THE NECROCASTICONTEST (UPDATED!)

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Who likes free stuff? We’ve got a Necrocasticon prize package to give out, featuring:

A rare, worn paperback copy of THE KILL RIFF from David J. Schow, one of the seminal splatterpunk novels of the late 20th Century. (Because you should own this book.)

Digital Copies of ALTERNATE HILARITIES: VAMPIRES SUCK and HYSTERICAL REALMS, featuring short stories by Necrocasticon host, Token Tom. (They’re funny. And scary)

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A complete set of Azriel Mordecai Cthulhu art prints (drive your friends crazy jealous).

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A $5.00 iTunes credit to purchase the IT’S WAR ep (Cos we love it and you will, too).

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Plus more to be announced.

How do you get this awesome stuff?

Simply rate us and leave a comment on your preferred podcast outlet, be it iTunes, Stitcher, Roku, etc. We’ll compile a list of those that leave comments and rate us. Each comment/rating is an entry! Multiple entries are allowed. The more you rank and comment, the better your chance to win! We’ll pick a winner in a month! Yes, you are allowed to go back and comment and rank on the previously produced shows.

Oh, the contest starts TODAY!

The Paradox of TERMINATOR GENISYS

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I remember seeing the first James Cameron TERMINATOR film as a young man, 17 years old. We had heard the scuttle on the film, mind you this is an era with instant news and the internet, and advance word through magazines indicated the film was revolutionary and would make a star out of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now, we all loved Arnie in CONAN: THE BARBARIAN from a couple years before, so he was fast becoming a genre action hero. Knowing how excited we were, my friend’s Mom felt we should see it, and sneaked us into the R rated flick. The deal was we never tell. I think the statute of limitations has expired on that, some thirty-one years later. Needless to say, I was amazed at what I saw. THE TERMINATOR told a simple story, the themes engaged me and the special effects amazed me. I’d already been exposed to the nihilistic, post-apocalyptic fair of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, THE ROAD WARRIOR and BLADE RUNNER during the preceding few years. But as the opening sequence of THE TERMINATOR unfolded with a tank tread crushing a road of human skulls, my life changed. From that moment forward, nothing could top THE TERMINATOR or my adoration of the film. It also encouraged my interest in time travel, something we’ll do through out this essay. Starting… then…

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Last night I watched TERMINATOR GENISYS. IMAX 3D, of course. If the advance word I had on this entry into the venerable series held any truth, I would need the 3D. The theater was empty, for the most part. I blame that less on critics panning the film than the actual advertising campaign. Here’s where we add TERMINATOR GENISYS to a select group of films that aren’t actually bad, but suffered from a marketing faux pax, ala JOHN CARTER, and are now prejudged to be awful in advance. The advertising for TERMINATOR GENISYS has been off the mark since day one. Couple that with revealing the “twist” of the story three months prior to its release, and you have a recipe for disaster. Now, I can picture the pitch to the studio, “In this one, John Connor is the Terminator!” And the studio heads approved the film. It looks good on paper, right? When initial reactions to the first trailers were met with fanboy hate, an unwise marketing rep decided to make an executive order to cut the infamous twist-reveal trailer. If it worked with the studio, it will work with John Q. Public, right? Wrong. When people watched that trailer, they shook their heads, proclaimed, “John Connor is a Terminator?” And checked out. Why bother watching it, we found out all we needed to know in the trailer. And that’s a shame. TERMINATOR GENISYS isn’t exactly a horrible film, it’s certainly flawed without a doubt, but it doesn’t deserve the vehement hate it has received. At least that’s how I felt after watching it and during my ride home. Time to go… there…

