyrant. In October 2013 I was invited to sit in on a practice they were having and they happened to be looking for a singer. So that's how we all ended up being involved in this project. As far as our common interests we all like evil, violent, technical, old and new school death metal.

Is there a meaning or inspiration behind naming the band Post Mortal Possession?
Eddie Gremba: The meaning of post mortal means that you’re dead so that would make you a possessed dead person which is basically a Zombie or I guess you could even say it could be a demon. With me being into horror movies and criminal psychology it made sense. Just a unique/clever play on words.
Tim Church: Then again everything is always left up to interpretation. My interpretation is that post mortal possession means an after death possession. If people want to associate that with zombies that’s fine, but for me I see it as a demon possessing your corpse.

Was the band name partly inspired by horror movies or books, or did it come about when you brainstormed for a name?
Tim Church: The name came from us bouncing around ideas and that's the name that stuck in the end.
Eddie Gremba: It came from brainstorming, however horror movies are an influential part in lyric writing. Originally I wanted to call the band "Post Mortem Possession" but "Post Mortal Possession" won the vote.

What interested Ed in criminal psychology, and in what ways does it influence his contributions to the band?
Eddie Gremba: I have always been interested in the criminal side of sociology and psychology. The way people act, socialize, and react to situations. As well as the darker side of history: war, famine, genocide, possession, hauntings, torture, serial killers and things of the sort. I think people are interested in things that are hard to understand or explain. As far as contributions to the band go being the lyricist in the band my interests have and will always influence my writing.

Has Ed taken courses on criminal psychology at any college, or has he studied it on his own time? Present some examples of his studies being reflected in his lyrics.

Eddie Gremba: I have from a very young age studied psychology and took two years of criminal psychology courses. There's a big criminal psychology aspect to most of the songs I write. Songs of war, murder, stalking, pillaging, history and serial killers. Death March encompasses the felling of war. Visceral Butchery is a song about the BTK killer. Our newest song Devices Of Death is about Americas first serial killer; H.H. Holmes. Forest Of The Damned is about possession and the effects of it.

Did Ed’s interest in serial killers come from his studies of criminal psychology? Who were the BTK killer and H.H. Holmes, and what made him decide to base songs on them?
Eddie Gremba: My interest in criminal psychology actually came from my grandmother who has always been into it. The bind/torture/kill killer or BTK killer was a man named Dennis Rader (who did just what his name says) killed between 1974-1991 a total of ten people. H.H. Holmes aka "America’s first serial killer" killed 9-200 people between 1888-1894. He turned his hotel into a torture facility complete with windowless rooms, gas chambers, and experimental surgical rooms. With doors locking from the outside only. Interesting stuff so I wrote songs telling their stories.

When did Ed’s grandmother begin relating tales of serial killers to him? What interested Ed in these accounts?
Eddie Gremba: It started with me watching unsolved mysteries, America’s Most Wanted and Cops with her when I was young. Not sure what excited me so much about it but I was hooked at a very young age.

Does Ed watch documentaries about serial killers on the Discovery Channel, National Geographic and other stations? If so, which does he most remember watching? Did Ed generally prefer reading books on serial killers to watching programs on cable? Which books does he remember most and why? What were the reasons he stopped watching TV as much as reading?
Eddie Gremba: I don't really watch TV anymore but when I used to I watched History, A&E, and Discovery. Anything to do with history, sociology and psychology in the criminal sense, I'm into. Those were the shows it started with then later on I got into forensic files and documentaries. I still watch a lot of documentaries on war and crime. I have read biographies on most of the well-known serial killers; Fish, Bundy, Dahmar, Jack the Ripper and have read a lot of books on the civil war and World War II. I don’t have cable anymore.

