Tag Archives: Occult

Tour Of Misrule

The latest concert outing saw another trip to Bristol – probably the closest big city that has a reasonably regular supply of decent acts appearing. This time it was to a new (to me) venue, and quite likely the smallest venue that I’ve attended a show at to date, the Louisiana, to see psychedelic occult rock band Blood Ceremony on their latest UK jaunt in support of latest album “Lord Of Misrule”.

The Louisiana, Bristol

The show took place in the small upstairs room (capacity just 140) at the pub. The event was billed as a sell-out by the promoters, but when I went up and presented my ticket ten minutes before show-time I had doubts about this as I found myself alone in the room with just a set-up-and-ready-to-go stage area for company!

Stage At The Louisiana, Bristol

Feeling more than a little self-conscious I took a photo of the stage and then chose a vantage point along the side of the room, propping myself up on the bar / shelf that ran along the wall as a few other folk began to troop into the darkened room. One downside of this positioning was that as the room filled up I had a less clear view of the low stage and was unable to get any decent photos – hence all the remaining piccies used here were found out there in internet land.

Steak

When tickets had gone on sale the support act hadn’t been announced and although heavy rockers Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell were mentioned on the tour poster they weren’t down as appearing at the UK dates in London and Bristol. Shortly before the show date I discovered that the support on the night would be London stoner rock band Steak.

Steak

Bang on 7:00pm the four members of the band – vocalist Chris “Kip” Haley, guitarist Reece Tee, James Cameron (bass) and Sammy Forway (drums) – made their way through the expanding audience (the dressing room area is at the opposite end of the room to the stage) onto the stage and launched into riff-heavy opening track “Pisser” from their 2014 debut album “Slab City”.

Steak

Numbers such as “King Lizard” and “Overthrow” from their new album “No God To Save” left me with a definite sense of Soundgarden being channelled and Kip himself struck me as being a mixture of the aforementioned Soundgarden’s late Chris Cornell, Jim Morrison (The Doors) and Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) – which is certainly no bad thing.

Reese Tee

A band that are often compared to stoner rock legends Kyuss, Steak have bags full of heavy and groovy riffs being belted out of Tee’s fuzz-drenched Les Paul and went down pretty well with the crowd. Kip mentioned that they’d had a five-hour journey to play the gig, and with a slot of just thirty minutes I hope that they felt it was worth it – I’m sure most of those who witnessed them first-hand did. Impressive stuff…

Setlist:

1. Pisser / 2. King Lizard / 3. Living Like A Rat / 4. Liquid Gold / 5. Hanoid / 6. Overthrow

1, 4 and 5 originally from “Slab City” (2014) / 2, 3 and 6 originally from “No God To Save” (2017)

Blood Ceremony

After Steak had dismantled their gear and carried it through the thinned-out audience (many of whom had disappeared downstairs for liquid refreshment) the members of psychedelic / occult rockers Blood Ceremony and their one roadie / driver (I think) ensured that their gear was ready for their own set, which began at 8:00pm.

Alia O’Brien

By that time the room was absolutely packed and the reception afforded to the headliners was more than a little enthusiastic! The focal point of the band is undoubtedly vocalist / keyboardist / flautist Alia O’Brien, and with her long dark tresses, make-up, velvet catsuit and witchy hand gestures she certainly looked the part of mistress of occultic ceremonies!

Alia O’Brien & Sean Kennedy

Following opener “Old Fires” the band turn to classic “Goodbye Gemini” from 2013’s superb “The Eldritch Dark” album – an album that is justly very well represented tonight, accounting for five of the thirteen songs aired. “Drawing Down The Moon” is up next and is, like “Goodbye Gemini” a textbook example of the group’s potent mixture of psychedelia, groovy 70s riffs and O’Brien’s vocalising interspersed with evocative keyboard work, with flute being prominent too in the earlier track.

Sean Kennedy

The next two tracks are among my favourites from last year’s record before the Black Sabbath worshipping “Return To Forever” which boasts more flute and some great axe work from guitarist Sean Kennedy and, like everything the band did, received a fantastic response from the hairy rockers, gothic girls and assorted others – so many of whom knew every word and sang along – filling the room. Unlike other shows I’ve been to of late there was precious little chatter amongst the audience too.

Lucas Gadke & Alia O’Brien

“Lord Summerisle” was book-ended by a couple of songs from “Living With The Ancients”, the album that introduced me to this great band. Bass player Lucas Gadke took the mic for “Lord Summerisle”, which is surely a track that would fit nicely amongst the soundtrack for “The Wicker Man”, the film that inspired it.

Alia O’Brien

The main portion of the set was closed by the brilliant “Witchwood”. Once the initial guitar riff and keyboard atmospherics had given way to the groove of the song the room resembled a scene from some cool 60s horror movie where a club full of people get down to the infectious sounds of the house band. In fact a good number of folk had been grooving throughout, illustrating just how accessible the group’s songs are and the reaction that it provokes, as whilst Blood Ceremony might just be the perfect band for a 60s / 70s Hammer Horror type film they are also very much for today and have clearly made a connection with the audience.