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I got home and started making notes for this review. What I liked, what I didn’t like. Something didn’t sit right with me. So I watched THE TERMINATOR again. This wasn’t good for TERMINATOR GENISYS. I found myself very unhappy with TERMINATOR GENISYS for the same reasons I dislike 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE. Someone, and I’m not sure if it was director Alan Taylor or writers Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier, forgot what made both THE TERMINATOR and TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY, work. The blame does not lie with Arnold, oh no.  He plays the Terminator like a pro. He’s the most refreshing thing of the film, and he’s oldest part of the franchise! The in jokes surrounding this are abundant. Part of the blame lies in the casting of Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese. Courtney is a solid actor, but he’s not the right actor for this part. Kyle Reese, as given life by Michael Biehn, is an embodiment of The Man With No Name, he’s gritty and flawed, a man of few words. Jai Courtney transforms Reese into a wise cracking motor mouth and he’s not very likable. His presence on screen often took me out of the film, wishing for Biehn. By contrast, Emelia Clarke’s Sarah Connor is done very well, but it’s almost over the top, she’s less morose than Linda Hamilton, and acts somewhat like a spoiled teenager. Yet it’s not either of those that bring the film down. It’s the dick whipping Terminator count and time traveling run amok.

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More Terminators doesn’t mean better, and this is where they forget what made both T1 and T2 work: the Terminator films are horror films, simply put. The Terminator is a scary, unstoppable force. It is supposed to frighten you. Yet in TERMINATOR GENISYS, they’re plentiful and get knocked off left and right. It’s like a porn convention of Terminators. Everyone is a Terminator. Even John Connor. And that is the ultimate problem with TERMINATOR GENISYS. Starting with TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY, John Connor became the series protagonist. He was the hero we bonded with. Making him into a Terminator caused a disassociation with the audience, predicating the film’s imminent failure. Yeah, it looked good on paper, but it didn’t play out that way on screen. It also doesn’t help that Jason Clarke has played the least likeable John Connor since the franchise launched.

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Just as more Terminators are bad for business, so is more time traveling. It’s a cop out plot MacGuffin when you answer your problems with a hop on the time travel machine. But more so, the time traveling issues are an ironic representation of the movie’s inherent pacing problems. There’s no sense of urgency in the narrative, no suspense. We aren’t given an opportunity to build any, and that’s due in part to the plot line. There’s so much going on, we can’t waste a moment for any development. This is evident from the opening credits, as we get story from the opening frame. Which leads us to… now.

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TERMINATOR GENISYS has come out, people are hating on it. There’s no doubt that the TERMINATOR franchise has hit some bumps in the road, and TERMINATOR GENISYS is one more but as a film on its own, it really isn’t that bad. It’s certainly better than TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES, which can be machete cut out of your viewings of the saga. TERMINATOR SALVATION is solid stand alone film, albeit misguided in its McG-ness, and I would say TERMINATOR GENISYS is a notch better. But when comparing modern films to classic cinema such as THE TERMINATOR and TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY, the bar is already set so high, it is nearly impossible for the newer film to achieve any positive notoriety. Plus, keep in mind that THE TERMINATOR ascended its B-Movie status to become much more than it was intended to be. So give TERMINATOR GENISYS a chance. You might enjoy it for what it is, a B-movie homage. I did.

Breaking Benjamin Goes Crazier For DARK BEFORE DAWN

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Often, when a band takes a long hiatus, their return to the recording world isn’t relevant. Or good. Generally this is because they stopped taking drugs, their time off attributed to legal issues surrounding them or a loss of a key member or two because of their abuse. Drugs, hate them or leave them, are one of the back bones to the music industry. The old adage and battle cry of music; Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘N Roll wouldn’t be complete without the drugs. I’m not condoning illegal drug use here, but let’s face it, Guns ‘N Roses sucked after they stopped doing drugs. Once Metallica removed booze from the equation (and their name is an amalgam of metal and alcohol!), we got ST. ANGER. Seether’s best material came from the darkness of drinking, and the magnificent opus that is FINDING BEAUTY IN NEGATIVE SPACES is the result of years of abuse Sean Morgan put himself through. Drugs are bad, hmm…kay. Unless they make music, then I’m all for the tragic bard, ala Jim Morrsion or Kurt Cobain. There is a flip side to this, which involves people not taking drugs when they should be. These are the members of the music community that are fucked up in the head without the need for substances. Axl Rose falls into this category, his special kind of crazy combined with the abused spirits and junk that were prevalent topics throughout Guns ‘N Roses’ library of early songs created magic. As does the ever neurotic hypochondriac, Benjamin Burnley of Breaking Benjamin.

