NWOBHM JANUARY – Saxon

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YEAR OF METAL titlesaxon band logoWhen it comes to classic NWOBHM bands to hold a tight influence on the metal community at large, Saxon ranks up there alongside the likes of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, whether fans of metal know it or not. After forming in 1976, they proceeded to released three classics of the genre, as well as producing one of the undisputed call-to-arms Metal-Head anthems in the song “Denim And Leather”, while having influenced bands as diverse as Metallica, Megadeth, Skid Row, Pantera, Motley Crue and Sodom, among many, many others.

Judgement Day

Stand Up And Be Counted

Denim And Leather

Book Review: STAR WARS: Death Troopers

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Star Wars Death TroopersJoe Schreiber
Del Rey
2009

When the Imperial prison barge Purge—temporary home to find hundred of the galaxy’s most ruthless killers, rebels, scoundrels, and thieves—breaks down in the distant part of space, it’s only hope appears to lie with a Star Destroyer found drifting and seemingly abandoned. But when a boarding party from the Purge is sent to scavenge for parts, only half of them come back—bringing with them a horrific disease so lethal that within hours nearly all aboard the Purge die in ways too hideous to mention. And death is only the beginning. The Purge’s half-dozen survivors will do whatever it takes to stay alive. But nothing can prepare them for what lies waiting aboard the Star Destroyer. For the dead are rising: soulless, unstoppable, and unspeakably hungry.

I guess it was inevitable: Zombies in Space. Does that mean that we have jumped the shark with the zombie genre back in 2009, when this Star Wars book was published? Eh, not really the point of the review, is it?

So, essentially we have a mash-up of a Star Wars novel and a zombie horror fiction. The story itself is pretty standard post-Romero zombie fic: A prison transport stumbles upon a bioweapon virus that has a 99-point-something mortality rate, killing hundreds, and then reanimating their corpses to feast on the living. Of course, this being a Star Wars novel—set shortly before the events of A New Hope, in case you were wondering—we’re set in a prison barge first, then a Star Destruction in spaaaaaaaace. And yes, I affected a Pigs In Space voice while writing that.

Anyway, the story of Death Troopers—which has one of the coolest covers going, by the way—follows the misadventures of the crew of the Purge, a prison transport barge headed for a deep space prison to drop off the collective scum of the universe, according to the Empire. They drop out of hyperspace prematurely, dead in the proverbial water, but what luck! They come across a seemingly abandoned Star Destroyer! Stopping to scavenge parts, the majority if the crew and prisoners suddenly come down with the sniffles, and as a result die horribly and sloppily. Except, of course, the six individuals who are immune to the virus—the ship doctor, two adolescent grifters, an Imperial officer…and Han and Chewie. Yep, those two are on this boat. Because no one would read a Star Wars novel with zombies otherwise, I guess. Anyhoo, while trying to find a way to get…not stranded, the masses of Living Impaired suddenly become quite a bit more animated, with the standard insatiable hunger for human flesh. And they can operate blasters. So these are Space Zombies with Guns. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

Sorry, sorry, I had to throw that in there.

As a Star Wars novel, Death Troopers is a nifty stand-alone tale that doesn’t really further the overall Star Wars saga, other than being another little adventure of Han Solo and Chewbacca before the fateful pitstop at the Mos Eisley canteena. Even then, the inclusion of those scruffy-looking Nerf herders seems a bit arbitrary, like somebody who wasn’t the author decided there needed to be a tie-in with the Original trilogy movies, beyond a brief mention of Darth Vader. Problem with that bit of fan wankery is that we know that Han and Chewie don’t die here. Or…maybe they do, and they’re just high-functioning zombies in the movies. Regardless, the story was a good, tense and serviceable sci-fi zombie yarn that just happens to be set in the pre-Disney Star Wars universe. Not too bad for a quick read.

Movie Review: ANNABELLE

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Annabelle Movie PosterWarner Bros. Pictures
2014
R

“I like your dolls.”