How many different subgenres of metal is brought into Post Mortal Possession's formula? Is there anything resulting from this combination of styles making the band unique in your local scene?
Tim Church: I do have to say "subgenres" is an endless spectrum of possibility used by people to describe their interpretation of what they hear. Which always varies from person to person. And in that same broad sense, death metal itself is a subgenre. So with that being said, no matter what the songwriting formula maybe: examples varying from one songwriter to multiple songwriters. Each member of this band writes their own parts. So consciously or subconsciously every style of "heavy" music is being explored in our own way. Regardless of whether it's purposeful or not. And that collaborative ability to hammer out brutality at its finest not only sets us apart in our local scene, but soon the world. Our brand of old school meets new school death metal is very distinct. That in itself is what sets us apart. When you’re listening to Post Mortal Possession you know who you’re listening to.
Eddie Gremba: It’s our blend of new meets old death metal that sets us apart in our local scene.
Jake McMullen: We are able to appeal to both types of death metal fans with our breed and I think we keep them both interested. When you only appeal to one subgenre you isolate yourself from other genres sometimes without meaning to. Some of our fans like black metal, some like tech death, some brutal death, some like nasty breakdowns and we try to keep them all interested. Can’t make everyone happy and that’s not really why we do it. We write and play what drives us. We aren’t just musicians, we are fans as well and if it bores us then the listener will probably lose interest in it. All of my favorite death metal is the shit I always come back to.

Does feedback from fans help the band shape their formula and incorporate other genres of extreme music into it?

Tim Church: We always appreciate what our fans say but we write this music for ourselves and we aren't going to change our sound for anybody.
Jake McMullen: The music we create is just a mixture of everything we listen to and pretty much what we want to listen to in a death metal band. I listen to anything anyone tells me as far as opinions of our music go and what we should do, but that has very little to do with how a song is put together in this band. We have a good idea of what a song should be. The five song EP we put out this year is just a taste of what's to come. We couldn't fit everything we wanted to show on an EP so keep an eye open. We should have another release sometime early next year.

How often have fans noticed or commented on the variance in influences brought into the band’s style?
Tim Church: Anytime I get a chance to talk with a fan I'm always hearing something different. Everyone always has their own take on what or who a riff or even a song sounds like to them. I could talk to ten different people and they would tell me who they think we sound like, but all answers would be different. Examples being Suffocation, Obituary, Deeds Of Flesh, Cannibal Corpse etc. Which in itself puts a smile on my face. Don't get me wrong it's flattering to be compared to other bands that I am a fan of. But at the end of the day, we sound like Post Mortal Possession.

Is there more of a sense of camaraderie or competition between bands in the Pittsburgh metal scene? How do bands in the scene relate to one another?
Jake McMullen: Well from my perspective there is more camaraderie than anything. The bands are so different from one another that even though we are all playing metal it doesn’t feel like a competition. Who really knows what people say and think when you aren’t around to hear and more importantly who gives a shit if someone doesn’t like you? We know our friends and the people that do like us and support us and that’s a big part of why we play our style of music. Our fans are great! We are the only death metal band in Pittsburgh that sounds like us and I like it that way. We have an identity that comes with our music. I’ve had people come up to me after shows and tell me that they didn’t even know we were playing a show that night but they heard us from the street and recognized it was us playing so they had to stop up. Makes me feel like we are doing something right you know? If one person walks by a show, hears us and comes to our show out of 50 people we scare away with our music I’m a happy guy (laughs). It’s death metal and we don’t have the reach that a mainstream band have but what death metal does have is loyalty and you know a hardcore metal head when you meet one.
Tim Church: It’s great sharing the stage with all these different bands in the Pittsburgh scene.

Death metal has always had a fiercely loyal fan base. Although it primarily remains an underground phenomenon (with the exception of bands like Cannibal Corpse who broke aboveground) that loyalty has remained consistent.

Tim Church: We hope to have the longevity of a band like Cannibal Corpse but honestly we haven't even been on the scene for a full two years yet. We can only hope to have that kind of loyalty someday.
Jake McMullen: I would say that loyalty and the fact that Cannibal Corpse keep producing more and more music is a big part of their success. Not to mention the fact that they were one of the first to be as explicit with their cover art and shirts, so there is also the shock factor that made them different for a while. Seems like everyone does that kind of stuff now. Very few death metal bands make it anywhere close to that level and it took them a long time to get to where they are. They paved the path for the rest of us and they busted their ass to get there. Those are big shoes to fill for any band in our genre.