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This review is not here to extrapolate on the issues behind the band’s five year absence from music, yet we can’t tell this story without touching on it in some manner. Burnley went a little nuttier than his normal whacky self, his friends and former band mates were lured into the deceptive web of record company bullshit. This led to Ben gaining a moment of clarity (?) and shit canning his band after winning a legal dispute over the band’s name. Ben replaced them with what is essentially a super group of musicians, including former members of Red, Adelita’s Way, Forever Oeuvre and Picture Me Broken. The outcome of this, DARK BEFORE DAWN, is a literal phoenix rising from immolation, a melodic modern emo-metal masterpiece, ripe with hooks and harmonies, drenched in Breaking Benjamin’s familiar, melancholy sound.

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Throughout DARK BEFORE DAWN you can feel Ben and his troubles, his angst isn’t that of being young. It is a consequence of his personal madness. And it’s something any fan of music can relate to. We’ve all got our own crazy, and Benjamin Burnley has been able to build a bridge between himself and his audience through his depressing lyrics and the symphonic morose of the instruments. We’ve had teases of the album throughout the year, leading up to last week’s debut of the completed record. Failure, Angels Fall and Defeated were a sampling of what was to come. The final product is as good as you would assume, confirming that 140,00 people weren’t wrong when their purchases of the album catapulted DARK BEFORE DAWN to the top of the Billboard Hot 200.

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What concerns me is the 140,000 sold, yes that was enough to give the number 1 album, but it’s a small number, considering we have over 300 million people in the United States alone. It is a testimony of the swan song of the old music industry, and the only way to survive in this horrible economic climate is to produce quality music. Ben Burnley has done it again on DARK BEFORE DAWN, and with only five albums of original material, he has entered Breaking Benjamin into a select group of bands that have survived the test of time.

Edgar Rice Burroughs, Starlord & Raptors

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They say in advertising that if you have a boxom, bikini clad lass holding a baby and walking a puppy dog that you can sell people deep-fried cat shit and they won’t care.  Why?  Because the advertising had a sexy, bikini clad lass, holding a baby and walking a puppy dog. That’s mostly true for any product in general, except for fiction. With fiction’s mediums, be they on the page or the screen, we’ve got a broader field. They’re all imagination stimulators that bring forth immediate recognition, allowing the audience to bond with the narrative. Your choices include Knights in shining armor, Vikings, Pirates, damsels in distress, Cops & Robbers, Cowboys & Indians, flying machines and automobiles, and, of course, dinosaurs.  

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With me it has always been the latter, the dinosaurs. They’ve caught my imagination since I was a little boy. My earliest recollections all link back to two sources: KING KONG and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Kong put a sympathetic face on the giant monster, and yes, he fought dinosaurs. The works of ERB took me to outer space and back to our inner earth, with stops at lost islands and hidden valleys along the way. One of those places was the aforementioned lost island, called Caprona, the titular THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT. The adventure story of the survivors of an U-Boat attack and how they end up on a lost island jam packed with dinosaurs is one of my favorite, ever. In 1975, a theatrical adaptation of the book hit screens, and I was enamored. The next year, a modernized KING KONG came out. There wasn’t a comic book, View Master or coloring book I didn’t have that was somehow tied to one of those properties. This is because dinosaurs are cool.