Michael Carrillo & Alia O’Brien

Rather than trying to make their way through the audience only to return for an encore the quartet (completed by drummer Michael Carrillo) elected to remain on stage and get straight into the final two numbers of the evening, “I’m Coming With You” from their debut record and finally the magnificent “The Magician”. A (black) magical and spellbinding performance to be sure and a band that I’d love to see go onto bigger and better things in the near future…

Setlist:

1. Old Fires / 2. Goodbye Gemini / 3. Drawing Down The Moon / 4. Loreley / 5. Half Moon Street / 6. Return To Forever / 7. My Demon Brother / 8. Lord Summerisle / 9. Oliver Haddo / 10. Lord Of Misrule / 11. Witchwood / 12. I’m Coming With You / 13. The Magician

1, 4, 5 and 10 originally from “Lord Of Misrule” (2016) / 2, 3, 8, 11 and 13 originally from “The Eldritch Dark” (2013) / 6 and 12 originally from “Blood Ceremony” (2008) / 7 and 9 originally from “Living With The Ancients” (2011)

 

Not Everything Can Be Forgiven

Recently my wife and I watched the feature-length debut film from writer / director Liam Gavin – the horror / drama movie “A Dark Song”.

Catherine Walker

Sophia Howard (Catherine Walker – “Patrick’s Day”, “Dark Touch”) arranges to rent a large isolated house in North Wales for twelve months. She then heads off to meet a man at a railway station.

That man,  Joseph Solomon (Steve Oram – “The Canal”, “Sightseers”), is being hired by Sophia – at great expense – to perform a ritual for her. Initially he declines clearly troubled Sophia’s offer until she admits the reason she gave for wanting to undergo the ritual wasn’t true and tells him something that attracts his attention.

Steve Oram

Stocking up on supplies for the months ahead, as they will be unable to leave the house once the process has begun, the pair head to the house where Joseph makes preparations and gives Sophia instructions about what his demands on her will be.

While Sophia has suffered a great loss, and is still very obviously suffering because of it, Joseph comes across as a rather unpleasant and, at times, abusive individual whose motivations are unclear aside from the large fee that he is promised and his own reward from the ritual…

Hammer Horror’s The Devil Rides Out (1968)

This is a very different take on the whole occult ritual type of movie. About as far away from the classic way Hammer Horror films would glamourise something like a black mass with the stereotypical candles, pentagrams and heaving cleavages as you can get. The ritual involved here seems to be the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage – a several-months-long affair that is attributed to Abraham of Worms (1360-1460) from Germany that seeks to contact one’s Holy Guardian Angel.

The Bookf Of The Sacred Magic Of Abramelin The Mage

This text was apparently of great interest to both Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and seems to involve lots of cleansing, fasting, and the use of numerous candles and symbols.

Shot in Ireland in less than three weeks, I believe, this is a rather intense film that I guess would fall into the folk horror category. Although there are a few other actors that appear on-screen briefly this is for the vast majority of the 100 minute duration an in-depth look at what happens when the two leads are holed up in the house for months on end.

Steve Oram & Catherine Walker

Whether Joseph is a genuine occult expert – albeit a particularly rude and decidedly weird one – or just a charlatan is really left to the viewer to decide as the film could be interpreted in either way, even when we get to the climax of the film which could as easily be in Sophia’s mind as actually taking place.

In truth it is the final section of the movie that lets it down a little. Neither my wife or I were completely sold on the ending and the small budget shows most tellingly at this point too. That said, it does not detract from all that’s gone before that seems to be a far more grounded depiction of the work and personal sacrifice that goes into the kind of ritual being used. Not an easy watch, by any means, but with two excellent performances from Oram and Walker the film is riveting and compelling nonetheless and will likely stick in the memory for some time to come…

Lord Of Misrule

Lord Of Misrule

Sean Kennedy
Sean Kennedy

Originally hailing from Toronto, Canada, psychedelic occult rock band Blood Ceremony were formed sometime in 2006 by guitarist Sean Kennedy, who recruited vocalist / flautist / organist Alia O’Brien, bassist Chris Landon and drummer Andrew Haust.

Alia O'Brien
Alia O’Brien

The band’s name was apparently taken from the English translation of the Spanish horror movie about the Countess Elizabeth Báthory from 1973 titled “Ceremonia Sangrienta”. This is rather appropriate in two ways. Firstly the band’s music is firmly rooted in the early Seventies, the likes of which you may have found on the legendary Vertigo label (particularly early Black Sabbath) as well occult rockers Black Widow and the great Jethro Tull, the latter thanks to O’Brien’s flute work. Secondly the band’s lyrical stance is concerned with all manner of occult themes – witchcraft, magick, devil worship etc.

Lucas Gadke
Lucas Gadke

The group’s debut album “Blood Ceremony” was released in 2008 and was followed in 2011 by the record through which I originally discovered the band, their second album “Living With The Ancients”. By this time bassist Landon had been replaced by current bass player Lucas Gadke.

Michael Carrillo
Michael Carrillo

A further line-up change occurred prior to the recording of album number three “The Eldritch Dark” (2013), with Michael Carrillo taking over the drum stool from Haust. That record, influenced in part by classic horror film “The Wicker Man”, had a much less overt Black Sabbath influence than the first two, and continued the improvement in the band’s sound and material.

Blood Ceremony
Blood Ceremony

Now, following lead single “Old Fires”, comes the group’s fourth album – and second with the line-up of Kennedy, O’Brien, Gadke and Carrillo – titled “Lord Of Misrule”. The album kicks off with a fabulous seven-minute-plus song “The Devil’s Widow” which contains all that is great about this band. Doom metal style guitar riffing, progressive twists and turns, folky flute playing to rival that of the aforementioned Jethro Tull and a nicely sinister vocal delivery from the frontwoman – not to mention that it’s really catchy too.

