Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Full Length Review: EXTREMITY Coffin Birth (20 Buck Spin) by Serafima Okuneva

Coffin Birth
20 Buck Spin
Place of origin: Oakland, California, USA
Genre: Death metal
Release date: July 20, 2018
Available in CD, cassette and vinyl format and at 20 Buck Spin’s website
Dear deads, get up from your raw graves and listen to the heavy, cruel death metal of EXTREMITY from Oakland, California, USA.
Members of Vhöl, Agalloch, Vastum, and Cretin came together to write one of the best classic death metal albums I have heard this year. Recorded at Oakland’s Earhammer Studios, the birthplace for so many of today’s standout death metal releases, Coffin Birth became an interesting reason to remember what albums should be - a real heavy, rotten and breathing with rage death metal attack.
The album begins with a canonical, horrendous horror synth with an anxious mood and brilliant eerie aesthetics, then a very groovy doom death metal atmosphere takes your soul. The alternating, bone grinding slow riffs aren't separated by anything compositionally, from sudden blast-beats under which guitars follow a simple, brutal manner. Slow parts are given out as are doom parts with long guitar work, seeming almost melodious after the fast songs. This alternation perfectly diversifies what is not the most difficult music, leaving no place for boredom. Impervious sounding guitars, as of old, both playing complementary rhythm guitar parts with rare melodious deviations, a booming monotonous bass and the animalistic, hoarse roar of the vocalist trample the listener into the ground.
The particulars of Coffin Birth may not be that apparent for those without a head for the genre; this isn’t a record to pull you from your power metal pulpit. But Extremity are not attempting to reinvent the death metal wheel. Rather, they aim to exemplify it with as much evil exuberance as possible. Actually I have special sympathy for Marissa Martinez-Hoadley, the band’s guitarist and vocalist who said in a 2017 interview for Vice that she never thought that she could create music by herself. Great try, Marissa. I’m looking forward to her next steps on the path of death metal.
My favorite track is the Misbegotten/Coffin Death, the last track of the album, which contains the quintessence of its spirit and ideas. The composition encompasses a rich proportion of expression from acoustic interludes to deadly low-frequency attacks rushing into your ears. Murderous rhythms, groove metal riffs and furious vocals flow from one to another well It is especially nice when the group so skillfully arranges doom passages from the old cheekbones of death metal. The female vocals at the end, with synths and noises, - are amazingly beautiful in its completion of this album.
Recommended for fans of old school death metal with doom passages, epic solos and blast beats. Listen to this album, and you will understand that even girls also know how to forge metal as it should be forged! Coffin Birth from Extremity is a perfect ode to death metal’s cult and prove that death metal is still very much alive. -Serafima Okuneva

Lineup:
Marissa Martinez-Hoadley: Vocals, guitars
Shelby Lermo: Vocals, guitars, bass, organ, piano
Aesop Dekker: Drums

Track list:
1. Coffin Birth/A Million Witches
2. Where Evil Dwells
3. Grave Mistake
4. Umbilicus
5. For Want of a Nail
6. Occision
7. Like Father Like Son
8. Misbegotten/Coffin Death


Full Length Review: THEM Manor Of The Se7en Gables (SPV/Steamhammer) by Dave Wolff