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Jump forward 20 some odd years from 1975 and author Michael Crichton once again captures my imagination with JURASSIC PARK. The hard science behind the book allowed suspension of belief and I suddenly felt like a pre-teen again, awash in the prehistoric glory of dinosaurs. The movie adaptation that followed a few years later did not disappoint me in any manner, well, unless you include that little issue with Muldoon. Nitpicking aside, the dinosaurs were amazing and far removed from the puppets and back screens of THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT. Special effects had reached a pinnacle in achievements with the Stephen Spielberg movie. Travel another 20 or more years, while circumventing a pair of sequels that failed to live up to the awe and wonder of the first, and we find a new entry into the JURASSIC PARK franchise. This past weekend, JURASSIC WORLD defied the average critical response, which has been a resting bitch face “Meh,” and opened to record box office receipts and smiling moviegoers by the boat load. Making over half a billion dollars at the multiplex was a feat unheard of, until last weekend. I happily contributed to its coffers and I’m about to happily tell you why I enjoyed the movie as much as I did.

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I’ve finally accepted that we won’t get a proper remake of THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, thanks to JOHN CARTER’s marketing team.. Edgar Rice Burroughs has a stigma attached to his estate, one that says the movies won’t be very good.  It’s not a slight on the source material at all. Burroughs’ stories were action packed pulp adventures, he was a superstar of his time, a pop culture phenomenon. Shit, Tarzana, CA, is even named after his most famous creation. His characters were smart, the good guys good, the bad guys bad and the women, be they antagonists or protagonists, were strong. And sexy. But time and time again,  Burroughs adaptations fail at the box office. I’m fine with that, because, you see, JURASSIC WORLD is every bit as much an Edgar Rice Burroughs story as it is the fourth film of the JURASSIC PARK franchise.

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You see his influence throughout not only JURASSIC WORLD, but through JURASSIC PARK, as well. From the remote island setting to the dinosaurs themselves, the JURASSIC franchise is ripe with Burroughs-esque Easter Eggs. The intelligence of raptors is a modern incarnation of the evil Mahars from AT THE EARTH’S CORE, for example. The themes of conflict between the military and civilians can be seen in any ERB story, and is often established by having our protagonist be a member of the military itself. And that’s what makes JURASSIC WORLD the most Burroughs of all the films, its lead male star, Chris Pratt, and the character of Owen Brady. You see, Owen Brady is the quintessential Burroughs hero. He is brave and intelligent, he has a sense of humor and is he ever a ladies man. You can even see a slight Burroughs take on his character name, Owen Brady easily translates into Tyler Bowen, the hero of THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, as well as nearly every other ERB protagonist from John Carter to Tarzan. Owen even channels Tarzan himself when he communicates with his “trained” raptors. Brady is an archetypical throwback to the heroes that have endured through time. Even Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing could be ripped straight out of any number of Burroughs narratives. She is strong, yet she is also beautiful, and alluring to our hero, making her Jane Porter or even Deja Thoris in a power suit.

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Word has it that there are already talks for a fifth film in the franchise. As long as they bring back Chris Pratt and his portrayal of Owen Brady, I’ll be on board, too. Nothing spells a good time like Starlord and the Raptors.

You Know Nothing, Fan Boy: Jon Snow and the Hero’s Journey

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Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.”

Last night’s GAME OF THRONES fifth season finale shocked the shit out of fans of the show in the waning moments of the broadcast. If you didn’t see it, well, Jon Snow, the last of Edd Stark’s male heirs, was given a shank blanket party by his brothers in the Night’s Watch and left to bleed out in the snow. Men with hearts of stone cried last night. Now readers of the books knew this was coming, but it still had a cathartic effect on anyone who viewed it, whether or not they were aware of the twist in the plot. Even I sat there dumbfounded, like a lost child. My wife, concerned that something serious had happened, asked me, “What’s wrong?” I sat my beer down and solemnly replied, “Jon Snow died.”