Sean Kennedy
Sean Kennedy

Chief songwriter Kennedy has done a marvellous job here, as there is not one duff track and the album feels like a natural progression from the last one. Gadke and Carrillo provide solid foundations, but it is the material and guitar playing of Kennedy and the multi-talented performances of O’Brien that really give this band their magical retro-inspired sound.

Alia O'Brien
Alia O’Brien

Personal highlights on the album include “Loreley”, the acoustic “Things Present, Things Past”, the brilliant “The Weird Of Finistere”, “Half Moon Street” and “The Devil’s Widow”. The band have stayed true to their early Seventies vibe and pagan sensibilities whilst also managing to broaden their sonic scope. A great album that really appeals to my love of Seventies progressive and folk rock, great songwriting and, of course, matters related to paganism and the occult. Fabulous stuff and highly recommended…Roadburn-2016-Blood-Ceremony

“Lord Of Misrule” tracklist:

1. The Devil’s Widow / 2. Loreley / 3. The Rogue’s Lot / 4. Lord Of Misrule / 5. Half Moon Street / 6. The Weird Of Finistere / 7. Flower Phantoms / 8. Old Fires / 9. Things Present, Things Past

The Wicca Woman

“Thirty years ago a young girl was found murdered in a sleepy Cornish village, and her death was the trigger for a spree of other killings.

The rest of the children have now grown up, and are still living in the same Pagan village.

But they have become as disturbed, frenzied, and often as dangerous as their deceased parents.

They still follow age-old sacrificial rituals to bring peace and prosperity to their lives.

But are the adults, who witnessed horrors in their childhood, now corrupting the next generation?

Into their midst comes the lithesome and mysterious, Lulu, who is determined to save the village.

But death, mayhem and terror follow in her wake.

And on Millennium Eve, ‘The Wicca Woman’ comes to its terrifying ritualistic and sacrificial climax.

But is this only the horrific beginning of what is yet to come…?”

wicca woman header

David Pinner - Ritual
David Pinner – Ritual

When I recently stumbled over English author David Pinner’s most recent novel “The Wicca Woman” I knew instantly that I had to read it. The reason for my enthusiasm is that it this was the sequel to his debut novel “Ritual”. Published in 1968, “Ritual” was the inspiration for the cult classic horror film – and a huge favourite of mine – “The Wicker Man” – which clearly influences Pinner in his choice of title for this new (published in 2014) book.

Now, I must confess that I have never read “Ritual”, but figured it must be pretty good to have been responsible, even indirectly, for such a fantastic movie.

Well, having now finished “The Wicca Woman”, I have to say that if the first book was anything like this then I am frankly amazed that “The Wicker Man” came to be such a revered film. I really struggled with this book.

Aside from a few continuity errors – a character named Jimmy gets referred to as Paul then as Jimmy again, a chair becomes a sofa mid-scene – I found the actual writing to be the biggest barrier to enjoying the book.

David Pinner
David Pinner

None of the characters are particularly well-developed, so you don’t get a real feel for their personalities, and they all speak in a practically identical way. There are so many sentences that begin with “Yes…” or “See…”, as well as many passages of speech being punctuated by “…well,…”. To make matters worse no one actually says anything, every character’s speech is “riposted” or pretty much anything other than “said”.

Added to that is the overly flowery text, seemingly following the mantra why use one word when a dozen will do, and the constant reminders of who people are – a journalist / writer is referred to as “the writer” more than once every time the character is involved.

Far too much background information is presented in the form of the various characters’ thoughts, as if they all go round constantly thinking back over all manner of things, and the number of times that a group of characters, be they a group of children or of adults, seem to be able to react to things by “chorusing” complicated sentences together beggars belief.

Ultimately this would have made an OK short story, but not nearly enough action takes place in between all the purple prose to keep the interest going and I found the climax of the tale to be something of a let down too. I always try to be as positive as I can when writing about things – books, music, films – but in this instance that’s proven to be a challenge. Disappointing…

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Luciferian Light Orchestra

Luciferian-Light-Orchestra-2015-Luciferian-Light-Orchestra

Christofer Johnsson
Christofer Johnsson

Back in 1987 Swedish multi-instrumentalist and composer Christofer Johnsson formed death metal band Therion. Over the subsequent years that band moved away from death metal into the realms of symphonic metal, including choirs and orchestral instruments to their performances.

Thomas Karlsson
Thomas Karlsson

Lyrically the band have focussed on themes of ancient traditions, magic, the occult etc., with Swedish author Thomas Karlsson penning all of the group’s lyrics since the mid Nineties.

Both Johnsson and Karlsson are members of a left-hand path organisation called Dragon Rouge, led by Karlsson, which has existed since 1989.

Therion
Therion

In 2015 Johnsson unveiled an occult-based side project under the banner of the Luciferian Light Orchestra. The project’s self-titled debut album was released on 30 April 2015. This date was perhaps no coincidence as Walpurgis Night falls on 30 April each year. In Sweden this is traditionally a celebration of the coming of Spring but in wider Europe there are connections to witchcraft etc.

