Sunday, October 23, 2011

Immolation and Jungle Rot at Chain Reaction

A more formal review of the show can be found here. Here are the pictures...

Jungle Rot


The t-shirt haul...

Special thanks to James Genenz and Jungle Rot.


Immolation and Jungle Rot

Immolation 10Immolation 11Immolation 12Immolation 13Immolation 14Immolation 15
Immolation 16Immolation 17Immolation 18Immolation 19Immolation 20Immolation 09
Immolation 08Immolation 07Immolation 06Immolation 05Immolation 04Immolation 03
Immolation 01Immolation 02Jungle Rot 25Jungle Rot 24Jungle Rot 23Jungle Rot 22

Immolation and Jungle Rot, a set on Flickr.

Immolation and Jungle Rot at Chain Reaction in Anaheim, CA. October 22nd, 2011. An informal review will follow soon.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Craig Metal


Dave has asked me to say a few words about our lifelong friend Craig, who tragically passed away recently, focusing on our tastes for music and how that helped to bring us together. I could write a book about Craig. Maybe, someday, I will. But, for now, I will stay on topic.

I was aware of Craig for some time before I actually met him. Even in a high school as large as ours, his dynamic personality and charisma was hard to miss. I met him, oddly enough, when he started dating my twin sister Mary. Our friendship basically began with Craig tossing me the keys to his car so I would get the Hell out of the house when he came to visit her because I was a third wheel. Unfortunately, their dating relationship didn’t last long, but their friendship endured for life.

Craig and I had some mutual friends through which we came into closer contact and we began to get to know each other better. Our senses of humor meshed as well as our zest for contraband, and we began hanging out a bit more. What we did not see eye to eye on was music. Craig was mostly a hardcore punker and I was all about metal. But, this gave us something to debate over and something to give each other a hard time about. Eventually he opened my mind with Millions Of Dead Cops by MDC, and I blew him away with Sodom’s In The Sign Of Evil. Our friendship was galvanized as we helped each other explore new realms of extreme music. Craig took me to my first non-arena concert ever. We saw Suicidal Tendencies supporting their self titled debut full length at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago. I was sixteen and was enamored by the fact that I could be right in front of the stage during the show. Unfortunately I learned the hard way the risks this posed when the pit started up and we got pushed forward against the stage. I realized too late that the knucklehead directly behind me was covered in spikes. I had welts that lasted for days.

Craig turned me on to other bands such as The Exploited, GBH, and DRI, while in turn I (and others such as Dave) helped him discover bands like Metallica, Celtic Frost, Venom, and Slayer. He became a rabid Slayer fan and we saw them together many times. One of these shows was at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom. Arriving late, I foolishly parked in the Domino’s Pizza parking lot across the street from the venue. My car was towed and we had to cab it back to the ‘burbs after the show. We devised a grand scheme to ditch the cab upon returning home, but, when I was ready to implement our plan, I turned to Craig only to find him passed out drunk next to me, costing me forty bucks. Typical Craig. We also delved deeply into Rush together, and he was the finest and most enthusiastic “air” musician I have ever known.

As we got older, music took more of a backseat and became just one of the many things we shared and had in common. After Craig’s first bout with a brain tumor (that he barely survived) he mellowed out quite a bit, but I know he popped Reign In Blood, Kill ‘Em All, and Morbid Tales into his deck from time to time. Sometimes while hanging at a bar with him or just sitting around and watching TV, he’d look at me and say, “Hey, Skull,” and then belt out a Warrior-esque death grunt for no reason except for the sheer fun of it.

I miss him terribly. He left us way too soon. Rest in peace, my Zombie brother.


I met our friend Craig way back in 7th grade when we both somehow ended up in orchestra together at Holmes Junior High School around 1982. As I recall, neither of us had much use for playing the viola, and we spent most of our time goofing around. I remember once that we convinced a lot of other kids to shoot rubber bands into the crowd from the orchestra stage during a recital as we played for parents, alumni, and other distinguished guests. My social studies teacher remarked that he enjoyed the recital, but felt that the rubber bands were an unnecessary embellishment.

