Archive for Blood Ceremony (band)

Update 05/10/2020: Quarantine Blues VI, Mother’s Day Edition

Posted in Black Sabbath, Blood Ceremony (band), Bloody Mary (ghost), Greetings from Krampus, Heavy Metal Music, Hippocampus Press, John Entwistle, literary criticism, Literary Journals, Mother's Day, Penumbra (Journal), Rise Above Records, S.T. Joshi, Spectral Realms, Stay-at-home order, The Beldam / Other Mother, The Hell of Mirrors, The Who, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 10, 2020 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there! I may not be able to see my ma today, but I called her yesterday and last week I dropped off a little something for her in honor of the day. I think the hardest part of this pandemic has been the postponement of any family gatherings until the lockdown is lifted, and maybe even a little after that, just to make sure. I know our governor is anxious to get the economy moving again, but I am not anxious to be rubbing elbows any time soon with the masses, most of whom brazenly flouted the CDC’s prescribed safety precautions. Anyway, since I can’t be with my own mother today, I am putting in a few extra hours at the call center (I do phone captioning for the hard of hearing) today to help out with the anticipated barrage of holiday greetings.

Yesterday, I stayed in  for most of the day, save for a quick run in the morning for supplies. After several hours of climbing my apartment walls, I decided in the evening to go out and pick up a couple of slices of pizza for supper. On my way out, I checked my mailbox and found two much anticipated items: the first was a package from Zia Records containing a 45 RPM of the song Lolly Willows by Blood Ceremony. The single came out last year but was still available in the collectible purple vinyl edition. It came in a protective sleeve and it is really a lovely package, replete with an ornamental sleeve and a lyric insert. The B-side is the song Heaven and Hell, by the Who. I am a fan of the band’s early work, especially John Entwistle‘s macabre little ditties, but (IMHO) this song never lived up to it’s title, unlike the song of the same name by Black Sabbath, which is a Heavy Metal classic. I’d love to hear Blood Ceremony cover that one!

The purple vinyl edition of Lolly Willows by Blood Ceremony. (2019, Rise Above Records)

Also in my mailbox was an envelope from S.T. Joshi with the contract from Hippocampus Press for the inclusion of my story The Hell of Mirrors in the debut issue of the weird fiction/ literary criticism journal, Penumbra. I was especially relieved to finally receive it, as I had noticed some of my colleagues mentioning on Facebook that they’d already received their respective contracts for their contributions to the issue, and I began to fret that I’d been passed up. As soon as I opened and read it, I signed it, and I put it in the mail first thing this morning! I believe that journal is coming out in July.

I also notice my fellow poets posting acceptance notices for submissions to Spectral Realms for issue #14. I must get cracking on that as well! I am currently working on a few different prose pieces, and I may try sending more of my older revamped poems. I have even considered sending Greetings from Krampus, as it will be the Winter issue. I may send Mr. Joshi a message tomorrow, to give him a heads-up to keep an eye out for the contract, and include that poem as well.

Anyway, that’s all for today. Take care, be safe and remember to call your moms and show them some love… Or else the Other Mother will come for you and sew buttons on your eyes!

The Other Manny

 

Update 04/22/2020: Quarantine Blues IV

Posted in Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, Bandcamp, Black Sabbath, Blood Ceremony (band), Countess Elizabeth Báthory, Deep Purple, Georges Franju, Gianna Maria Canale, Guy Rolfe, Hammer Horror, Jesús Franco (director), Mario Bava, Morbidezza, Mr Sardonicus, Puppet Master (franchise), Ricardo Freda, Spectral Realms, The Dark Young, Thriller TV Series, Tony Iommi, William Castle with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2020 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Well, these are indeed proving to be strange times. The usually bustling midtown Phoenix, where I live, looks like a perpetual Sunday morning, yet when I turn on the radio or take calls at work, I hear stories from across the country and around the world of hardship and loss of life that sound like wartime newsreels. It’s a bit surreal, to say the least.

Across the street from my apartment complex is a Seventh Day Adventist church that has a message board where they post inspirational messages and times for service. Passing by the other day on my Sunday stroll through the surrounding picturesque neighborhood, two things caught my eye; for one, they had Sabbath school, which of course inspired visions of a classroom full of wide-eyed, sable-clad kiddies being instructed on how Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi lost his fingertips only to find a new music genre. Also on the board was the message “Trust the Lord and wash your hands”, which I found amusing, in a portentous way.