Manor Of The Se7en Gables
Place of origin: USA, Germany
Genre: Heavy metal
Produced by Dave Otero
Mixed and mastered by Dave Otero at flatlineaudio.com
Drums and bass recorded by Tarik Solangi at Frequency Recordings, White Plains, New York, USA
Vocals recorded by Tarik Solangi and Rich Fabrizio at Frequency Recordings, White Plains, New York, USA
Keyboards recorded by Richie Seibel at In Passing Studios, Bitzfeld, Germany
Guitars recorded by Markus Ullrich at Kozmik Studios, Gundelsheim, Germany
Guitars recorded by Markus Johansson at Cobra Island Studio, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Cover artwork by Mario Lopez
Release date: October 26, 2018
Available on vinyl format, CD format, Bandcamp and Spotify
Them have come a long, long way since they were a King Diamond tribute band. Picking up where Sweet Hollow (2016) conceptually left off, Manor Of The Se7en Gables easily surpasses that album, kicking their resourceful expertise into overdrive while pushing their ‘metal attitude’ more vehemently than ever. If you thought the band were seasoned musicians who had long since mastered their craft before, wait until you hear this. It defines metal in its purest form while utterly engrossing the listener. The last time I reviewed Them I said few bands from Long Island (the birthplace of vocalist KK Fossor) could reach what they accomplished on Sweet Hollow. As a metal opera illustrating the continuing adventures of Klaus Konig Fossor, Manor Of The Se7en Gables is a must have if you appreciate classic metal, prog metal, classical metal urban legends, ghost stories and theatrical lyrics. As before, it was released to coincide with the Halloween season, when the veil between worlds is swept aside. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Everything here is much more energetic, ardent and zealous. There is hardly a flaw in any of the cuts the band prepared for comprisal, and the stamina of the material multiplies with each track. The presentation of the story is more appealing and dramatic. KK Fossor has been transcending his King Diamond influence and is coming into his own here. The dual guitar attack by Markus Ullrich and Markus Johansson is simply impeccable, the drums of Angel Cotte precise and just relentless. Mike LePond who recorded all the bass parts anchors the band vigorously; it remains to be seen whether Alexander Palma can emulate the forcefulness LePond commands and he surely has big shoes to fill when the band perform live. It is also apparent things are left open for the story to continue on the next full length; its KD-esque ending seems to imply a few ideas. Now that Steamhammer has taken the responsibility of promoting Them, their fan base should increase exponentially and it won’t be long before they earn the respect they deserve for their commitment and hard work. -Dave Wolff

Lineup:
KK Fossor: Vocals
Markus Ullrich: Guitars
Markus Johansson: Guitars
Richie Seibel: Keyboards
Alexander Palma: Bass
Angel Cotte: Drums
All bass written and performed by Mike Lepond
Backing Vocals by Paul Sabu

Track list:
1. Residuum
2. Circuitous
3. Refuge In The Manor
4. Witchfinder
5. A Cullery Maid (Interlude 1)
6. Ravna
7. As The Sage Burns
8. The Secret Stairs
9. Peine Forte Et Dure (Interlude 2)
10. Maleficium
11. Seven Gables To Ash
12. Punishment By Fire

Monday, October 29, 2018

Fiction: SCION by Lioness DeWinter (Part One)

SCION
by Lioness DeWinter
(C) 2016, 2018
Part One 




I was created out of love, I was told. Or was it created for love? We all were really, my brothers and I. We are chrome and steel on the inside, with miles of cable winding around our sleek skeletons and covered with layers of plump, pillowy SilkSkin that warms to the touch. Our electronic brains are programmed to bring our owners to high pleasure quickly, and we know every trick of the trade. We know what they want from us, and we give it to them. I am a hybrid, they tell me. One of a kind. My name is Scion. I was created by mechanical means, but my heart and brain are human. I bleed real blood, and my heart beats an eternal tattoo in my chest. I breathe the air. Sadly, I also think. Therefore, I'm dangerous and closely guarded. I'm an experimental being, and my Papa--The Creator--keeps a close watch on me. Most days, I work in the Love Shop with him, ringing up the orders or standing in the front window for the passerby to admire. I am very charming, I'm told--tall and coltish, and yet graceful with flowing hair like silk, a boyish smile, dimples and large, doll-like eyes the color of the sea. I like them because they look like my Papa's. He's a big Japanese man, so handsome that he's almost pretty. His dark curls drive all of the girls mad. They joke that he should start creating love-bots in his own image. He just winks at them and croons his love songs. My Papa has beautiful hands that move like music as he creates his masterpieces, his lover models. Sometimes, I assist him. I give him programming suggestions--little quirks that set them apart from the other love-bots on the market. After all, they are my brothers. Papa loves us all... I just wish that one of them could stay with us, and that we could expand our family... 