I met Skull a year or two later in early high school, and we all became part of the same circle of friends. I gravitated towards extreme metal, Craig towards hardcore punk, while Skull dabbled in both. We would all gather in my basement after school and on weekends as I had two things going for me at the time. First, a loud stereo combined with me being the first kid in my high school to own vinyl copies of “you name it” from Metal Blade, Combat, New Renaissance, Noise, Neat, Megaforce, and just about anything else floating around at the time; and, second, I also had a pool table, which greatly aided the cause in getting us all together on a regular basis.

A number of favorites ended up in our early rotation, and the time of 1984-85 really stands out. We endlessly replayed Sentence Of Death by Destruction, Morbid Tales by Celtic Frost, In The Sign Of Evil by Sodom, and, Craig’s personal favorite at the time, Apocalyptic Raids by Hellhammer. As Skull mentioned above, Craig’s calling card became his version of Tom G. Warrior’s death grunt, and we greeted each other in this manner for literally decades afterwards. Craig was such a fan of the song “Triumph Of Death” that, one time, Craig was so excited that we drove 10 miles from a party back to my house just to listen to the song. We drove back to the party afterwards; that is, after blasting the song on my stereo three or four times at top volume (and scaring the Hell out of my mother). When we graduated from high school a few years later, Craig tried unsuccessfully to have his name read as “Tom G. Warrior” during the ceremony. Craig also couldn’t get enough of In The Sign Of Evil by Sodom, and would frequently laugh at Angelripper’s bowl haircut.

There was a period of time during these years that we all latched on to my beat up, taped from a tape from a tape copy of The Ultimate Revenge on a battered VHS tape. We watched the video endlessly for a time, and Craig convinced me to drag it to whatever party we were headed to for the evening. We would take over the VCR, pop in the tape, and promptly clear the room. This went on for some months until Craig ran over the tape in someone’s driveway.

In our later high school years, we hit the concert scene, and I attended a few shows with Craig. I distinctly recall seeing the infamous Celtic Frost/ Voivod/ Running Wild tour at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago, and you can bet that this was a highlight of our social calendar. Craig was so excited that he drove his motorcycle to the concert, only to discover after he arrived that he had left his ticket at home in Mt. Prospect. So, he promptly drove back home, got his ticket, and made it back just in time to catch Voivod. He jokingly referred to Running Wild as “Posing Wild,” anyway, so I don’t think that he was all that disappointed.

After I moved away from Chicago to eventually settle in Los Angeles, Craig and I only kept in touch infrequently over the years, something that I deeply regret and cannot ever rectify.

My friend Craig passed away in late September due to brain cancer. He was 43 years old. He is survived by his wife and two young children.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Thing (2011)

The Thing (2011)

Directed by Matthijs Van Heijningen

Here’s something completely different. Like lots of metalheads, part of being a nerd is “nerding out” on great horror flicks such as John Carpenter’s classic The Thing from 1982. I also really enjoy the Howard Hawks film from 1951, and the original short, Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell (1938) is a classic that, along with The Voyage Of The Space Beagle by A. E. Van Vogt (1950) and The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney (1955), serves as the obvious progenitor of just about any story featuring “aliens biologically take us over/ become us” ever told since. Hell, I’m such a fan of the story that I once took a girl on a date to a small play in Chicago that diligently followed the original short story. The theater was cold (blankets were given to patrons), and the play’s producers did a fair job of creating mood and atmosphere. Creature appearances were handled by the effective use of lighting and auditory effects designed to evoke a sense of chaos and panic. I don’t remember what happened to the girl, though. Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of the Carpenter film is also worth your while. I still have a copy of the Bantam paperback in my library.

Naturally, I was very curious and excited to hear that a new film, a direct prequel to the Carpenter film, was in the works, but also deeply suspicious that a new film would be lousy (considering that most of the dreck coming out of Hollywood these days is just that, dreck), and would negate Carpenter’s film’s impact on younger viewers. So, a fair amount of trepidation was in my mind when I traipsed out to the Del Amo Mall in Torrance (the same mall featured in Jackie Brown) for a Saturday matinee showing of The Thing.

WARNING: SERIOUS SPOILERS: If you have not seen the film and don’t want it to be spoiled for you, STOP READING.