Not many people give death metal and extreme metal the credit it’s due, for the talent and endurance it takes to play it.

Tim Church: I have no concern on how other people view or think about death metal. The only thing that matters is that there are people who love it, support it and the bands. Those are the people that make playing live shows worth it for me. Their great people and I get to hang with them at every show. Those are the best times and memories in my life and I wouldn't have it any other way.

How is the scene doing as far as independent record outlets and local print zines? How about internet based distros?
Tim Church: The independent metal community as a whole isn’t as easily accessible as it used to be outside of the local scene. Then on the other hand with the internet and online sharing, everything is at your fingertips as long as you have people sharing your music. Now independent record outlets and local print zines seem to be harder and harder to come by. With everything on the internet no one seems to be as curious as they used to be in independent record outlets or zines. It’s kind of sad watching the days of old disappear. Especially tape trading!
Jake McMullen: We do a lot of the sharing of our music ourselves and we are lucky enough to have fans that are excited about our music enough to let their friends know about us and share our music through social media. With the lack of people going to record stores to buy music anymore the social media outlets are about the best way we know besides playing shows to get music out there. Back when I was in Dead By Dawn it was all about Myspace then as time went on it turned into Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, and so numerous other places that we don’t really know anything about “over saturation“. I’m not a huge Lars Ulrich fan but the guy was right about the pirating of music and how it would affect the artists. The music stores are really suffering and so are the bands. I see a lot of bands using Pandora Radio and other free music outlets and I understand it’s for the exposure and to help you get your name out there but I just can’t bring myself to support places that take that much of a percentage of the artist’s sales and not and barely give back to the artist.

On what social media sites does the band get the most responses? Do you see web zines and e zines replacing print zines or will there always be people who prefer to reading interviews in print?
Jake McMullen: All the social media sites work together in promoting the other. Facebook is probably the one we get most use out of. We use it to promote our merch, shows, music and anything we want our fans to know about. I would guess that most of our Reverbnation and Bandcamp activity is from clicking the links we have set up on our Facebook page. As far as webzines and print zines go, only time will tell. I think with the way people are glued to their computers nowadays the webzine will be around longer than the print zine but I’m sure there are people out there that want that physical copy like I do when I buy music. As long as those people are around the print will be here.

What do you remember about the conflict between Metallica and Napster over the pirating of their material?
Eddie Gremba: I remember them suing Napster over giving away their music for free. Copyright infringement I believe.
Jake McMullen: That was the basis of it. Napster was an mp3 sharing website sharing everyone’s music for free and Metallica being one of the big four metal bands wasn’t liking the fact that their music was being passed around and traded like a commodity rather than the art that it is. From a business standpoint, this is about piracy which is taking something that doesn't belong to you; and that is morally and legally wrong. The trading of such whether it's music, videos, photos, or whatever is, in effect, trafficking in stolen goods. Music gets passed around for free while artists are spending money to record and produce their records and make nothing. I think it did eventually get settled but piracy didn’t just go away. The only way to stop it would be for music listeners to do the right thing and pay for their music but that isn’t the world we live in.

Does the band make it a point to purchase physical releases from national and local bands?
Tim Church: I always make it a point to buy physical copies from the bands I like listening to. Not only is it more convenient for me to have a physical copy, but I always try to support bands, local or national.
Jake McMullen: If I like a band’s music I have to own it. I do it for the convenience but I also look at it from a band perspective. I know when I buy a physical copy it’s helping a band make some cash. There is no better way to show a band you support than to pay for the music you listen to.

Many bands are streaming their own material on their own social media profiles (labels have been doing the same). Do you think this will give them more control over their own songs?