~*~*~*~ 

Papa and I sit at the table together one night at supper. He studies my face with compassion. As he reaches across the table to touch my cheek (wet with tears, another update that he's given me), he asks: "What is it, Scion? What's wrong?"
"I feel so alone," I whisper. "So empty. There is no one else exactly like me in the world... No one both mechanical and human."
"This is true," he replies, dabbing at my face with his handkerchief. "But it means that you're special...unique--"
"I'm a freak!" I cry, and he chuckles.
"No, my dear, you're beautiful...but you know that. What is this really about?"
"Papa--what is love?"
"Eh?" he sighs, passing a tired hand over his eyes.
"One of my brothers was in today... Diamond. He asked me if I had a lover... He said that I looked like exactly what he needed--"
Papa sighs again.
"He wishes! I've told you time and time again that you're special, Scion! You cannot leave my side for any reason! The government would have you dismembered and sold for scrap, or worse yet, it would be the lightning for all of us! Besides, you're too young for hanky-panky!"
"I was created to be seventeen!" I protest. "Quite old enough for love!"
"No!" he barks, and gathers up our dishes to take to the sink.
"Look at Romeo and Juliet!" I shout. "They were younger than me!"
"Look at how they turned out," Papa mutters. "It was my mistake, buying all of those books for you to read--"
I saunter over to the sink and poke my Papa's cheek, fluttering my long, natural lashes.
"But, Papa...was I not created for love?"
"Leave it, Scion!"
"But, Papa--"
"THAT'S AN ORDER!!!"
"I hate you!" I cry, stamping my foot. "It's completely unfair!!!"
When he doesn't respond, I burst into tears and run up the stairs to fling myself on the bed.
~*~*~*~
After a while, Papa knocks at my door and enters my bedroom. When he doesn't speak, I raise my head to look into his stricken face.
"Scion, you don't really hate me, do you?"
"No, Papa," I mumble. "I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry too," he sighs. "You're growing up. I forget that your brain is still growing, even though your body isn't." He looks at me for a long time, and then continues. "Scion, I'm going to create a lover-bot for you--"
"With a human brain...and a heart just like mine?"
He looks startled, and then quickly regains his composure.
"Will that make you happy?"
"Yes!" I cry, leaping to my feet and flinging my arms around his neck. "Oh, Papa!"
"If I do this, will you promise to always remain at my side?"
"Yes!" I repeat, but I notice a heaviness in his gaze, a sadness.



I was presented with Snow shortly thereafter. He was programmed at a maturity level of sixteen--one year younger than I. He was delicately boned; he was taller than average and painfully thin, with a beautiful face. Papa--at my request--gave him the patented sea-green eyes that were the stamp of the Love family, and long platinum hair which could be programmed to any shade of the rainbow. Best of all, he had a human heart, lungs and brain--and he bled as I did when the SilkSkin cover was damaged... 

~*~*~*~ 

It's quite a shock to see the manifestation of my wish stretched out on the table before me. I'm trembling... He will be my lover, but also my brother; he will be a part of our family. Papa's hands come to rest upon my shoulders from behind, and he kisses my cheek.
"Are you ready?" he asks, and I nod. He reaches beneath Snow's glorious white mane to the nape of his neck, and he applies a gentle pressure. All at once, I'm looking into his sea-green eyes, and he's looking back at me with equal wonder. Then he smiles, and I feel a deep stirring within my heart.
Papa stands looking at the two of us for a moment with tears in his eyes, and then turns away.
"Papa?" I ask, as he sinks into a chair, and I kneel beside him.
"Don't mind me," he whispers, as he reaches for my hands, and puts them in Snow's. "Now look at each other." He reaches for the nape of my neck and gives it the same gentle pressure that he gave to his...
All at once, the world is alive to me... I am flooded with an emotion that I've never felt before, one that I have only read about in poems and books... Yet, I know exactly what to do, and what is expected of me, as does Snow.
Papa's smile trembles through his tears as he rises to leave. He utters one word to us:
"Love."
...and then he's gone.
I turn to Snow with reverence, and touch his hair. It's silky and baby-fine, and warm from the sunshine which is falling in from the window. He dimples, flushing a bright pink, and ducks his head, a shy smile upon his lips. I trace the line of his cheek, and then push his hair back from his neck. He gasps as my lips touch his throat; he's so thin that one slim shoulder is peeking out of the neck opening in his tee shirt. I press my lips to his firm white flesh and the delicate scent of violets comes up in a sudden rush, along with the clean scent of his body. I reach around his slim waist and pull the tee shirt over and off.
"No," I smile, as he crosses his arms across his thin chest. "I want to see you."
"I'm shy," he whispers, dimpling prettily.
I reach up and cradle his face tenderly in my hands.
"How beautiful you are," I marvel, and I brush his lips with mine. It feels glorious, as if sparks are flying up and raining around us. Snow's hands--which are balled up against my chest--finally relax, and he grasps my knee...and then my thigh. All at once, my trousers become unbearably uncomfortable with a tremendous pressure, an urgency. I draw Snow's hand to me, and his fingers curl as he trails kisses over my neck and down my chest and abdomen... His progress is maddeningly slow, and as his warm, wet mouth finds the sweet spot at last, I arch my back and cry out wordlessly... Oh, rapture! The very core of me bursts from my body in a series of powerful, aching contractions...
When I come to myself again, Snow rests his hands on my knees and pushes himself up into a standing position. I trail a fingertip over his creamy skin, over the navel and beyond. He leans back and looks down upon me, beautiful in his repose as I grasp his hips and pull him to me, my fingers freeing him from the belt and the pressure at the front of his pants...button by torturous button. He thrusts his hips toward me, the black jeans a sharp contrast to his milky belly, and I press my face to it in helpless reverence as his long, slim fingers tangle in my hair and my tongue finds his flesh. Oh, but his skin is on fire and his scent is driving me mad--Oh! Bless Papa and his genius programming of our nerve centers, so gloriously alive!--and I draw from him the seed of love, as Snow has...and he weeps, his head upon mine as he collapses over me...
Then, as the light is fading, he reaches over and closes the blinds...and we undress each other completely. Down below, we come together like wildfire...and this time, there's no doubt about the sparks. They rain around us, bathing us in rainbow splendor and illuminating the night... 