Mina Karadzic
Mina Karadzic

Details of the Luciferian Light Orchestra are deliberately thin on the ground. Johnsson revealed that, aside from himself (guitars, keyboards, backing vocals) and his girlfriend Mina Karadzic (backing vocals), a further twenty-two musicians were involved in the recording of the album. There were apparently four lead vocalists, five backing vocalists, five guitarists, five keyboardists, two drummers and one bassist which included a mix of current and previous members of Therion.

Luciferian Light Orchestra
Luciferian Light Orchestra

However, Johnsson decided to keep the specific identities and roles under wraps as he was keen that people concentrate on the music itself rather than the personnel. The lyrics are again penned by Karlsson and whilst on the one hand they are fairly typical occult rock lyrics there is also a depth and detail therein that reflects Karlsson’s knowledge of the subject matter.

Musically the album is steeped in a Seventies style vibe and is far more classic hard rock than one might expect given Johnsson’s background in death and symphonic metal. Opening track “Dr. Faust On Capri” sets out the project’s stall straight away. Catchy guitar riffs, Hammond organs, choral backing vocals in places, some fairly deep but perfectly understandable male vocals and all topped off with the a beautifully sweet female vocal.

Luciferian Light Orchestra
Luciferian Light Orchestra

The latter is especially effective on “Church Of Carmel” where the singer (possibly Mari Karhunen) sings “…take off your dress, join us in the Sabbath, become the Master’s mistress…”. I remarked to my wife that if all occult and / or satanic music was as melodic, catchy and, frankly, seductive as this then there would be a lot more people investigating that path!

Baphomet
Baphomet

“Taste The Blood Of The Altar Wine” talks of bowing “…before the black crucifix, hear the demons sing… for the Lord, the goat of Mendes, Baphomet…” and elsewhere you will hear references to the “…Lord of Topheth…” (a place in Jerusalem where followers of the early Canaanite religions sacrificed children to Moloch and Baal by burning them alive) in “Moloch”, as well as “…Astaroth…” (the Great Duke of Hell) alongside unnamed incubi and succubi in “Sex With Demons”

Luciferian Light Orchestra
Luciferian Light Orchestra

There are hints of the likes of classic Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin to be heard, particularly on tracks such as “Dante And Diabaulus” and “Venus In Flames” (which declares that “…we hail Sathanas, Venus, Lucifer…”). There are also parallels with other occult bands around at the moment, such as Blood Ceremony and Purson (not to mention the sadly missed The Devil’s Blood) in terms of the vintage vibe and female vocals.

Luciferian Light Orchestra
Luciferian Light Orchestra

Ignoring the lyrical direction this is a great, concise (just over thirty-eight minutes in length) album with some superb musicianship and very high quality vintage sounding hard rock songs. Add in the occult imagery and you have an irresistible package and one of the most instantly rewarding albums of the year. Excellent!

therion-2016tour

“Luciferian Light Orchestra” tracklist:

1. Dr. Faust On Capri / 2. Church Of Carmel / 3. Taste The Blood Of The Altar Wine / 4. A Black Mass In Paris / 5. Eater Of Souls / 6. Sex With Demons / 7. Venus In Flames / 8. Moloch / 9. Dante And Diabulus / 10. Three Demons

New World Order

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Void Of Sleep Live In 2011
Void Of Sleep Live In 2011

Time for a little something from the dark side today. Formed in 2010 by singer / guitarist Andrea “Burdo” Burdisso, guitarist Marco “Gale” Galeotti, bassist Riccardo “Paso” Pasini and drummer Andrea “Allo” Allodoli, Italian band Void Of Sleep describe their music as occult progressive metal.

Void Of Sleep - Tales Between Reality And Madness
Void Of Sleep – Tales Between Reality And Madness

A debut album, titled “Tales Between Reality And Madness” saw the light of day in 2013 and the group’s follow-up effort, “New World Order” has recently been released.

In theory, given the increasing amount of occult and extreme metal, not to mention progressive rock, that I’ve been listening to in recent years, this should be right up my street. So?…

Andrea “Burdo” Burdisso
Andrea “Burdo” Burdisso

The record follows in the steps of the promotional lyric video “Slaves Shall Serve” which has a procession of images providing an effective visual accompaniment to the song’s Luciferian theme. Although bearing the same title, this is a more 70s hard rock / doom sounding song than the Polish black metal act Behemoth’s ferocious track.

Marco "Gale" Galeotti
Marco “Gale” Galeotti

The album’s opener “The Devil’s Conjuration” has a nice sludgy doom metal feel topped off with vocals akin to Ghost, and picks up the pace a little towards the track’s climax.

“Hidden Revelations”, meanwhile, hints at influences from the likes of Opeth with its progressive metal guitar riffs and melancholic vocal passages.

Riccardo "Paso" Pasini
Riccardo “Paso” Pasini

The aforementioned “Slaves Shall Serve” is followed by “Ordo Ab Chao” (translation – order from chaos) which has plenty of light and shade even though the song is generally slow and heavy.

“Lords Of Chaos” is a forty-two second interlude and introduction to the title track which sees the band channelling Tool at their most reflective, and is one of the highlights of the album.

Andrea "Allo" Allodoli
Andrea “Allo” Allodoli

That just leaves the closing number “Ending Theme”. At a little over fourteen minutes this is by far the longest track on the record. It starts with some atmospheric and discordant guitar before the drums and vocals join the fray, and before you know it all those influences mentioned above are making their presence felt through your speakers.