So, here’s my take on The Thing (2011). I liked the film, although there are some serious plot holes and a few bad moments. First, the good. The Thing looks authentic; that is, the film is set in 1982, and it shows. As far as I could tell, there were no anachronisms to be found with cues from technology, slang, and so on. Obviously, the writers will be careful in that regards, and the level of detail applied in this sense was good. For example, during a moment of celebration after finding the creature, the Norwegian camp members burst out into a song, a Norwegian song that won the Eurovision contest sometime around then, apparently (I haven't investigated too closely, though). Nice touch. Apparently, even beer labels adhered to their designs from the day.

The sets are awesome, and not just because the setting conforms to the period. The Norwegian camp layout is very obviously recognizable from the Carpenter film. The radio room where the camp member (Colin) is found by McReady and Copper sitting in a chair with his self inflicted slash wounds (his suicide is explained, but in a quick manner), the room with the block of ice containing the Thing, all done very well. The camp is smaller than the American Outpost 31 in the Carpenter film, and looks it. This enhances the claustrophobic feel of the film, perhaps more than that present in Outpost 31. The smaller camp is effectively used as the events in this film play out at a noticeably quicker pace than those at Outpost 31 in the Carpenter film.

The film is atmospheric and very creepy, particularly in the early going. The level of paranoia steadily builds as the middle acts play out, as well. The paranoia works very well, and I found myself shrinking in my seat on more than one occasion. The early reveals of the Thing are actually done VERY WELL. The Thing encased in ice is just an awesome sight to behold, and is straight out of Campbell’s original description. An early scene that depicts the camp members starting to drill into the ice block is very effective.

Most detractors of this film are going to complain about the overt CGI “look” to the Thing, and that is definitely a problem, particularly in the film’s later acts. But, in the early going, the effects work very well. The sequence prior to and during the burning of the Thing under a shed after it escapes from the ice is excellent, as is the transformation of Juliette (although I could see that one coming a mile away). I also enjoyed most of the “two-headed Thing” sequences, although, this is where the film’s later acts, and problems, really start to begin. Puppetry does appear, mostly during an autopsy sequence following the burning of the Thing under the shed.

OK, so, now the problems. Yeah, the CGI is overdone, particularly near the conclusion with the scenes set in the spacecraft. I found the tension deflating the more that I saw of the Thing, especially during these sequences. That’s an obvious problem, and the CGI is just too obvious. But, my major gripes with the film occur with some plot holes that really don’t make any sense. First and foremost, the American chopper pilots evacuate Olav from the camp, as he’s obviously in shock after the events involving the burning under the shed. Fellow American Griggs tags along, only to reveal himself as the Thing as the chopper is lifting off. Yes, main character Kate Lloyd is waving them back to land while this happens after she suspects that something is amiss with camp members, but, as far as I could see, there’s no way for her to know that specifically Griggs is the Thing at this point. The Thing should have just taken its chances if the chopper lands. Naturally the chopper crashes over an impassable ridge during this sequence as the struggle occurs.

At any rate, I also found myself bothered by the last few moments, prior to the “credit cookies.” A taken over Braxton Carter is tricked by Kate Lloyd into revealing himself as the Thing with a mistake involving his earring. The Thing would’ve been smarter than that; maybe Carter wasn’t a Thing, after all, although the sound effects suggest otherwise. Also, whatever happens to Lloyd? Does she freeze out on the ice? Does she make it out with a snowcat? Why aren’t the snowcat(s) found by McReady and company when they find the craft in the Carpenter film? Maybe Lloyd lights out for a Russian camp mentioned earlier by Carter, but that leaves the burnt snowcat left behind. Maybe the snowcat, or snowcats, are buried in snowfall prior to McReady and company’s arrival. Moments like these, and a few others involving questions such as just when were various people taken over is obviously purposeful of the writers to attempt to mirror Carpenter’s very effective use of not exactly knowing all of the events occurring within the larger framework of the story.

The Thing crashes into a glacier 100,000 years ago, activates a homing beacon, and crawls from his craft, only to freeze. Yet, the craft starts up just fine after the taken over Dr. Halvorson/ Thing leaves the remains of the camp and arrives at the craft only minutes ahead (presumably) of Carter and Lloyd. Why not just start it back up 100,000 years ago?!