~*~*~*~ 

Morning. I arise before Snow, who is angelic in the light of the rising sun. I bend to kiss his temple, and stumble down the stairs rather clumsily. I grab a pastry and an iced coffee, and Papa rounds the corner just as I shove the entire pastry in my mouth to free a hand for a second roll. He stares at me in wide-eyed disbelief, then his face clouds with irritation at my lack of manners.
"Scion," he frowns, disgusted.
"Mmph," I reply, and he plucks the pastry from my mouth.
"So, how do you like Snow?" he inquires very seriously, and I raise my eyebrows as he stuffs it back between my lips and grimacing, wipes his hands clean with a rag. "Well?!"
I put my breakfast on the table and throw my arms around his neck with wild abandon, my kiss smacking loudly against his cheek.
"Very much, Papa!"
He chuckles warmly, but his face is wan.
"Good. I'm glad."
I cock my head and frown at him.
"You don't look glad, Papa."
His big, warm hand strokes my cheek.
"It just means that you're not solely mine anymore. I suppose that I'm a bit selfish..."
I hug him around his broad middle and press my cheek against his chest.
"I'll always be yours, Papa--you created me!"
He chuckles as he gives me a fierce fatherly squeeze, and his hand comes up to stroke the back of my hair.
"Yes, but not entirely, son...for parts of you are human, and only God can create human beings. Remember when I told you that you and Snow were special? And when I told you that you must never leave my side? There are people in the world who want to destroy you... They want to kill you."
"But, Papa! Why?"
"They think that you're unnatural... Your very human essence offends them. They think that you and Snow are an offense to God."
"What is 'God'?" Snow yawns, stretching as he comes into the kitchen. Papa pulls both of us into his arms.
"God isn't a what, he's a who... He created everything...the earth, the skies, the sun and the moon...plants and animals and mankind himself. He even gave me the inspiration to create the two of you."
"So why would God mind, if He created us through you?"
He sighs, and leads us both to the couch, where the three of us sit together.
"I don't believe that God himself would mind," Papa replied wearily "but some who follow him are misguided. They do not think well of me in this town. They call me a sorcerer and a murderer. They believe that I'm a reprobate in the worst sense of the word. They only believe that sex should occur between a human man and a human woman. Anything else is an abomination."
"Why don't they ask God Himself what he thinks?" Snow inquires.
"Because no one has ever seen God," Papa smiles "but he left us his Word in a book as a guideline for us to follow. I'll show you."
He goes to the bookshelf and draws out a thick, leather-bound book with the pages edged in red. I take it from him; HOLY BIBLE is emblazoned across the cover in gold letters.
"So, how do I reach God?" I inquire. "You know, to see if I'm doing things correctly?"
"You pray," he replies. "You know how we say a blessing before we eat? That's a prayer of sorts."
"But how do we know if he hears us--or even exists--if no one has ever seen him?"
"It's called faith, Son... You can talk to God about anything, any time that you wish."
"But if he doesn't answer back--"
"He does," Papa says very seriously "but you must be willing to hear Him."