Void Of Sleep Live In 2014
Void Of Sleep Live In 2014

Given those influences this is clearly not a hugely original album. What the band have done, however, is to take those influences and produce something fresh and interesting from them. The band members’ musical ability is not in question as they shine throughout.

Is it up my street then? It’s certainly in the neighbourhood. As a whole this is an album rich in texture. There is plenty of great guitar riffing to get your teeth into and harsh vocals to display aggression, whilst there are more memorable melodies and harmonies present than on your average album of this type. The sound gets more complex and challenging as the album moves into its second half, but flows beautifully as a whole piece of work. So overall this is impressive stuff…void-of-sleep-new-world-order-promo-album-banner-2015-033069momnss3

“New World Order” tracklist:

1. The Devil’s Conjuration / 2. Hidden Revelations / 3. Slaves Shall Serve / 4. Ordo Ab Chao / 5. Lords Of Conspiracy / 6. New World Order / 7. Ending Theme (I Mourn / II Triumphant / III Void)

The Magus Of Hay

“The castle was moonlight-vast, all its ages fused together by the shadows, chimney stacks like the backs of hands turned black…

Hay-on-Wye : an eccentric medieval town known for its dozens of secondhand bookshops… and for having its own king. Now in the grip of recession, Hay is fighting for its future. Not the best time to open a bookshop, but Robin and Betty are desperate, and only Betty worries about the oppressive atmosphere of the shop they’re renting.

Merrily Watkins, diocesan exorcist for nearby Hereford, knows little about Hay until a body is found in the dark pool below a waterfall on the outskirts of the town and the police ask her to assist. The dead man’s peculiar interests will open a passage to the hidden heart of Hay and a secret history of magic and ritual murder.

And Merrily is alone and vulnerable as never before…”

815WKI5CkzL

The latest novel that I have read was written by British author Phil Rickman. The twelfth book in a series featuring the character of Merrily Watkins, a vicar based in the fictional Herefordshire village of Ledwardine.

Some years ago I had tried to get into “The Wine Of Angels” (published in 1998), the first in the series, and at that time couldn’t get into it. More recently, however, I picked up a copy of book ten “To Dream Of The Dead” (from 2008) in the local library and was instantly hooked, leading me to read book eleven “The Secrets Of Pain” as soon as it was released in 2011.

I think as I have got older and felt more of a connection with nature and an interest in the ways of our ancestors I have been able to identify more closely with some of the ideas in Rickman’s books. It doesn’t hurt that Merrily and her pagan-leaning archaeologist daughter inhabit a part of the country not too far from that in which I live, also close to the River Wye and England / Wales border.

“The Magus Of Hay” finds Merrily having to spend some time alone as boyfriend Lol Robinson is on tour and her daughter Jane is away on a dig. It’s at this time that police detective Francis Bliss gets in touch to get Merrily’s unique insight – as diocesan exorcist for Hereford – into the home of an old man whose body has been found in the river close to his home at Cusop Dingle.

Phil Rickman
Phil Rickman

The story is set entirely in and around the border town of Hay-On-Wye, with its many bookshops suffering from the effects of recession and the rise of the e-book, where a pagan couple, Robin and Betty Thorogood, have taken the decision to open a bookshop, devoted to pagan books, in a vacant shop.

While Merrily digs into the background of the dead man, Bliss finds that one of his colleagues, a young PC who lived near where the body was found, has gone missing.

Meanwhile Robin and Betty begin to find out that there is a hidden history to their new shop which man not be terribly positive.

I really enjoyed this book, and would say that it is certainly the best of the series that I have read so far (I will, in due course, be going back and reading books one to nine in this series). Rickman’s depictions of both character and locations are excellent. So much so, in fact, that I am looking forward to revisiting Hay itself as well as discovering Capel-y-ffin and some of the other places in the story.

With ingredients including ghosts, castles, stone circles, paganism, girls disappearing, magic, murder, Nazi occultism in World War II and a neo-nazi group going by the name of the Order Of The Sun In Shadow, and the addition of real-life characters including Richard Booth (the “King Of Hay”), author Beryl Bainbridge and artist Eric Gill, there is plenty to get your teeth into and to keep the old grey cells ticking over.

81ZlGQkAy9LIn my humble opinion this is a fabulous book, with a superbly plotted story. I very much look forward to book thirteen, to be titled “Friends Of The Dusk”, which is due later this year…

…And Suddenly The Screams Of A Baby Born In Hell!

The latest Hammer Films production that I have watched was the 1976 occult horror film “To The Devil… A Daughter”, directed by Peter Sykes (“Demons Of The Mind”, “The Jesus Film”).

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Dennis Wheatley - To The Devil A Daughter
Dennis Wheatley – To The Devil A Daughter

As with the earlier Hammer production “The Devil Rides Out” (which was released in 1968 and based on the 1934 novel of the same name) this movie is an adaptation of a novel by English author Dennis Wheatley (1897-1977). Wheatley wrote many occult and espionage books. The source novel in this case, also titled “To The Devil A Daughter”, was first published in 1953.

Public tastes had changed since the Hammer heyday of the late 1950s and 1960s, and in some ways the studio found themselves now trying to keep up with mainstream films that were showing more violence and sexuality than found in the celebrated gothic Hammer films. Although there would be success in the 1980s with the TV series “Hammer House Of Horror”, of which I have very fond memories, this movie would be the penultimate feature film from Hammer (“The Lady Vanishes” from 1979, which was unsuccessful at the box office, being the last) until the brand was relaunched in 2007.