Anyway, back to distractions! For the sake of completion in my Bava-thon, I watched two movies that were originally attributed to director Ricardo Freda, but are now generally accepted as having mostly been the work of his cinematographer, Mario Bava: I Vampiri (1957, The Vampires), and Caltiki, il mostro immortale (1959, Caltiki – The Immortal Monster). The former is a story of a Countess (played by Freda’s wife, model/actress Gianna Maria Canale) who keeps herself young by having her henchmen procure the blood of local girls for a serum, created by her besotted cousin, that keeps her eternally youthful. As time goes on, the serum’s effectiveness wears off quicker and quicker, as the body count rises. In the interim, the Countess alternates between dual identities, choosing at once to hold court as her beautiful “niece” Gisele, then hiding from the world when her face reverts to that of a crone. Her fixation with her youth as well as her pursuit of a local journalist who reminds her of his father, who was once the object of her obsession, prove to be her downfall. I enjoyed this film a lot with its atmosphere and allusions to not only the Gothic tradition, but also the mad scientist genre; the apex of which is (in my eyes) the film Les Yeux sans visage (1960, Eyes Without a Face), by Georges Franju. I Vampiri reminded me somewhat of the Hammer film Countess Dracula (1971), only set in contemporary times. Both were loosely based on the Blood Countess, Elizabeth Báthory. Director Ricardo Freda acknowledged Edgar Allan Poe‘s Fall of the House of Usher as another influence, which is evident in the depiction of the dreary castle Du Grand. I Vampiri was the first major Italian horror film since the silent era and was a false start for the golden era of Italian Gothic films which really took off after the success of Bava’s Black Sunday. Two things of note: the opening scene with the body of a young woman being fished out of a lake has been repeated in several movies of the period. I noticed similar scenes in Hammer’s The Maniac (1963), and Jesús Franco‘s Gritos en la noche (1962, The Awful Dr. Orloff). Secondly, the film was released in 1960 in the US as The Devil’s Commandment which had some new scenes added, not in the original film. The movie went by largely ignored at the time, but has since become a classic of sorts due to its association with Bava.

Promo still from The Devil’s Commandment edit of the film.

Caltiki, il mostro immortale is the Italian answer to Hammer’s The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), a more thoughtful Gothic sci-fi film in the vein of the Blob. Caltiki includes a faux Mayan Apocalypse myth, and an obviously choreographed Caribbean style ritual dance which probably wouldn’t track with a savvy modern audience, but it’s a fun film anyway, and the earliest I’ve seen that bears the Bava look. I think this is because he finally had free reign to use all his special effects shots using painted glass and mirrors, etc., along with his great mood lighting. It is also a bit graphic for the time period, featuring a few grisly shots which were excised from the American release of the film.

Promo still from Caltiki il mostro immortale (1959).

As a palate cleanser after the Italian Gothics, I decided to watch some of the Puppet Master movies from the collection my buddy Zach gave me. I had seen the first movie before, but I must have seen an edited version on cable because I didn’t recall all the sexy stuff. In fact, the first three movies were full of softcore scenes and bloody puppet violence. After that the puppets went from being evil to chaotic good for the remainder of the franchise. The fourth and fifth films seemed to try to clean up the series a bit, perhaps to widen their commercial appeal, and start a new origin story using actor Guy Rolfe to portray the anti-hero Puppeteer André Toulon. However, by the 7th film, the quality really drops as the films lose focus and rely a lot on stock footage and flashback clips from earlier films. They also keep revamping the origin story, which is confusing and disrupts the continuity of the Franchise. Rolfe also appeared in Dolls (1987) and, of interest to me, I realized (after the fact) that he also was in the Terror in Teakwood episode from Thriller, and he played the titular villain in William Castle‘s 1961 film Mr. Sardonicus.

Guy Rolfe (1911–2003)

INTERMISSION (wherein I talk briefly about other stuff)

I realize that I haven’t mentioned anything about my writing in a while. To be honest, I haven’t done much creative writing in the last few weeks because it is difficult to focus on anything when all this virus craziness is going on outside. That said, I have worked a little on a few different stories. I reworked the mid-section from Nativity in Black so that the action flows better, and I have been coming up with ideas for some new tales, one of which is another installment of the Morbidezza saga. I sent a message to Hippocampus Press to update my contact info, but got no response, but I was able to get in touch with S.T. Joshi through his blog and he responded, saying he’d keep me in the loop when they have contributors update their bios for Spectral Realms 13, which I believe is slated for a late August or Early September release. I have 3 poems that are supposed to be included in that issue.

Listening to Blood Ceremony‘s rockin’ cover of Loving You, by Iron Claw, I am reminded of the cover my old band, The Dark Young, once did of Bloodsucker, by Deep Purple. Our arrangement features a baritone sax in lieu of an organ solo. I would love to see that made available on our Bandcamp page some day, if we could ever get the rights cleared for it. We have both a live and a studio version which are excellent, if I do say so myself.