A few other elements are going to bother people. The plot of the film mirrors the Carpenter film pretty closely, but I was expecting that. One could argue that people under similar dire circumstances are going to find similar solutions to problems, though. The inclusion of American characters didn’t bother me, though, as their introduction to the film in the early going fits; but, some will probably take issue with this as a plot vehicle that is similar to Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character’s purpose in the second version of The Grudge. Also quite bothersome is the fact that pilots Jameson and Carter make it back to the camp after crashing in the first place. Edvard unnecessarily revealing himself as the Thing in the rec room also bothers me, although that begins the whole “two-headed Thing” sequence of events that lead to the end. Perhaps the Thing reasoned that, at this point in the film in such a small setting, it could get away with going for broke, as it were.

There are some nice touches, all neatly tying the film to the Carpenter film, mostly occurring as a credit cookie as the closing credit sequence begins; Ennio Morricone music and all. The “two-headed Thing” in the snow, the emergence of the dog (that plot element happens in the very early going), the disappearance of Lars earlier that later leads to the final helicopter scene, etc., all are present, although some of it, particularly the dog’s emergence, seems forced. There are even two shots from the Carpenter film that occur in these moments.

So, there you have it. Is The Thing (2011) a keeper; that is, will I buy it and watch it every now and then? Yes. Will it ever attain the cult classic status of the Carpenter film (or, even the Hawks film for that matter?) Doubtful.

Dave’s Grade: B+

For all “things” Thing-related, check out Outpost 31.

OK, those of you that wish to chime in, did I miss anything?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Enslaved and Alcest at The Troubadour

Bands: Enslaved, Alcest, and Junius

Venue: The Troubadour; West Hollywood, CA.

Date: October 14th, 2011

Underground shows have tailed off of late here in the Los Angeles area, so it was with no surprise that the legendary Troubadour in West Hollywood was sold out for the final date of the Enslaved/ Alcest tour. Never mind that the highly anticipated Ghost had to drop off of this tour before it began due to visa problems; the time was ripe for a good show of great bands forging their own paths across different genres.

The last minute replacement for Ghost was post-metal act Junius, taking over the first slot. I was walking in to the already jammed Troubadour as Junius were about midway through their short set. Not bad, but just simply not my thing. The crowd’s response was respectful, however.

I crammed myself up to the front for Alcest, appearing in Los Angeles for the first time. Alcest main man Neige was obviously well known to the crowd as Alcest’s droning, soothing set was very well received. Playing for about 45 minutes and drawing heavily from Ecailles De Lune, Alcest were very tight and focused. Near the conclusion, a number of people connected to the tour walked onto the stage dressed up in French Revolution- era wigs, and proceeded to pour wine and offer bread to the band. I couldn’t quite make out the label, but I hope that the wine was from California (probably a Napa Valley cab). The band was obviously surprised and delighted, offering a “Salut” to the crowd. While the brief toast was made, Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson also showed up on stage, dressed up as hot dogs! I’m not quite sure what that was all about, but obviously everyone was having a good time.

After a brief changeover, Enslaved came on and proceeded to treat everyone to a raucous set in celebration of the band’s 20th anniversary. Enslaved were obviously relaxed, having a good time, and, no doubt, glad that the tour was reaching its conclusion. Set highlights included “Ethica Odini,” “Raidho,” “Ruun,” and a cover of “Immigrant Song.”

Although not really my go to band of choice, I definitely hope to catch Ghost sometime soon.




Skeletonwitch Forever Abomination

Dave's Underground Laboratory

Enslaved, Alcest et al.

Alcest 01JuniusAlcest 03Alcest 04Alcest 02Alcest 05
Alcest 07Alcest 06Alcest 09Alcest 10Alcest 08Alcest 11
Alcest 12Alcest 13Alcest 15Alcest 14Alcest 16Alcest 17
Alcest 18Alcest 19Alcest 20Enslaved SetlistAlcest 21Enslaved 01

Enslaved, Alcest et al., a set on Flickr.

Photos from last night's Enslaved/ Alcest show at The Troubadour in West Hollywood. Short review forthcoming.