Christopher Lee
Christopher Lee

The film itself opens as Father Michael Rayner (Christopher Lee – “The Wicker Man”, “The City Of The Dead”) is excommunicated by some Catholic officials, much to his displeasure as he remarks “it is not heresy, and I will not recant!”.

Nastassja Kinski
Nastassja Kinski

We then jump forward twenty years to a Bavarian island where Rayner is running a convent called the Children Of The Lord. A seventeen year old nun, Catherine Beddows (Nastassja Kinski – “Paris, Texas”, “Cat People”), who is also Rayner’s god-daughter, visits her father Henry (Denholm Elliott – “The Vault Of Horror”, “Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade”) in London each year for her birthday.

Denholm Elliott
Denholm Elliott

Beddows was formerly a member of Rayner’s cult and, aware of a fate that awaits Catherine now that she is turning eighteen, contacts occult author and expert John Verney (Richard Widmark – “Pickup On South Street”, “Panic In The Streets”) and asks him to look after her.

Richard Widmark
Richard Widmark

Verney enlists the help of his agent Anna Fountain (Honor Blackman – “Goldfinger”, “The Cat And The Canary”) and her boyfriend David Kennedy (Anthony Valentine – “Tower Of Evil”, “Callan”) in the hopes of keeping Catherine from the clutches of Rayner and his followers and their plans to turn her into an avatar for Astaroth in order to unleash Satan’s reign on Earth…

Anthony Valentine & Honor Blackman
Anthony Valentine & Honor Blackman

There were reputedly many problems with the production of this film. The script wasn’t finished when shooting began, the original ending was too close to that of one of Lee’s earlier Dracula movies so had to be rewritten and re-shot.

Christopher Lee & Nastassja Kinski
Christopher Lee & Nastassja Kinski

Lee himself was unhappy with parts of the finished film, Widmark remarked on the “mickey mouse production” and Wheatley was so fed up that the film bore so little resemblance to his book (not to mention the gratuitous sex, nudity and gore) that he declared that Hammer would never again be able to make a film from his work!

Lee gives an assured performance with plenty of evil intent evident in his character, whilst Kinski is also impressive in her role. Incidentally, perhaps surprisingly in view of the nudity and sexuality required of her character, Kinski had only just turned fifteen when the film was released in 1976!

The Devil Rides Out
The Devil Rides Out

It’s fair to say, I think, that this film isn’t a patch on “The Devil Rides Out” and isn’t what one would normally expect from a Hammer film. Equally it doesn’t match up to the likes of “The Omen” or “Rosemary’s Baby”, similarly occult-themed films from the mid 70s. Nonetheless, I did find this to be an enjoyable movie. Granted, that may be partly due to my interest in the left-hand path but largely because I didn’t find this to be the car crash that many seem to view it as…Daughter01_vamosalcine

Golgotha

W.A.S.P. - Golgotha (2015)

Rik Fox, Tony Richards, Randy Piper & Blackie Lawless
Rik Fox, Tony Richards, Randy Piper & Blackie Lawless

During 1982, in California, four men – singer / rhythm guitarist  Blackie Lawless, guitarist Randy Piper, bassist Rik Fox and drummer Tony Richards – formed a heavy metal band named W.A.S.P.

Randy Piper, Blackie Lawless, Tony Richards & Chris Holmes
Randy Piper, Blackie Lawless, Tony Richards & Chris Holmes

By the time that the group had signed a deal with Capitol Records and were ready to record their self-titled debut album Fox had departed, Lawless had switched to bass and guitarist Chris Holmes had joined.

W.A.S.P. - Live Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)
W.A.S.P. – Live Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)

The album “W.A.S.P.” was released in 1984 but did not feature their infamous debut single “Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)”, as the label were concerned that it would have a negative effect on sales. The single was released in Europe, and would only be included on the album when it was reissued in 1998. Oh, and if you thought the song title was bad, just check out the tasteful sleeve for the live version from 1988!

Blackie Lawless On Stage In 1984
Blackie Lawless On Stage In 1984

By now the band had a reputation for shocking live shows which often featured semi-naked models tied to torture racks and the throwing of raw meat into the audience.

Johnny Rod, Blackie Lawless, Chris Holmes & Steve Riley
Johnny Rod, Blackie Lawless, Chris Holmes & Steve Riley

An appearance in 1984 movie “The Dungeonmaster” followed, before Richards was replaced on the drum stool by Steve Riley for second album “The Last Command” in 1985.

Following the tour to promote “The Last Command” Piper departed and Lawless reverted to rhythm guitar, with bass duties being taken up by new man Johnny Rod in time for 1986 album “Inside The Electric Circus”.

Johnny Rod, Blackie Lawless, Chris Holmes & Frankie Banali
Johnny Rod, Blackie Lawless, Chris Holmes & Frankie Banali

When fourth album “The Headless Children” saw the light of day in 1989 drummer Riley had had a number of successors and it was Frankie Banali who featured on the record alongside Lawless, Holmes and Rod. By now, the lyrical themes that Lawless was writing about had moved on from the explicitly sexual and he was addressing social issues and politics.

Lita Ford In 1989
Lita Ford In 1989

Holmes left the band in the summer of 1989 (following his marriage to Lita Ford) and at that point Lawless effectively disbanded the group and began work on what was to be his first solo album. By the time that the resulting record, “The Crimson Idol”, was finished Lawless had decided to release it under the W.A.S.P. banner.