Jake McMullen: We do the same thing. Currently there are only a few places you can get our music and only one where you can actually purchase it. We use Reverbnation and Bandcamp for streaming our music and the one that you can buy our music at is Bandcamp. We don’t have a label and we do everything ourselves as far as printing, producing, paying for our own recordings, paying for our shirts. Everything we do comes out of our pockets so ultimately we have all the control over our music and merch. That could change very easily if a good label picks us up but if we have any say in it we would keep as much control as possible. It feels good watching your music turn a profit and it’s one of the most rewarding parts of being a musician. These people enjoy your music enough to help support what you are doing. It feels great and keeps us going. We have kept things as simple as possible up to this point because there are a lot of other social media outlets and online radio like Pandora and Itunes that we haven’t really turned to just yet. However that could be something we do in the future if there is any real benefit to use something like that.

Was the band involved in tape trading before the advent of social media? There are still a few stores here in New York even if they are fewer and farther between. Do you think there will always be a need for them and people who want to go?

Tim Church: Tape trading ended long before Post Mortal Possession was even a thought.
Jake McMullen: That was before my time, so I know very little about tape trading. I guess Bandcamp, Reverbnation, Youtube and Myspace replaced the need for tape trading. As far as the need for record stores go, I think they still have a need, especially the used stores. I used to get my disks from record stores all the time back in the day but the convenience of Amazon and record company online stores is my go to when I want a disk now.
Tim Church: There will always be a need for stores to distribute music as long as people are still interested in buying physical copies of music.

A record outlet recently opened in Philly called Sit And Spin Records, that deals in punk and metal albums. Ironically, I heard about this store through social media. In that sense, can social media sites help the mom and pop record stores?

Tim Church: As long as they are marketing themselves where they can be seen by their targeted audience.
Jake McMullen: Social media is a great place to market because everyone uses it. A lot of people don't listen to the radio or watch cable TV anymore because you can stream all of those things on the internet. Things are still changing right now in the world as far as movies, music and television are concerned and its obvious music took a hit. The same goes for television and movies. When people don't use things as much the people making the music, movies and television programs lose money. When that happens they either make less or find other outlets so they can make that money in other places. Same goes for the mom and pop stores. You got to get with the times unfortunately.

In the electronic age we have been discussing, will there still be a need or a demand for vinyl despite the changing times?
Tim Church: There will always be a demand for vinyl records. No matter how much the times change there will always be someone who wants it weather it's for nostalgia or for DJ'ing. Vinyl is probably the only form of mass produced media that will never die. That of course is only my opinion.
Jake McMullen: I can’t say much for vinyl as I have never owned it. 

Does experimenting and writing while drawing influence from other subgenres help you progress as musicians?

Tim Church: Any time you as a musician have the time to experiment with any kind of technique or style of music that is not your own will only propel you to become a better musician, player, performer and inspire others inside your own genre. After all, Pollock didn’t paint with just one color. So why limit yourself as an artist, no matter what palette you chose to express yourself with.
Jake McMullen: Who the hell is Pollock?
Tim Church: Jackson Pollock! He’s an icon in modern art. The best abstract artist ever.
Jake McMullen: Bob Ross is better.
Tim Church: At landscapes Bob Ross was way better than Pollock.

Fill the readers in on who Jackson Pollock and Bob Ross are, and what sort of artwork they design?

Jake McMullen: I honestly know close to nothing about these artists and only know Bob Ross because he was the guy with the awesome fro and the “happy clouds’ and whatnot haha.
Tim Church: Pollock and Ross are two completely different artists. As everyone knows Bob Ross is best known for is landscape paintings and his televisions show from back when I was a youngster. I mean who couldn't love his "happy trees"? (laughs) And of course Pollock is world renowned for changing the face of modern art with his abstract paintings. I strongly urge people to check them out.

Describe in detail the composing and recording process of your first release. How has the band been progressing so far?