John Form has found the perfect gift for his expectant wife, Mia–a beautiful, rare vintage doll in a pure white wedding dress. But Mia’s delight with Annabelle doesn’t last long. On one horrific night, their home is invaded by members of a satanic cult, who violently attack the couple. Spilled blood and terror are not all they leave behind. The cultists have conjured an entity so malevolent that nothing they did will compare to the sinister conduit to the damned that is now…Annabelle.

If you’ve watched the 2013 movie The Conjuring, then you remember the beginning part where a creepy-as-all-getout doll named Annabelle is discussed. For a few moments. Then it’s dropped for the main plot of a haunted farm house. And a music box. But enough people were obsessed with what was up with that blasted doll that a spin-off/prequel movie based on the bloody thing was inevitable. And thus, a year later, Annabelle was released.

I want to put forth once again that I have a rather strong aversion to dolls. Movies like Dead Silence did the near-impossible by freaking me out. And while I’m in on the joke with the Chucky movies, there’s still the underlying creep factor there. It’s the dead, glassy eyes that stare into your soul. Like they’re waiting for you to go to sleep…

Excuse me again while I go hyperventilate.

So, anyway, Annabelle was going to be another in a long list of movies that I was at least going to wait for a second-run showing before watching. But then, I was offered to go watch it the weekend after the movie opened, and so despite my irrational phobia of those soulless abominations, I agreed to the cinematic outing. The result of which was…underwhelming. That’s the nice way of putting it.

Full disclosure: Yes, the doll creeped me out. That’s a given. The moment they brought that thing out of the box, it was all I could do to keep from yelling “KILL IT WITH FIRE!” in the theater. And if it was just that one doll, it would be bad enough. But the wife here has a freaking platoon of those kind of dolls in the room where they’re planning on putting their unborn child. Clowns would have been a more humane choice, but I digress.

So, medical student John and his lovely doll-collecting wife Mia are expecting their first bundle of smell joy, and so John shows his appreciation by buying her the final doll she was looking for to complete her unholy doll army. But then that night, they’re invaded by a couple of crazy Satan-worshiping hippies, one of which is named Annabell, who manages to transfer her soul into one of the dolls before getting gunned down by the police. Try to guess which doll.

Also, is this starting to sound rather familiar? Anybody? Anybody at all…? Moving along, then…

Anyway, the young family moves to a high-rise apartment after the ordeal, and somehow that creepy doll finds its way there. Of course. Some supernatural weird stuff happens, mostly due to the spirit of the crazy hippie lady’s affiliation with Satan, a jump scar here, an hallucination there, a couple of creepy kids that show up for a moment and then are never seen again for some odd reason, a priest that tries to help but gets his cassock handed to him by the demon doll…

See, Annabelle is the kind of horror movie that I’ve seen far too many times. And that isn’t the issue, because there are plenty of horror movies that are emulations of other horror movies that I enjoyed watching. The problem I had with Annabelle is that hardly anything happens. Sure, there are some genuinely creepy parts to this, mostly atmospheric; but let’s face it, I went into this thinking it was a possessed doll movie, and it turned out to be more of a vengeful spirit of an unwashed crazy hippie movie. The doll is not the focus of the scares, really more of a maguffin. There were more than a few times where I was fighting hard to not yell out loud, “Co’mon, movie, do something!” It does have a build-up, but by the time the predicted-an-hour-before climax happened, I was ready to bolt when the credits began rolling.

Which is a pity, because I absolutely enjoyed the predecessor to Annabelle—The Conjuring–which was a good example of a derivative horror movie that worked well. Overall, the atmosphere works in places, but not enough to really get myself lost in the movie. Worth a rental, if you’re curious. Watch it before watching The Conjuring, definitely.

Movie Review: KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM

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knights of badassdomEntertainment One
2013
R

“You just summoned a succubus from Hell!”
“Sorry.”

Fantasy and reality collide on the Fields of Evermore when a group of Live Action Role Players inadvertently summon a blood-lusting succubus from the pits of Hell. Now three best friends and one incredibly hot babe must prove they are more than just make-believe warriors and become true “Knights of Badassdom.”