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I sat there staring at the credits as they rolled, stoic, trying not to cry. But then I realized what George RR Martin and the show runners had done, and I smiled. You see, the writers and Martin sent Jon Snow to the place he needed to go, a place that heralds the upcoming climax of the popular series. They sent Jon Snow to the Underworld. You see, Jon Snow as we knew him, had to die. The story required it. But don’t worry, folks, the same creed that dictated he must die also insures he will return. Confused? You shouldn’t be. You’ve been conditioned to this since watching your first cartoon.

Season Five of GAME OF THRONES has been ripe with mythological Greek references, and this is no different. The sacrifice of Princess Shireen, the rape of Sansa Stark, all of these plot points have their origins in Hellenic mythology. The bottom line is GAME OF THRONES is classic Hellenic story telling at its gruesome best, and Hellenic stories follow a format. Most of you are very familiar with this type of story telling. It’s the most common way to tell a story in modern literature and cinema, you’ve seen it in everything from Winnie the Pooh to Rambo (yes, I’m talking about Stallone here!) and even STAR WARS. The latter example is perhaps the easiest to show, as STAR WARS creator, George Lucas, has made it clear on many occasions that STAR WARS came from Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.

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The Hero’s Journey is the template for the classic adventure tale. It is simple. Your protagonist is young and naïve, an instance happens ripping him from the simple life he knows. He must undertake a quest to correct the wrongs, during this quest the hero will typically surround themselves with archetypical companions, which will include an elder mentor who is often doomed to be a sacrificial Red Shirt, ala Star Trek. They will often be provided special weapons from the gods to complete their quest. At one point the hero will enter the Underworld, wherein they will also die, yet unlike their mentor, they are reborn and enlightened as the hero they were meant to be.

Each character in GAME OF THRONES has their own story arcs, and Jon Snow’s has always been the Hero’s Journey. The catchphrase attached to him, “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” is an allegory to his naivety. Did the gods give him magic weapons? They certainly did, in the form of Valyrian steel and Dragon Glass. Mentor? Absolutely, in fact, Jon Snow actually has a trio of doomed mentors between his father, Jeor Mormonat and Maester Aemon. Is he surrounded by archetypical companions? Yes, Samwell and his loyal Nights Watch brethren complete that fellowship. And now, as the series nears it’s climax, it’s time for the hero to enter the Underworld and be reborn, setting up the events that will bring our story to a conclusion.

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Jon Snow is Luke Skywalker. He’s Frodo Baggins. He’s John Rambo. Luke entered the Underworld throughout THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and emerged as a Jedi Knight. The Mines of Moria, wherein Gandalf the Grey finds an untimely demise? You guessed it: the Underworld. When Rambo cuts through the cave during his escape: the Underworld. In order for Jon to complete his quest, he needed to be removed from the Night’s Watch, whose oath tied him to the Wall. The only way to facilitate that through the narrative was to kill him, as an oath is binding unto one’s death.

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Oaths take the forefront in much Greek story telling, as well, and they were a common theme this season. Arya’s oath to kill those on her Death List, Brienne’s oath to protect Stansa and Arya, Jorah’s oath to defend Daenerys to his death and so forth. Throughout the season, time and time again, principal characters were tested and motivated by their oaths. But, in the end, Martin made it easy on us for the fate of Lord Snow, with one simple line in the Night’s Watch oath: “It shall not end until my death.” And now, the presence of the Red Woman, Melisandre, at Castle Black only verifies Snow’s resurrection will occur. I’m telling you right now, without a shadow of a doubt:

JON SNOW WILL RETURN!

He has to. The format upon which GAME OF THRONES is based requires him to come back. When he does, Snow will be back, bigger and badder, as a soldier of the Lord of Light, and he’ll be on a mission to defeat the Night’s King and to become the King of the North. He has a quest to complete, and that quest is to save the world from the White Walkers and the Night’s King. The latter is his Darth Vader (remember, the Night’s King was once a Lord Commander of the Wall!), his Sauron (Sauron was once benevolent!), his Chief Teasle. Jon Snow’s metamorphosis from being the bastard son of a Lord to becoming a Lord himself won’t be complete until he kills the Night’s King, and in order to do so he had to die, to be reborn.