Jake McMullen: The composing process of the music was drawn out for about a year before the recording. It might have even been longer. We all play a part in the writing process and that’s a big part of why our songs sound different. Some songs I write, some Brian has a lot to do with and some Nick contributes a lot to. Those are the typical combinations. Tim and Ed both give their input on the songs. Some songs me and Brian or me and Nick will write together to try and think differently. All these different combinations really help keep things exciting for us because it takes us outside of our normal thinking patterns and forces us to do things we wouldn’t normally do. It’s never boring writing in this band that’s for sure. We have only released one EP, “Possessing Entity” and since then we feel like we have progressed as a band and musicians. We should have something new to release by the end of this year hopefully. The new material is different but similar to what we normally do. There is no real formula to our writing. We just know what we like and we try things and if it’s something we would pop in our stereo and listen to ourselves we know we are on the right track. We want our music to be memorable and catchy so that people want to listen to it and we always strive to get better and push ourselves to the next level.
Tim Church: The idea was to write what we wanted to listen to. Most importantly, not follow what everyone else is doing. We simply took the time during the writing process to hear each other out and try out everyone's ideas which worked out pretty well for us. The recording process was actually a blast for me personally. We went into Shane Brutal Studios and hammered it out. Shane did an amazing job capturing our live sound which is why it's such a strong brutal EP from start to finish. The foundation has been laid. Things will only get more intense and brutal from here.

In what ways did Shane’s studio experience help the band on your debut EP? Which of the songs best represent this?
Tim Church: Recording with Shane as a whole was beneficial for me personally. I always get extremely nervous and jittery before recording. But going into Shane Brutal Studios was very relaxing for me. It was no pressure and I just rocked out and hammered out all my parts for the "Possessing Entity" EP in about two hours. So for me and a bass standpoint, it helped my performance through the entire EP.

What bands had Shane been working with before he worked with Post Mortal Posession? Describe the equipment at Shane Brutal Studios and Shane’s methods in producing the band.
Jake McMullen: Before he worked with us he recorded for his band Mutalist and I think he also recorded for Improvidence. We recorded in a 7x7 room with a few microphones and a computer with all his recording software and that’s about it. The room was built like a little isolation booth with sound blocks all over the walls to kill echo. He is currently working on building his new studio where we will be recording our next EP with him. I’m really looking forward to that as well as the rest of the band. Recording is a blast.

How well did the rest of the band handle their duties while recording their parts for Possessing Entity?
Jake McMullen: We play shows and practice constantly. With our music being second nature for us recording went about as smooth as it could.  There’s definitely a feeling out process when you record with someone new but we really liked working with Shane. He’s new in the recording industry and with that comes maybe a passion that someone who’s been around for a while with nothing left to prove might not have as well as he knew what we were going for with this release and was excited about being a part of it. There really is no room for mistakes the way we play and that goes for recording as well. The sound that we go for is a slightly extremely clear sound because we want everything to be heard. It is different from a lot of typical super distorted muddy death metal. It’s the same sound that we bring to our live performance and we wanted this recording to be a good representation of what you will hear and see when you go to one of our shows. We plan on going back to the studio with Shane again later this summer for our second release so keep an eye out for that.

Does the absence of recording pressure show on the EP? What aspects of Possessing Entity has gotten the most positive feedback this far?
Tim Church: The lack of pressure definitely shows on the EP. The relaxed environment breathed new life into the solos and made for a tighter more brutal sounding album. It would be tough to pin point exactly what aspects have gotten the most positive feedback. I'm always hearing different things that people like about the EP. Whether it's songs or recording quality. Thus far all feedback has been positive.

What does the band have in mind for their next recording?
Jake McMullen: We will record our next EP this August so you can expect a release by the end of this year beginning of next year. We don’t want to give away much more than that as far as what’s to come with this recording but it’s safe to say that it will be a punishing release.
Tim Church: You'll have to wait for the next record because we're just going to wing it and see what happens.
Jake McMullen: We aren’t sure exactly how it will expand on our present material. It will be different for sure because no two songs are alike in our set list but many of the songs on the new recording will be songs that we were just unable to put on the first EP as well as a few really new tunes. We will keep fans posted on our Facebook page as well as other social media sites we use.

