April 9, 2011

Death - A Musical Legacy Part 1

"Sense of feeling soon to be gone, Life will never last"
- Leprosy (1988)

On December 13th 2001 Death singer, songwriter and musician extraordinaire Chuck Schuldiner passed away . With his passing the world lost a true musical pioneer. With his band Death, and it was his band, he unintentionally helped give birth to the Death Metal genre. Death though were more than just a Death Metal band, they were far more than that. Whereas some bands suffer through line-up changes Death seemed to thrive, this was in no doubt down to Chuck's songwriting skills and musicianship. With each album they progressed, both musically and lyrically, they matured creating a musical monster whilst still managing to remain true to their roots.

Scream Bloody Gore (1987)

Previous to the release over their debut album, Scream Bloody Gore, Death had released the Mutilation demo amongst others. It was Scream Bloody Gore that drew me in though. The title alone just screamed out to a teenager obsessed with gory horror movies. Everything from the band's logo to the wonderful artwork from Edward Repka (more on Repka a little later) just clicked with me. I made the journey in London to Shades, which was the metal store, located just off Wardour Street and got my grubby little hands on the album. Of course it was vinyl at the time, as were all my Death purchases, so I got to marvel at the artwork in all its glory. Cassettes and CD's just don't seem to ever do artwork justice. I believe I also bought some other albums at the same time, although I can't remember what they were.

Listening to Scream Bloody Gore for the first time was an overwhelming experience, with songs such as Zombie Ritual, Baptized in Blood and Evil Dead I just knew I would love it. I wasn't quite expecting the musical onslaught that followed though. There were no lyrics printed on the sleeve, so I really didn't have much of an idea what was being sung until I trained my ears to this style of music. What I did know though was that I loved it, from the opening strains of Infernal Death I was hooked. 

This was, and still is, a brutal album. The songs still stand up today. Many Death Metal bands seem to be stuck in their rut lyrically and with their image. Some are Satanic or obsessed with gore-drenched lyrics and visuals, and still stick with this years and albums later, this was Death's only album that really fell into the now cliched image of Death Metal. It was all zombies, blood, guts and gore. Death were a young band and Chuck was around 20 when this was released, but throughout its lyrical brutality you could hear the musical craft behind it all. Scream Bloody Gore was an immense debut but this was just the appetizer in an incredible banquet.

On a side note, drummer Chris Reifert who played drums on this album went on to co-form Autopsy who gave us the slab of bloody vinyl entitled Severed Survival.

Leprosy (1988)

With Leprosy Death returned with a full band, Schuldiner did pretty much everything on Scream Bloody Gore, and was produced at Morrisound studio. Morrisound was the studio when it came to Death Metal, but it was with Leprosy that this relationship started. Once again the album featured wonderful artwork from the prolific Edward Repka.

If Scream Bloody Gore was the snarling, angry young child all full of venom and bile then Leprosy was its equally pissed off older brother. Still a vicious album but far more restrained in its approach. Gone were the gory imagery, instead replaced my a more mature approach to the subject of death. Don't get me wrong, this is no stroll in the park but it is much more than zombies and the hack and slash approach of the debut album.

Musically Leprosy was a huge step forward as well, even on just their second album Death were pushing the genre forward. Schuldiner's vocals were more refined, you didn't need to follow the lyric sheet to know what he was singing about!

Personally speaking this is my favorite Death album, it never seemed to leave my turntable as a teenager. Songs like Born Dead, Pull the Plug and Open Casket were, and still are, just incredibly good tunes and unlike many albums of the time, and since, there is not one weak track. Every one stands on its own as a prime example of Death Metal. Combined though they are an almost perfect collection of pure ferocity. Sure, there are faster, angrier and uglier bands out there but none ever have come close to Leprosy in all its splendor.

Bassist Terry Butler, who is credited with playing bass here although Schuldiner claims he played as Butler couldn't perform the songs, later went on to play for Death Metal giants Massacre, Six Feet Under and Obituary.