W.A.S.P. - The Crimson Idol
W.A.S.P. – The Crimson Idol

A concept album, 1992’s “The Crimson Idol” told the story of the rise and decline of a character named Jonathan Steel, a rock star (naturally enough), and featured Lawless and Banali along with guitarist Bob Kulick and additional contributions from drummer Stet Howland.

Blackie Lawless In 1995
Blackie Lawless In 1995

“Still Not Black Enough”, released in 1995, was also originally intended as a Lawless solo album, again featuring himself, Banali and Kulick (plus Howland on a couple of tracks). Again, it became a W.A.S.P. release.

By 1997 Holmes had returned and he, Lawless, Howland and bassist Mike Duda were the latest incarnation of W.A.S.P. If that year’s album, charmingly titled “Kill Fuck Die”, was an attempt at a glorious comeback, the results were mixed. On the record itself it was a return to sex and death lyrically but with an industrial twist to their sound which didn’t really work. On the accompanying tour the stage show apparently included simulations of sex with nuns and chopping up animals.

Mike Duda, Chris Holmes, Blackie Lawless & Stet Howland
Mike Duda, Chris Holmes, Blackie Lawless & Stet Howland

“Helldorado” (1999) and “Unholy Terror” (2001) followed before Holmes once more left the band. “Dying For The World” (2002) saw the introduction of new guitarist Darrell Roberts and Banali on drums once more.

W.A.S.P. - Dying For The World
W.A.S.P. – Dying For The World

The record was, according to Lawless, inspired by letters received from veterans of the Gulf War. He stated that “our motivation for this record was prefaced by letters sent to us from the tank divisions during the Gulf War, where the troops would actually go into battle blaring ‘Fuck Like A Beast’ and ‘Wild Child.’ After the events on 9/11, we felt we would give them a fresh batch; in essence, we’ve literally made an album to go kill people by”. Hmmm.

W.A.S.P. - The Neon God (Part 1 - The Rise)
W.A.S.P. – The Neon God (Part 1 – The Rise)

The concept album “The Neon God” came out in 2004 in two parts, and told the story of “the tragedy and consequences of one boy’s search for acceptance and purpose in his existence” and “of an abused and orphaned boy who finds that he has the ability to read and manipulate people. By utilizing his gifts, he is able to build a following whose devotion and allegiance create a loyalty so intense that he is poised to become a dark Messiah for the 21st century”. A little more cerebral than “Dying For The World” then!

W.A.S.P. - The Neon God (Part 2 - The Demise)
W.A.S.P. – The Neon God (Part 2 – The Demise)

Part one “The Rise” was issued in April and part two “The Demise” followed in Spetember. Both featured Lawless, Duda and Roberts with a mixture of drum parts from both Howland and Banali.

All change once more for 2007’s “Dominator” with just Lawless and Duda remaining and being joined by guitarist Doug Blair and drummer Mike Dupke.

Blackie Lawless
Blackie Lawless

Lawless, Duda, Blair and Dupke remained together for biblically themed “Babylon” (2009) and this year’s brand new album “Golgotha” – although Dupke did leave the band not long before the new record was released.

Mike Duda
Mike Duda

Blackie Lawless was raised in a fundamentalist Baptist family and was active in church until his teens, when he rebelled and became interested in the occult. This clearly had an impact on his band’s earlier work and imagery, and his familiarity with the Bible can be found in the apocalyptic and religious themes in some of the material too.

Doug Blair
Doug Blair

However, in recent years Lawless has said that he has returned to Christianity. For this reason he will no longer perform the song “Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)”, though “On Your Knees” still gets a regular airing and that’s doesn’t strike me as exactly innocent. Still, each to their own.

Mike Dupke
Mike Dupke

Still, let’s look at “Golgotha”. Lyrically, “Last Runaway”, “Fallen Under”, “Eyes Of My Maker”, “Hero Of The World” and “Golgotha” all have a Christian slant to them, with the latter being the most overt. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, after all Christian metal band Stryper did OK, and is a continuation of themes explored on the band’s past couple of albums too. However, when held up against the group’s earlier classic work? Not so sure.

W.A.S.P. - Scream
W.A.S.P. – Scream

Opener “Scream”, which sounds like classic W.A.S.P. mixed with some guitar chords from The Cult circa the late 80s, is a great track to open with. Uptempo, catchy, instantly recognisable as W.A.S.P. and featuring a great guitar solo too.

24249_3“Last Runaway” and “Shotgun” keep up the good work, the latter having a little of The Who vibe. Big ballad “Miss You”, meanwhile is reminiscent of the band’s ballads of old, but just nowhere near as good – and it’s nearly eight minutes long!

W.A.S.P. Live In 2012
W.A.S.P. Live In 2012

Things pick up again with “Fallen Under” but don’t really get back on track until the excellent “Slaves Of The New Order”. The next two tracks float on by without too much to write home about and then we’re into the final epic “Golgotha”  (the third seven minute plus track of the album’s nine cuts). Despite the constant name-checking of Jesus getting a bit repetitive the song still manages to capture Lawless and his band sounding suitably grandiose and the track makes for a fitting finale to this album.