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Now, whether he shares his final fate happily ever-after with Luke and Frodo, or breathes his last breath with John Rambo, I can’t predict. But dry your tears, stiffen that lip and sleep easy, friends. Now you’ve been educated on why you have nothing to worry about with Jon Snow. He’ll be back for at least Season Seven, I assure you. After all, the boy must die so the man can be born.

“I Only Need One, Mr. Bond”

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My Dad and I love James Bond movies. It is one of the film series that we have bonded over, no pun intended, throughout the years. Now, I’m not old enough to really remember seeing any of Sean Connery’s Bonds in the theater, but any given Sunday that ABC broadcast a Bond movie, Dad let me stay up past my bed time to watch James Bond. Heck, Mom was at BINGO, so a bending of the bed time rules had no repercussions, except on my imagination. I fondly recall my Dad taking me to the then Cinema North theater in a suburb of Syracuse, NY, to see LIVE AND LET DIE, Roger Moore’s first spin as the suave detective with a license to kill. This is also my first memory of seeing a movie, mano-a-mano, with my Dad, without Mom’s presence. A year later we saw THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, and for the first time in my short life, I thought Bond was going to get killed.

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You see, Bond’s enemy this time was something more than a mad scientist or a megalomaniac. It wasn’t a giant with a top hat nor was it sharks or alligators. None of those enemies could stand up to the English spymaster. But this time Bond was facing Count Fucking Dracula, so I knew it was curtains for the spy. How could Bond beat Count Dracula? It was an impossible feat to my 7 year old mind. Yet beat him, James Bond did, in a visually thematic and tense showdown between the forces of light and darkness on an island fortress. I was awestruck.

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As much as the Universal Movie Monsters were part of my childhood on Monster Movie Matinee, I found the Hammer offerings from across the Pond to be bit more to my liking. Their Count Dracula was far removed from Universal’s Bela Lugosi. Where as Lugosi was short and talked a bit too much about the children of the night with an accent I abhorred; Hammer’s Count Dracula was tall and hissed like a pissed off cat, baring his blood soaked fangs and killing scantily clad virgins by the dozen. Because he didn’t talk, the Hammer Dracula gave the distinct impression that he couldn’t be reasoned with, making him all the more scary.

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Today we learned that Count Dracula finally succumbed to the ravages of time and passed away this weekend. The actor that portrayed the nefarious vampire, Sir Christopher Lee, was 93 years old, a life accomplishment in of itself. I could list Sir Christopher’s accolades, but anyone reading this already knows them. His long and storied career is well documented, his contributions to genre cinema are firmly placed in the annals of history, making him as immortal as the vampire prince he brought to undeath. Count Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, Sherlock Holmes, Sauraman, Count Dooku. All characters he breathed life into, sometimes with minimal vocalization. The latter fact is somewhat ironic, as it is Sir Christopher’s resounding baritone, as much as his vertical stature and imposing presence, that are his signatures.

Rest well, Sir Christopher, knowing you helped form a bond between a father and son, and you aided in the molding of that boy, helping him to become…me.

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Death Metal Essentials by Walt Hades and The Maxx Axe

Mortician_-_Hacked_up_for_BarbecueIf you want to combine Horror with metal, then look no further than Mortician. This Yonkers, NY based death metal group has everything every good-hearted metal/horror fan could want; aggressive songs, brutal lyrics sung in true death form and an overall aura of blood curdling horror. “Hacked Up For Barbeque” is the 1996 debut album for the band. Not only does it include the criteria above but they also include various samples from some of the more famous, and infamous, horror movies around. For example, the title track includes sampling from the 1974 film “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” where Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) discovers Pam (Teri McMinn) invading their home and disposes of her on his favorite meathook. This scene directly influences the lyrics of the song and personifies it’s intense brutality. If this tickles your horror bone (directly adjacent to the funny bone) then this album is full of those choice bits to satisfy your hunger. Mortician have gone on to create 7 more albums and many demos/singles to quench the bloodthirst of their fans. You can find out more about them at their website, http://www.morticianrecords.com.