Spiritual Healing (1990)

Spiritual Healing was release in February 1990 and was the first Death album that I purchased on the day of its release. I remember being one excited little fucker that could not wait to get the vinyl home and give it a blast. For the last time the artwork was a Repka piece.Repka is probably most famous for his Megadeth art but also did album covers for bands like Evil Dead, Vio-lence and Atheist. It seemed every other Death or Thrash metal album of the late 80's and early 90's featured his work.

With Spiritual Healing Death returned with yet another line-up which included the excellent guitarist James Murphy, who has also played with, and on, numerous other bands albums including Cancer, Obituary and Testament. This was possibly their best line-up with most of the band contributing to the songwriting. Once again recorded at Morrisound Studio, this time produced by the producer of the day Scott Burns who delivered an album that sounds incredible. 

Once again Death pushed the bar forward in terms of their music and lyrics, the title song being about the religious belief of some preachers of letting God sort out the sick. In essence if God wants a sickness to be cured it would cure itself, no medicine required. Although another step forward in terms of lyrics, music and quality I personally believe it lacked the punch of Leprosy. That being said it is still an incredible album with a deceptive amount of depth, the title track almost pushes 8 minutes in length! Again it stands the test of time with songs that stick in the mind with intelligent lyrics and technical, yet catchy in a Death Metal kind of way, music.

With these three albums Death really stamped their name over the genre they helped create. All pushed forward in leaps and bounds, but Schuldiner and his band were far from finished. In my next piece I will cover the albums Human, Individual Thought Patterns and Symbolic. I will finish off my look back at Death with a final piece that will cover The Sound of Perseverance as well The Fragile Art of Existence which Schuldiner recorded with his band Control Denied, which he formed after disbanding Death.

Midgets? Zombies? It's Night of the Little Dead!

We've had just about every style of zombie flick imaginable over the past few years, so I guess it is no real surprise that we'd get one featuring midgets. Well, I am all for it!

Night of the Little Dead is a short movie, in more ways than one, that is directed by Frank Ippolito and Ezekiel Zabrowski and stars James Hurley, Aye Jaye, Penn Jillette and Bill Moseley amongst others. I also hear that there are plans to make it into a feature length movie.

"It's the little things that getcha!"

Official Site

Review - The Man From Nowhere (2011)

When it comes to exciting new releases in the world of cinema it seems that Korea is right up there with the best of them. Year after year we are treated to wonderful movies that just demand to be seen. From the Vengeance trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy and Lady Vengeance) and Memories of Murder kicking the thriller genre in the ass through to movies such as A Tale of Two Sisters which is an incredibly good horror movie, there always seems to be something coming that demands to be seen. I will admit to not having seen more recent releases such as Mother or I Saw the Devil, but I know I will and I fully expect to enjoy them. Even the slightly less impressive movies such as Death Bell and Bloody Reunion, which I did enjoy, still managed to be technically good movies.

Now we see the release of 2010’s The Man from Nowhere, the sophomore effort from Director  Jeong-beom Lee, and what a movie it is! This is a movie that brings familiar themes to the thriller genre, such as drugs, violence and gangs, and gives them a violent twist resulting in a movie that slowly draws us in before exploding across the screen.

Cha Tae-shik is a loner who runs a dingy pawnshop and minds his own business. Well, he would mind his own business if it was not for the interfering of his neighbor’s daughter So-Mi. So-Mi is a lonely young girl who tries to escape from the problems in life, such as her mother’s less than savory company, by visiting Tae-shik. Things come to a head though when it turns out that So-Mi’s mother is involved in drug trafficking for one of the local gangs, gets herself and her daughter kidnapped and inadvertently gets Tae-shik involved.

As the movie progresses little pieces of information are thrown our way as we slowly get the bigger picture about Tae-shik’s past and quite why he is trying to hide away from the world. This is key to the movie’s success as it does start slowly and can seem to be a little confusing with several story strands all running together. Patience however is rewarded as all becomes very clear and the movie builds to an incredible last third. The very end of the movie is slightly disappointing, as it seems to pander to a mainstream audience, although that is a minor problem.