Of the wide array of geek-based activities, LARP’ing is not one I had the pleasure of participating in as of yet. Mind you, I was never sociable enough to really get into D-n-D and other role-playing games (think about that for a bit); but, if I had the choice between RPG’s and LARP’ing, I would go with LARP’ing. Costumes, mate. And at least I would be able to get some fresh air and exorcise.

Anyway, Knights Of Badassdom is a horror comedy that more or less celebrates the LARP’ing communities by asking the question “what would happen if someone summoned an actual demon in the middle of a sword-and-sorcery game?”

Okay, so that scenario for a movie plot isn’t new. And truth be told, Knights Of Badassdom isn’t even the best one of the type going, really. But, what it does have going is that the movie is tongue-in-cheek, and has fun with the story, making this one entertaining urban fantasy horror comedy going.

After an Evil Dead 2-style intro, we meet Joe, a metal-head slacker who just got dumped by his long-term girlfriend. To help him get over it, his rich housemate highjack him to a weekend LARP’ing session. Despite his protests, he warms up to the idea of losing himself in the fantasy cosplay. And it doesn’t hurt that Summer Glau is there dressed in leather and wielding a sword. As to be expected, an actual succubus demon is actually summoned, takes on the form of Joe’s ex girlfriend, and begins killing horny cosplayers left and right. And so Joe and his unlikely band of heroes need to take the demon out before the body count gets too high. Wackiness doth ensueth, yon adventure-seeker.

As a movie, Knights Of Badassdom was quite entertaining. It seems like a loving genre letter written in a satirical way that I enjoyed, not really meant to be taken seriously. And quite frankly, given the spate of those over-the-top wacky pop culture comedies like Vampires Suck and Epic Movie that have been thrown at us over the years. The cast was strong—any movie that features Peter Dinklage is going to be awesome in some regards—and the horror aspects was done well. For me, though, the fact that \,,/METAL\,,/ is featured is merely a delicious, buttery frosting on this rather tasty cake. No, it’s not a game changer (no pun intended), but Knights Of Badassdom is far from the worst thing to watch for a night of entertainment. Recommended.

NWOBHM JANUARY – Raven

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YEAR OF METAL titleraven band logoRaven is a bit unique in the list of NWOBHM bands in that they never went away and then came back due to nostalgic renewal. After forming in 1974 by brothers John and Mark Gallagher, they’ve kept chugging along mostly in the underground (with a brief stint on Atlantic records which was less than ideal, let’s just say), producing hard rocking heavy metal all the while, and notching up twelve studio albums under their belt. They also have a bit of notoriety as being the band that a young and hungry Metallica opened for in 1983, on what was called the Kill ‘Em All For One tour.

Hell Patrol

Faster Than The Speed Of Light

Mind Over Metal

NWOBHM JANUARY – Tygers Of Pan Tang

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YEAR OF METAL titletygers of pan tang logoThis has to be one of the coolest names for a band ever. If I didn’t already know that Tygers Of Pan Tang was a band name, I would have assumed it was the title of a Kung Fu exploitation movie from the 1970s.

Anyway, Tygers Of Pan Tang is another NWOBHM band that many an old Metal-Head recalls fondly, with several other bands listing them as influences. But, unlike some of the other bands listed, instead of having only a small handful of releases, Tygers Of Pan Tang have been rather prolific, releasing six studio albums between their initial run in 1980 thru 1987. That’s not counting the three compilation albums and one live album released in that period.

Euthanasia

Gangland

Do It Good

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NWOBHM JANUARY – Judas Priest

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YEAR OF METAL titleJudas Priest LogoThis may technically be a cheat, as Judas Priest was formed during the Proto-Metal era that included the likes of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. But, you’d be hard pressed to find any Metal-head who thinks of Judas Priest as anything other than one of the mascots of the NWOBHM era. If you look up Heavy Metal in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of Judas Priest. And if you need to ask what kind of influence they had on the metal community, just pick up a copy of British Steel and hit infinite repeat on your media player of choice.

Hell Bent For Leather

Breaking The Law

You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’

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