Post Mortal Possession on Reverbnation

Post Mortal Possession on Facebook
Post Mortal Possession on Bandcamp

-Dave Wolff

Monday, May 4, 2015

Film review: Exodus: Gods and Kings by Haniel Adhar

Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)
Directed by Ridley Scott
Writers: Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine, Steven Zaillian
With Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Ben Kingsley

The past few years, and I think it started with "Troy", religious or spiritual or "mythological" films have had the supernatural or spiritual element totally omitted from their respective stories. For instance, in "Troy", there was no mention of Achilles' being dipped in the River Styx when his mother Thetis held him by his heel, giving him invulnerability except for his one weakness, the part of him that was not touched by the River Styx's magical waters: His Heel. That's kinda an important part of the legend of Achilles, and it looks as if they wrote the script based on what they read on Wikipedia.
The same can be said about "Exodus: Gods and Kings". (A title that doesn't even make sense...). Mr Ridley Scott, a fine movie maker in his own right, clearly blew it with this rendition of the fabled Hebrew "Exodus". First off, how could you do a Biblical movie about the quintessential event in Judeo-Christian religious tradition, the singular event that which birthed the most influential spiritual tradition in the history of mankind and *leave out* a large portion of the supernatural details? Look, people may have one belief or the other, but if you are doing a biblical film, get the details right. No pillar of smoke; the "burning bush" was just some "hallucination"; "YAHWEH" is some kid who is a "messenger" (Moses never spoke to messengers, Angels, who identified themselves as "emissaries"; the bible is clear that he was speaking directly to God); Scott even got the major detail wrong about how he "Fled Egypt" after witnessing a slave being beaten; in this film, Moses pretty much just shrugs his shoulders and moves along. I could go on, but if you are going to make a movie about the biggest event in Jewish history, ya think you could mention it just ONCE in the film? I am referring to the Passover Seder, which is alluded to by the "killing of the first born" plague, but the actual ceremony is totally absent. Passover is the most important Jewish Holiday, and it was omitted from a film in which is Passover is a critical part of the story line. Bad move, Ridley. In fact, it is to the point of being offensive, and I am not even Jewish.
Maybe if you are doing a Biblical movie, it would help if the director/producer was not *a flippen Atheist*? So, you can deny that this stuff never happened, but you have no problem making money off of it?
Jerk.
The next critique is the casting of "Ramses" (I still do not believe that Ramses was the Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus; I think it was Thoth-mes or a follower of Thoth...). Joel Edgerton's acting was anemic. A better term would be Anorexic. Yule Brenner he is not. He was paper thin, and had mannerisms as if he was drunk or just didn't care to emote at all. He was boring, and clearly over-matched by Christian Bale, who while being horribly miscast as Moishe, he did a fantastic job playing the role he was given. Let's also not forget about the nice little "sword" that Moses wields, and totally omitting his infamous "staff" (He was a Shepard, so, a staff would make sense, eh?). Let's also not forget about the utterly pathetic casting of "white folk" as "Bedouins" and "middle eastern" people. Yeah, c'mon. Religion is bad, but white washing is OK? And...references to "decomposition" and "microorganisms" in a clear attempt at trying to "rationalize" the God of Abraham's "plagues" with science totally doesn't fit with the film's time period. There is no evidence at all that suggests that the Egyptians of 14th century BCE Egypt had any knowledge at all of "infectious diseases" caused by microorganisms, or that flies came from maggots, and so on...So, it is perfectly fine to "deny" the Jewish Tradition, because it is "not true", yet, injecting historically inaccurate anachronisms is acceptable in film making? Why don't you just portray God as an 11 year old Chav with a pathetically harsh Cockney accent? Oh, woops...
(this is another confusing part, because in one scene, the Chav kid says "I AM" when Moses asks him who he is, and in another, Moses refers to him as a "messenger". Not good script writing at all...)
Anyway, this film was much more about revisionist, secularized history than it was about the "Exodus". It comes across as self-indulgent, and reflective more of what the director wants the story to be, instead of what it really was, as written in the Torah. Now, there are those that will say "But, but, The Hobbit didn't match the book either!". Sorry, but all of Western Civilization is based in large part on the events that transpired during the Exodus. But I digress. Biblical films should follow the Biblical text at LEAST 90%, not 25%. Get it right or don't do it.
Exodus: Gods and Kings has some intense moments, mostly because of the acting of Christian Bale, while leaving out the ubiquitous "Let My People GO" line. The special effects were, as expected, brilliant, and the cinematography was top-notch. But let's face it: This was not a "modern rendition of a Biblical tale"; this was a secularized remake of one of the pinnacle moments in Judeo-Christian history, an attempt at revising or "re-envisioning" Exodus to fit what some people's personal belief structures.
And for crying out loud, there was more "religion" in Gladiator, which from the outset this film looks remarkably quite a bit like.
Verdict: if you have 2 and a half hours to kill, and really don't know anything about Judaism, then this hack job is something you may enjoy. But to the rest of us, we are wondering what would happen if Ridley Scott would make a film about Mohamed, and changed all the details to suit his own beliefs. I am sure the Islamic community would be "thrilled" about that... C+ -Haniel Adhar