Character driven with wonderful action scenes, yes the knife fight mentioned on the artwork blurb is quite excellent, A Man from Nowhere is a thoroughly enjoyable movie. The villains are despicable, the (anti)hero Tae-shik is performed perfectly by Bin Won and Sae Ron-Kim as So-Mi is a joy to watch. Quite honestly aside from the ending I really couldn’t find fault with this movie. If you like taut thrillers with its fair share of claret and bone-crunching violence I suggest you check this out.

Not just another score for Korean cinema, this is a score for cinema in general. Now let’s just wait for the inevitable remake.

April 7, 2011

As the Worm Turns: Familiar coming soon from Fatal Pictures

Having already brought us the intensity of the quite excellent Worm, you can read my review here, Fatal Pictures are gearing up to bring us Familiar. Once again written and directed by Richard Powell with Zach Green producing, cinematographer Michael Jari Davidson and starring the quite excellent Robert Nolan, Familiar is due for release sometime in 2011. 

Nolan plays Johnathan Dodd who is the twin brother of the decidedly unhinged Geoffrey Dodd, whom he also played, from Worm. So I am fairly sure we can expect some less than savory behavior from him and I am definitely optimistic that this will deliver the goods.


Through a series of tragic events a middle-aged man grows to suspect the negative impulses plaguing his mind may not be his own.

Fatal Pictures

Wake Wood coming to the States

The latest release from the reborn Hammer studios. Already available in the UK, this is set for a June 28th release in the States through Dark Sky Films.


Still grieving the death of their only child Alice at the jaws of a crazed dog, vet Patrick and pharmacist Louise relocate to the remote town of Wake Wood where a local pagan ritual gives them three more precious days with her... but what will they do when it's time for their new daughter to go back?


April 5, 2011

Coming Soon - The Tapes

Due for a UK theatrical release in September, British Horror flick The Tapes from Darkside Pictures is a found footage style movie which centers around tapes found at a crime scene. The trailer is looking good to me and I plan on grabbing a copy of the movie when it gets its DVD release, which is due sometime after its theatrical run. And let's face it, you can't go wrong if you have clowns in your movie, even if it is just a mask!


In 2008 serveral tapes were recovered at the scene of a horrific crime. Shot by three youngsters involved and with the permission of their parents, the tapes are now being released as a warning to society….

April 4, 2011

Murder in Seattle - The Killing Season Premiere

So after what seemed like far too long The Killing finally debuted on AMC on April 3rd. Based on the 2007 Danish show Forbrydelsen, which I haven't seen but plan on picking up the Region 2 DVD, The Killing debuted with a 2 hour premiere. Well, it was actually the first two episodes played back to back, but not to worry.

The show follows the police investigation, family reaction and a mayoral candidate, who may or may not be involved, of the murder of a 17 year old girl named Rosie Laursen. 

The show starts off slowly with the discovery of some clothing and a credit card in a remote park.   There is no body yet, instead the police led by Sarah Linden resolve to follow the leads in what they hope is just a missing person's case. Obviously the name of the show gives it away that there will eventually be a body. The tension slowly builds up to this point, we know it is coming and suffering for Rosie's parents is almost unbearable. This is further enhanced by the rainy Seattle setting, with dulled colors and an almost depressing atmosphere.

The Killing has proved so far to be a well made and quite emotional show. It features a solid cast although Linden's partner, who has joined the department to replace Sarah when she leaves for California to get married, seems a little out of place at the moment. That being said it does seem that there is more to his character than meets the eye. Watching this show I saw elements of Se7en, Silence of the Lambs as well as the more obvious Twin Peaks (without the humor), the intuitive female investigator, the new kid coming in to take over and prove himself and the murder of a young schoolgirl, but the show does manage to retain its own identity.

We are only two hours into a 13 episode series so there is plenty of time for it to further develop. The signs so far are very good and it already has me hooked.