Blackie Lawless
Blackie Lawless

A mixed bag then, better overall than most W.A.S.P. albums since the low point of “Kill Fuck Die”, but still not up there with the classic 1984-1992 period. That said, Lawless may not have the visual shape that he used to but his voice seems, on this evidence, to still be in pretty good shape and musically his band are in fine form.

Not a brilliant heavy metal record then, but a decent one and one worth giving a spin…

unnamed“Golgotha” tracklist:

1. Scream / 2. Last Runaway / 3. Shotgun / 4. Miss You / 5. Fallen Under / 6. Slaves Of The New World Order / 7. Eyes Of My Maker / 8. Hero Of The World / 9. Golgotha

Terror Fills The Night As She Stalks Her Prey!

Yesterday I watched a horror film directed by Vernon Sewell (“The Blood Beast Terror”, “Ghost Ship”). Originally released way back in 1968, “Curse Of The Crimson Altar” was also known as “The Crimson Cult” in the US.

curse_of_the_crimson_altar_poster_03

The film opens with the words “…and drugs of this group can produce the most complex hallucinations, and under their influence it is possible by hypnosis to induce the subject to perform actions he would not normally commit” displayed across the screen – words it claims an extract from the “Medical Journal”.

Barbara Steele
Barbara Steele

The opening scene of the actual film finds a variety of characters in a room, some bathed in green light and others in full technicolour. There is a hooded man holding a goat, a half-naked woman whipping a similarly disrobed blonde woman strapped down to an altar, a man with antlers on his head, a priest, a man in a suit and a woman with interesting makeup and an ornate headdress who we learn is Lavinia, the Black Witch (Barbara Steele – “The Mask Of Satan”, “Piranha”).

Denys Peek
Denys Peek

The suited man, Peter Manning (Denys Peek – “Object Z”, “The Limbo Line”), is instructed to sign his name in a book proffered by Lavinia in order to join her world of darkness, after which he is instructed to stab the blonde woman to death.

Mark Eden
Mark Eden

We are then introduced to Robert Manning (Mark Eden – “Coronation Street”, “The Detective”), Peter’s antique dealer brother, who has received a package from Peter containing a silver candlestick from the 1600s and a spring-loaded bodkin dagger, along with a note indicating that he is ill and staying at the Craxted Lodge home of a Mr. Morley in Greymarsh. When Robert telephones Mr. Morley, however, he is told that no Peter Manning has ever visited.

Concerned, Robert decides to travel to Craxted Lodge to speak to Morley in person. Stopping for petrol en route he learns that there is a celebration taking place in Greymarsh for Witches Night.

Virginia Wetherell
Virginia Wetherell

Sure enough, when he arrives there is a party in full swing – hosted by Morley’s niece Eve (Virginia Wetherell – “A Clockwork Orange”, “Dracula”).

Party Time
Party Time

Swing being the operative word as there is plenty of female flesh on display – some being painted, some having champagne poured all over it, and some simply gyrating – very “swinging sixties” I imagine!

Christopher Lee
Christopher Lee

Upstairs Robert finds Morley (Christopher Lee – “The Wicker Man”, “Taste The Blood Of Dracula”) who reaffirms that he hasn’t seen or heard from a Peter Manning – despite Peter’s note having been written on Morley’s headed notepaper. Determined to investigate further Robert enquires about local hotels, only to be offered a room in the Lodge by Morley.

Having accepted Robert is shown around by Eve. As they talk they remark that the house looks like something from a horror film, and Robert jokes that Boris Karloff will pop up next.

Boris Karloff
Boris Karloff

And so he does. Morley is visited by local Professor Marsh (Boris Karloff – “The Mummy”, “The Bride Of Frankenstein”) and the three men share a bottle of brandy together – Robert’s lack of proper appreciation for which leads to Marsh’s intense disapproval – and Marsh, said to be one of the world’s leading experts on witchcraft, explains to Robert about the history behind Witches Night, when Lavinia (an ancestor of Morley’s) was accused of witchcraft and burned to death, during which she put a curse on all the descendants of her accusers.

Masked Jury
Masked Jury

During the nights Robert experiences strange and nightmarish dreams in which he sees his brother, together with the other characters seen in the opening sequence, plus a masked jury, and is himself instructed by sign the book.

Virginia Wetherell & Mark Eden
Virginia Wetherell & Mark Eden

Although spooked by these dreams Robert’s investigations lead him to get closer to Eve, but the appearance in Morley’s home of a candlestick and bodkin dagger – both identical to those sent to him by Peter – and Marsh’s invitation for Robert to examine his own personal collection of instruments of torture mean that he cannot be sure who, if anyone, can be trusted…

curse-of-the-crimson-altar-movie-poster-1968-1020463038The movie moves gradually towards a suitably dramatic and fiery conclusion when we discover that not everyone that we have suspected of being involved actually were. Luckily one of the characters present is able to verbally fill in some of the blanks that weren’t really explained during the film and make sense of that opening statement – which felt a bit clumsy and like a bit of a cop-out to be honest.

Nova St. Claire
Nova St. Claire

Compared to many similar films from the likes of Hammer Films etc. I thought that this one is somewhat more sexually explicit than most, with the aforementioned nudity during the party scenes and various exposed breasts, not to mention the outfit clinging to the character known as “girl in car chase” (Nova St. Claire – “Doomwatch”)!. That said, by today’s standards it really is rather tame!

Not one of Lee’s best films, but “Curse Of The Crimson Altar” is still definitely worth watching…Curse_of_the_crimson_altar_poster