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So you have a taste for some Swedish Death Metal? Then Hypocrisy can be your main course! Formed in 1990 by death metal pioneer Peter Tägtgren, Hypocrisy were one of the forerunners for the Swedish Death Metal movement in the 90’s. Their songs present simplicity and brutality. “Osculum Obscenum” is their 2nd album which exemplifies the classic death metal formula with it’s riffing and lyrics. However, it takes a bit of a turn as not all songs are the stereotypical 240bpm. Various tempo changes are showcased on several songs including “The Pleasure of Molestation” where you go from sick brutal beats to slow methodical grooves, but never lessening the aggression. Peter Tägtgren has also worked with and produced some of the biggest metal bands to ever come screaming out of Europe including Immortal, Children of Bodom & Celtic Frost. Learn more about the band, it’s line up changes and influence on the swedish death metal scene at their site http://www.hypocrisy.cc.

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In Flames-The Jester Race. Considered by many, including myself, as arguably the most perfectly produced death metal album. The Gothenburg, Sweden based outfit’s sophomore album incorporates things hardly found in standard death metal albums at that time, such as intricate acoustic interludes and instrumentals, heroic dual lead guitars, deep melodic grooves and well-crafted songwriting that doesn’t primarily consist of topics like death, dismemberment, autopsies, rape and necrophilia. With classic fan favorites that include “Moonshield”, “Lord Hypnos”, “The Jester’s Dance” and the title track, the album is completely lacking of a dull moment, sending the listener into a full-speed-ahead blast into hyperspace that will leave them exhilarated and wanting more.

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Opeth- Still Life. Opeth is what you get if you take the brutality and malevolence of death metal and blend it with the technical complexities and structure of progressive rock. Songs can range anywhere between 5-11 minutes, filled with crushing guitar riffs, acoustic passages, middle eastern influence and bluesy 70’s-esque guitar solos, as well as guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Mikael Akerfeldt’s ability to transition from deep, deathly growls to a clean, golden voice similar to that of The Moody Blues’s Justin Hayward. The band is a unique creature of its own kind, developing and progressing with each passing album. This album, released in 1999, is a strong exercise in musicianship and storytelling, as it tells the tale of a godless man’s return to his home village after a 15 year banishment, seeking out his long lost loved one. This kind of story seems to come right out of a Tigon Productions or American International Pictures film (see the ARKOFF formula). However, its compelling and each song matches the mood for what is being told. Other recommended albums from Opeth include My Arms, Your Hearse and Blackwater Park.

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Cannibal Corpse- The Bleeding. The Maxx Axe and I both have a mutual love for  he band that is considered the measuring stick of all traditional death metal. We also both feel the same when it comes this album. With every album of theirs filled with the same brand of violent, graphic artwork, stomach churning lyrics and brutal, neckbreaking, fast paced metal attacks, why do we feel 1994’s The Bleeding is their best work? The reason for me is it sets a change of musical direction, songs have slowed down, making the guitar riffs a bit groovier and more “Sabbath-esque”. Vocalist Chris Barnes, in his final work with the band before departing to form Six Feet Under, possesses the same timbre in his growls but has definitely modified the cadence, producing a much more decipherable effort (that way we can understand all of the juicy, violent, murderous, necrophalic details). Musically, it is a true headbanger’s delight, ending their initial era with what still remains their best work.

So there is just a sampling of some essential Death Metal. We could have gone on and on about some more of our favorite death metal bands, but that will have to wait for another time. Until then, keep it brutal. \m/!