3

The three of us lived happily together for years. Papa loved us very much. Snow and I were perpetual teenagers; we never aged. Of course, that in itself must've been hard on Papa, but he seemed to enjoy our energy and our company. Despite the starry-eyed enchantment that Snow and I felt toward one another, we loved being around Papa, too. He doted on us, despite the fact that we were never allowed to leave our home, or the shop. It pleased me, for I was shy and rather a homebody, but Snow itched to see the outside world. Sure, he had seen it on television and had pored through the glossy pages of books and magazines, but he always wanted more. I, rather, wanted to fill the hole in my heart that longed for God. I was aching for knowledge...

"But, Papa! Why?" I ask. "Why can't we move away? Please, Papa," I beg, the tears coursing down my cheeks as I hug him around the neck. "Let's go where no one knows us! We are passé-organic; no one will know that we aren't human!"
"Scion, I don't know how to do anything but create robots," he sighs. "We'd starve! Besides, I am more well-known than you think. I am suspect--a rogue, a dangerous man. The law is just waiting for me to slip up."
"But you're innocent!" I protest, and he covers my mouth with his hand.
"That's enough!" he shouts, his voice harsh and angry. "Do not say any more about it!"
"Yes, Papa," I gasp, backing away. His eyes frighten me. Snow comes from behind and embraces my shoulders.
"Children, I may not be with you much longer. I'm growing old, and my body is wearing out. You must promise to take care of Snow, and to never leave each other."
"But won't our human parts grow old too?" Snow asked, and Papa shook his head.
"No, I have altered you genetically. With regular maintenance, your hearts will beat forever, your lungs will draw breath and your brains will remain active. Just care for the mechanical parts of your bodies very well. Of course, if you tire of this world...simply turn off your pain centers and cut the main cable..." He begins to weep, and we hold him between us. "I fear that I may leave you sooner than you think," he whispers. "If they come with the fire, promise me that you will take Snow and flee this place! Go to the mountain with Hunter and don't look back! No matter what happens to me! For we shall meet again in Paradise."
"Papa, you're talking crazy--!!!"
He seizes my shoulders and shakes me.
"Promise me, Scion! Swear it with all of your heart!"
"Yes, Papa...I promise," I whisper, numb with fright.
We all huddle together, and try as I might, I cannot understand why the world can't leave our little family alone. 

~*~*~*~ 

As I sit on the edge of the bed and undress, Snow watches me with large, solemn eyes. I fold my shirt, pants and underwear (as I've been programmed to do), then I slip naked beneath the sheets beside him.
"Precious," I sigh, as he snuggles close. "Why do you look so sad?"
"What will we do when Papa dies, Scion? Where will we go?"
"You heard Papa; he wants us to go with Hunter up the mountain, where we'll be safe."
"Hunter? Who is he?"
"You remember; Diamond's human master? The gentleman who sometimes brings supplies for Papa?"
"Why can't we simply stay here and run the Love Shop? Papa could program us with all of the technical knowledge--"
"Because of all of the people who hate us," I explain. "Because we're both human and mechanical. They're frightened of Papa, but they'll come after us when he's gone--and it will be The Lightning for all of us...mecha, human and hybrid. Snow, Papa made us promise to flee! We'll have to go."
"I'd rather go to God," Snow says in a small voice, and I draw him closer.
"Don't say such things. Papa has arranged for our care after he passes. Besides, God has houses all over the city. I've heard Papa speak of them, and the pictures in the books are quite lovely."
"But the people are there," Snow shudders. "The ones who hate us, and wish us to be dead!"
"We are partly human, remember?" I soothe him. "They won't turn us away."
Snow doesn't answer, but his shivering frightens me. I hold him close, and just love him. 