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Film review: Grace: The Possession by Christina Bergling

Grace: The Possession: Through the Eyes of a Demon
Review by Christina Bergling
Posted at www.moviepilot.com. Reposted with permission.
 
(The gist: Grace: The Possession literally took on the eyes of a demon as it possessed a young girl. I loved being so inside the protagonist’s head that I saw her eyes blink in front of me and watched her nervously wring her own hands below me. It was brilliantly done and made the movie fascinating. If only they had beefed up the exorcism scene to put all that magic where it mattered.)
Mockumentaries (fictional movies shot to appear as documentary footage) have what I call a first person, often shaky camera, perspective. This approach makes the film appear to be shot from a camera one of the characters is holding (or, in some scenes, has placed). Grace: The Possession takes a first person perspective to an entirely new level by making the camera itself the demon and allowing us to see absolutely everything literally through the eyes of the possessed.
Grace follows, the aptly named, Grace as she is possessed by a demon. Like all possession horror movies, it follows the gradual progression as the possession manifests itself. As we learned in The Conjuring: infestation, oppression, and possession. After her mother is killed giving birth to her, she is raised by her strict religious grandmother. We enter her head as the demon does when she is arriving at college.
Then all hell breaks loose, of course.
The literal first person perspective fascinated me and is the reason I saw the movie in the first place. It was a very unique viewing experience. I was impressed by how well done it was. My viewing partner and I wondered at the techniques they must have used. Grace, as our eyes, blinks enough for you to know you are actually seeing through her eyes but not as much as a person does in reality so as not to be distracting. She looks around to express her shy mannerisms. She closes her eyes when she takes a shot. It is all very authentic, and something about the organic feel of it makes it feel very real.
Being inside Grace’s head also did wonders for character development. It was very easy to empathize with Grace as I was wearing her skin through the movie. I liked Grace. I wanted her to cut loose and experience college; I felt bad for her as the possession was ruining her life. I cared as she dug to find out what had truly happened to her mother. Feeling like I was her drew me into her plight.
Another benefit to the first person perspective was that it amplifies the fear. When I saw the same tired ghost under the bed sheet scene I have seen in numerous horror movies before, it was actually creepy for the first time. And I think it was because it was staged to be as if I was actually seeing it rather than the more traditional omniscient experience of watching the characters experience it.
Brilliant. I loved it.
It was something original in a subgenre that falls a little formulaic at times. That being said, Grace did fall short on one element of the formula. Tragically, the crucial one.
Possession horror movies are almost entirely lead up to the exorcism scene. For some of these movies, that exorcism scene is the majority of the film (and should be). Grace does such an excellent job setting up the scene and developing Grace as a character that the climax of the movie ends up feeling rushed.
The possession activity ramps up quickly and becomes a barrage, which is fine. However, the exorcism scene was much too brief. And that is the scene I was waiting the entire movie to see through her eyes. Yes, it was still very cool, but it would have been even more impressive if it was thicker, slower, more excruciating to be inside her head.
Grace was totally worth it and beautifully original, yet it could have been better if a little more attention was paid to the climax, particularly the exorcism scene. -Christina Bergling