~*~*~*~ 

"Papa," I ask, as he performs routine maintenance on Snow and I. "Why are they so frightened of you?"
"Because they don't understand," he replies. "They believe that I am a sorcerer of sorts--a madman..."
He cauterizes the SilkSkin on my chest, and smooths away the seam where the edges of the wound meet, leaving it perfectly smooth. He activates the pain center once more, and asks me if it hurts.
"No," I reply, as he traces the site of the incision--now completely invisible to the eye.
Snow shudders as Papa performs the same maintenance on him.
"Am I hurting you, Son?"
"No, Father," Snow gasps through his tears. "I just don't like not being able to feel things! It's so inhuman!"
"It's simply an upgrade," Papa explains. "To keep you alive for centuries."
"But there's no life without you, Papa!" Snow sobs, and Papa embraces him.
"I will have to die eventually; I am not steel and chrome and cables inside. My bones will begin to hurt. I shall grow old and bent and grey. My skin will wrinkle, and my teeth will fall out. My brain may decrease, and then I'd become a burden. Humans are made differently. We are born to die, and when we are dead, the body returns to the Earth as dust."
"Why would you want that?" Snow cries.
"I don't have much choice in the matter," Papa replies tenderly, drawing back to brush away Snow's tears with his thumb. "Besides, when humans die, their souls go to Heaven or Hell, as it says in the Bible. Heaven is the good place where the faithful in the Lord dwell after death. There's no sadness, sickness or pain--and the streets are made of pure gold. Best of all, we're reunited with all of our loved ones who have died before us--and we never have to leave them again."
"So, we'll always be a family, Papa?"
Papa looks very sad for a moment, and then embraces Snow fiercely. He hides his face in his slim shoulder to keep his tears from us, but I feel them in my heart.
"Papa, what is Hell?" I inquire, and he reaches for my hand.
"Hell is the opposite of Heaven, Scion. All of the bad people go there after they die. Those who treat others cruelly, those who cheat and steal and kill--" His voice cuts off rather suddenly, and he turns from us. "In Hell, you're always lonely... There's a massive Lake of Fire, and sinners--those bereft of God--burn in it for all of eternity."
He shudders, and turns to face us once more.
"However, people only go there by their own will. God is love. I believe it with all of my heart. That's why I've taught you as I have."
"I want you to take us to church, Papa," I state. "I've heard of these houses of God--"
"I'm afraid that I'm not welcome there," Papa sighs. "Like I said, there are people who just don't understand."
"But, Papa--!"
"That's enough!" he shouts at me, and I draw back, wounded.

4

The next evening after supper, the three of us sit together and Papa reads to us from the Bible.
"Papa, what does fornication mean?" Snow asks innocently, and I snigger.
"Scion," Papa scolds me, and then turns back to Snow. "It means making love without the benefit of marriage."
"And what is marriage?" Snow frowns, glaring at me.
"The sex act," I tease him, and now Papa is also frowning at me.
"You've been reading the books in the Love Shop."
I blush, and Papa shakes his head.
"Snow, marriage is when a couple love each other so much, that they forsake all others and declare themselves exclusive to one another."
"So, Scion and I are fornicators?" Snow gasps, and I roll on the floor howling and clutching my guts.
"Scion, please!" Papa thunders, and Snow bursts into tears. "Now, see what you've done!" He turns back to Snow and ruffles his hair. "No, Son... Luckily, God doesn't hold Love-Bots to the same standards that he does human beings."
"I'm human!" Snow cries. "I am!"
"Yes," Papa soothes. "Partly. Both of you. I made you with free will, and you have chosen to follow God."
"So we are fornicating then!" Snow sobs. "We're making God angry!"
"You two have only been with each other--correct?"
We both nod.
"And you love each other?"
"With all of my heart!" Snow cries, reaching for my hand, and I nod.
"Yes, Papa."
"Then you are married. You're forever devoted to one another."
"Were you ever married, Papa?"
"Once, very long ago. I had a wife and a teenaged son. There was an...accident, and they were killed..." His gaze falls from ours, and we look at each other. Something in Papa's eyes tells us not to inquire any further.
"Will the new Love-Bots be immortal?" I ask, changing the subject.
"The new ones will be...and they will have the same emotion panels as both of you. They will be programmed to love their human companions unconditionally. They'll love like Christ, with no reservation."
"Do the humans love them back?"
Papa's lips rise in a smile, and he chuckles.
"Heh! Scion, you are something else! Yes, yes, they love them back in their own way. Most of our customers are lonely people, and they're simply looking for something--someone--to love."
"Why not other humans, then?" Snow frowns, and Papa pats his cheek.
"Because some people don't have the gift of making others love them...or they don't want to make a baby."
"Well, Scion and I have mated oodles of times, and we've never made a baby!" Snow proclaims, and I smother my face in a throw pillow to keep from braying with laughter.
"So innocent," Papa smiles tenderly at Snow, and then lifts his eyebrow at me. "Only humans can make a baby through sexual love--and only a man and a woman. Let me explain..." 

~*~*~*~ 

"I want a baby, Scion," Snow sighs. "One with sea-green eyes like yours and mine, who is partly me and partly you--"
"A hybrid!" I tease, snuggling my head on his shoulder. "Oh, Snow-ball! The things you say!"
He bolts upward in bed and glares at me.
"I'm not joking Scion; I want one."
I prop myself up on one elbow and gaze up at him with a mocking smile.
"Perhaps Papa could create one for you."
"Yes," he says softly. "Perhaps."
"Ha ha," I smirk, as I pull his slender body down next to mine once more. "You're talking crazy."
"I will leave here, then--and go find one!"
"You will do no such thing!" I gasp. "I promised Papa that I would never leave your side!"
"Then you're coming with me."
"No! We will stay here and obey Papa's wishes!"
"Scion, aren't you the least bit curious about the outside world? Don't you wish to see it with your own eyes, and not just in picture books?"
"Of course, but I resist temptation--"
"--or you're afraid," he challenges me.
"Yes, I am," I admit. "But Papa must have his reasons."
"He wants to keep us all to himself," Snow smirks. "At least, that's what Diamond said."
I groan aloud; Diamond and his mate, Stardust: Created by Papa in his first attempt to program his Love Bots with free will. It's worked too well in their case. They are common as prostitutes, free as Gypsies. Several other rogue 'bots have drifted into their company, and they've become a gang of sorts. I rather like Stardust, but Diamond makes me nervous. He has a certain darkness dwelling within...a wildness that I do not like.
"What would Diamond know about it?" I frown, and Snow turns to stare at me.
"He says that there isn't any God; he says that God is within all of us."
"Preposterous," I scold, but my mind is reeling with the idea--set free like a wild dog, scratching and gnawing at my brain. "Papa wouldn't lie to us, Snow... Besides, Diamond and Stardust are completely mechanical. God has nothing to do with them."
"You sound just like the people who hate us!" Snow cries. "Who are we to deny a believer?!"
"They aren't believers, love," I sigh. "That's the entire point."
"I want a baby," Snow snarls "and I'm leaving at dawn--with or without you."
He turns his back on me, and I press him back against me, my heart heavy with worry.

End of part one 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Full Length Review: EVOKEN Hypnagogia (Profound Lore Records) by Dave Wolff

Hypnagogia
Place of origin: Lyndhurst, New Jersey, USA
Genre: Death/funeral doom metal
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Steven DeAcutis at Sound Spa studios, New Jersey, USA
Artwork by Adam Burke
Release date: November 9, 2018
It took them six years, but the New Jersey doom masters Evoken have spawned a full length that re-establishes their ability to record monstrous compositions after long years of existence. The band emerged in 1994 when death metal began its transformation into an art form in spite of what its detractors were saying, and were among the first to establish their own identity among the clone bands of the time. Their follow up to 2012’s Atra Mors sees them expanding into conceptual territory. Constructing a story over the background of the first world war, it highlights the physiological impact the war had upon the American soldiers who took up arms. One solder in particular who is experiencing the final moments of his life keeps a private journal in which he perceives his imminent departure from his earthly existence. While doing so he arranges with the help of a malignant god to leave a part of his soul in his writings, so anyone who reads them becomes possessed, experiencing the horrors of the war and committing suicide; this person’s soul likewise becomes trapped and so on as the journal’s dark power increases. It’s a horror tale created just in time for the Halloween season, worthy of the most well known genre authors of the last thirty years, and the music composed for Hypnagogia consummately captures its essence, complete with dirge-laden guitars, resounding drums, penetrating vocals, piano, string instruments and some shades of black metal (together with the occasional shades of Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, groundbreaking bands in their own right). Evoken has been a consistent force in underground doom metal, learning and growing to their own credit. And while there is always room for improvement, they make their own decisions on where to go next; Hypnagogia shows they have stumbled onto something that can set new standards when it comes to devising engaging narratives that breathe new life into time-tested ideas. Earsplit is predicting this album will become a landmark in death and doom metal. It wouldn’t surprise me if it ended up catching on with old and new fans. -Dave Wolff

Lineup:
John Paradiso: Vocals, guitar
Chris Molinari: Guitar
Dave Wagner: Bass
Don Zaros: Keyboards
Vince Verkay: Drums

Track list:
1. The Fear After
2. Valorous Consternation
3. Schadenfreude
4. Too Feign Ebullience
5. Hypnagogia
6. Ceremony Of Bleeding
7. Hypnopompic
8. The Weald Of Perished Men