Film review: Evidence by Baron Craze

Evidence (2012)
Reviewed by Baron Craze of Rogue Cinema
Reprinted with permission from http://www.roguecinema.com

Budding filmmakers director Howie Askins and screenwriter and actor Ryan McCoy both in their first feature horror film bring a new powerful twist into the found-footage sub-genre, which increasing presents itself as difficult task, especially for those so new to the genre, yet they both admirable accomplish the task. Although one must inform the readers that this film in no way connects to the film of the same name but released in 2013, which starred Rhada Mitchell and Steven Moyer, even that film also deals with the found-footage premise. Ryan shows his basic writing skills and limitations of budget with using the actor’s real first names as the character names, which sometimes perceives to the fans of cinema as a lazy style, unless those names have a significant connection such as, Michael referencing Michael Myers, sadly though that is not the case with this script.

The first 30-minutes of this production, plod aimless, leaving the viewers, in a quandary of whether to waste more time and viewing the film, as it starts very flat, and struggles to holds one’s attention, especially when the documentary has truly no motivation, no actual discovery, and simply plod aimless, adds only frustrations to the audience. Ryan, and three friends set out to a wooded area, and park in a clearly marked no trespassing area, for a film of his friend Brett Rosenberg first camping trip, a dull and misguided film. It feels empty and false, and leaves everyone with the feeling of confusion, from the characters and the audience standpoint. Brett believes the film concept is vastly dumb, however Ryan insists he has a ‘plan’, accompanying them their girlfriends who start happy, and engage in a bit of kissing antics, but animalistic sounds and yells stop that portion and lead to everyone have anger issues, at about the 20-minute mark of the film. The sense of paranoia sets into the group affecting everyone except Ryan, as the Ashley Bracken and Abigail Richie accusing him of creating the situations of terrorizing behaviors. The biggest issue with the found-footage surrounds the commonsense item, when running for your life, why do you keep the camera on, and looking through the viewfinder, herein they address that item, and use the camera’s light though limited in scope allowing side scares to occur from the darkness.

After Brett vanishes in the middle of the night, and their RV is damage, the film significantly changes in mood and tempo, with Ryan becoming agitated and showing sociopathic tendencies that become his apparent emotional detachment from everything around. Though in this second half, the change start subtle, as if a light breeze spirals into a tornado and this film does the exact same thing, bizarre images caught camera in distance comes suddenly, closer without warning. A complete twist, well constructed, and thoroughly disguise tripwire, as the audience discover with never ending tension arising from all directions. The scenes project in a rapid-fire sequence, creating breathless moments, bizarre moments, with some scares occurring just beyond the light of the camera and others are right in one’s face. Ryan’s script completely avoids the pitfalls of stopping to explain the horrors of what is happening, leaving them and the viewers in the dark. Howie continues to over the area, with very vicious critters and hostile to their surroundings, then enter in with military commandos, discovering vehicle chases, and machine-gun firing. The intensity level keeps generating with a hint to the horror film The Mist; as the creatures, take blurring shapes of aliens, diseased animals, crazed individuals, zombies figures, shrouded phantoms, join in on the attack, leaving no one safe, and in doing so convey sheer panic, and confused judgments.

The survivors find a secretary, Risdon Roberts (best known for her Bite Me TV Series) and veteran of the horror genre with 15 horror films, hiding at an outlying building, resulting in a shrieking moment. She without question joins them in terrorizing landscaping of full-blown insanity with no hesitant to reduce or quiet the noise, and definitely, no quenching of the pace, if anything more elements thrown into the survivor’s path. Evidence, makes an unapologetic attack on one’s senses, and continues a thrilling scary ride of after the camera because static and finally the battery dies extinguishing the light but not the onslaught of terror.

A final note, a part two, confirmed for this film, with a larger budget and with the title of Evidence: Ground Zero. -Baron Craze