Thursday, October 25, 2018

Single Review: BAD BONES American Days by James K. Blaylock

American Days
From their full length High Rollers, released on Sliptrick Records October 23, 2018
https://sliptrickrecords.com
Place of origin: Italy
Genre: Hard rock
Release date: September 30, 2018
Italy's own Bad Bones deliver with their newest single American Days. Most definitely they have a throwback vibe to 90's hard rock, but with a modern groove. They could easily give all those retro junkies whiplash simply because of all the rubbernecking, instead of moshing harder. Then again that could even bring a concussion or two. Either way these dudes pack-a-mean-punch with their effortless camaraderie. Just listen to their soaring vocals, crunchy guitars, fat bass lines and pulverizing drums - it's easy to see that these guys mean business. But in a sense isn't that what being in a band is all about? Plus, they don't forget to pack the dynomite lyrics to back it up. After all who doesn't want to be blown out of their chair?
There you have it: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. -James K. Blaylock

Lineup:
Max Malmerenda: Vocals
Sergio Aschieris: Guitar
Steve Balocco: Bass
Lele Balocco: Drums

Single Review: METAL MIRROR Outlaw Rider by James K. Blaylock

METAL MIRROR
Outlaw Rider
From their full length Vodka Hell And Angels, released on Downfall Records October 26, 2018
Place of origin: United Kingdom
Genre: NWOBHM
Release date: September 24, 2018
Metal Mirror's newest single Outlaw Rider is a wonderful return/welcome from this legendary group. The best part is that it feels like these guys picked right back up where they left off in 1982, of course, now they have a little more to say with a little more wisdom. In a sense that is what rights-of-passage are for... now if only everyone was connected like that. Either way it's great to see these guys doing what they do best again. Which is rattling our skulls.
Anyways, their album Vodka Hell and Angels is finally getting its first ever physical release through Downfall Records. So, if your one of those old school kinda persons like myself, that enjoys perusing through a CD’s liner notes for lyrics and what have you, then pick up your own copy. Otherwise it's still available wherever digital copies are sold. Plus I'd keep my eyes peeled for more releases to come in the future from these guys. Call it making up for old times or just reincarnating a career that was never really dead. Wait a minute is that an oxymoron, either way, they probably have a stockpile of music ready for new ears. Perhaps it could even be like a bonding of the generations - fathers and sons, and such. Whichever way you want to look at it at least the metal shall continue for the hungry masses.
There you have it: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. -James K. Blaylock

Lineup:
Cameron Vegas: Vocals
Paul Butterworth: Guitar
PJ Phillips: Bass
Mike (Stav) Stavoski: Drums

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Full Length Review: HAIDUK Exomancer (Independent) by Serafima Okuneva

Exomancer
Independent
Place of origin: Calgary, AB, Canada
Genre: Blackened death metal
Release date: October 17, 2018
Make it loud! After nine long years and three albums, finally a unique one-man-band called Haiduk has declared itself loudly and decisively. Luka Milojica’s album Exomancer, released in October, is a confirmation of cruelty, rage and hopeless darkness in the format of  death metal with black metal rage. Mind-blowing! This Canada-based musician has long identified apart from the mainstream, releasing his own rare, but interesting albums, fierce and absolutely beautiful in their aesthetics and technicality. Noteworthy for me are the compositions, which are instrumentals with no choruses or verses. Chaotic structures are very smooth on the ear. With fast rhythms with broken junctions you won’t get bored as you are constantly in enthusiastic tension. The underhanded disalignment induced by the music creates narrow portals into secretive but wide spaces. The effects can be dizzying, submerging you in vaporous twilight that is neither here or there. Aggressive riffs, tremolo, confident percussion and unexpected transitions competently dilute infernally tough vocals. Luka Milojica thrives on universal evil and hopeless worlds in his music and lyrics, and with his creativity continues to independently release his albums. I hope this universal rage continues to delight lovers of infernal sounds with their amazing independent works. Hail Evil! -Serafima Okuneva

Lineup:
Luka Milojica: Vocals, all instruments

Track list:
1. Death Portent
2. Unsummon
3. Evil Art
4. Subverse
5. Icevoid Nemesis
6. Doom Seer
7. Pulsar
8. Blood Ripple
9. Once Flesh
10. Crypternity