END OF INTERMISSION

I know I promised to talk about Bava’s giallo films, but I have already said so much in this post, I think I shall stop here for the moment. Next week I shall cover all that as promised. Till then, be safe…

Blood Ceremony’s “The Eldritch Dark”

Posted in Album Review, Blood Ceremony (band), Clark Ashton Smith, Drawing Down the Moon (1979), Fairport Convention, Iron Claw (band), Jethro Tull, John Buchan, Living with the Ancients (2011), Lucas Gadke, Margot Adler, Oliver Haddo, Progressive Rock, Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Sean Kennedy, Somerset Maugham, The Eldritch Dark (2013), The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, The Magician (1908), Witch Wood (1927) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 16, 2020 by Manuel Paul Arenas

When I first got turned on to Canadian witch-rock band, Blood Ceremony, I went to my local record shop and ordered their back catalogue on CD. I was able to procure all of their official album releases save for their third album, 2013’s The Eldritch Dark, which, for some reason was out of stock for a long while and what few copies I found online were going for upwards of $25. A couple of months ago, I noticed that it had become available again on Amazon for the customary price of around $12, so I had a friend order it for me, as he has an Amazon Prime account and can get free shipping. I had heard it many times before, of course, but this would be the first time I’d be hearing it in detail and reviewing the accompanying booklet, that features the lyrics, most of which were penned by guitarist Sean Kennedy, and are definitely worth checking out.

I must admit, that upon listening to it on a nice sound system The Eldritch Dark has quickly become my favorite album of theirs. It is the most consistent sounding album and the sounds and themes they explore therein are really close to my heart.

The album opens with Witchwood, a rocking song (replete with a tasty organ solo from front woman Alia O’Brien) about ancient rites and witchcraft in a rural town. I assume it to be inspired by the book of the same name by John Buchan, which treats of an old Scottish village that has a secret cult devoted to pagan rites and witchcraft. The final verse of the song sums up the gist of the song and sets the tone for the album itself:

A woman stood at Witchwood Cross
And spoke to me, although a stranger
Of eldritch worlds once thought lost
And blasphemies that once were whispered
She said: you’ll welcome us into your homes
We’ll linger in your blood
Our ways are in your bones

From the Witchwood we rise and greet you at your door
The old ways remain and the ancient gods they live on

The next song, Goodbye Gemini, is the album’s single, which is featured in their sole official video, which I mentioned before in my previous post about the band. It is a good song and a cool video that mixes footage of the band performing an in-the-studio pantomime, interspersed with psychedelic visuals, and video of Ms. O’Brien and a lady friend dressed in ceremonial gowns walking around the grounds of some venerable edifice. I do not recognize the references in the song and have not found anything online in my precursory searches. Listening to it, I am reminded that I wrote a poem back in the early 90s called Gemini, which my old friend Paul Mcafee wrote a tune for and recorded. I even made a special trip from Boston to his home in New Haven CT to record the vocal. I had fun, and it was a quaint ditty, but not in the same league as this number.

Next up is the haunting Lord Summerisle, a tribute to the character from the 1973 folk-horror film The Wicker Man co-written by Kennedy and bassist Lucas Gadke, who also sings lead on the song, accompanied by Ms. O’Brien. Mr. Gadke is credited as playing upright bass on the album, and I suspect this is where he does it. Although it is not mentioned in the credits, I could swear I hear mellotron on this song. I believe the instrument is listed as part of the gear used on the subsequent release, Lord of Misrule (2016), so perhaps this is an early uncredited instance.

The next tune is The Ballad of the Weird Sisters, which tells a tale of an enchantment gone awry. On returning home from a sojourn to foreign lands, two men (presumably soldiers)  are hailed by three hags just outside the city gates. The women persuade the men to follow them to their secreted dwelling in the woods where they are offered a “strange brew” with a “devil of a taste”. One young man, the narrator of the tale, is seized by the concoction and through some magical trickery, his many wicked and fell deeds are displayed in a kaleidoscope of images to all present. Knowing the jig is up, he decides to rid himself of any potential witnesses and kills everyone, sisters included. The final lines sum up the moral of the tale with a nod and a wink…

Possessed were they with fortune’s gift / And yet they were surprised / Three sisters should have better known / Than to let this devil inside.

The addition of fiddle, credited to Ben Plotnick, gives the song a real folk-rock vibe, like Fairport Convention, only darker.

Next in cue is the title song, The Eldritch Dark. Now, I am not entirely certain what Mr. Kennedy’s intent was by using this title, which is associated with weird poet Clark Ashton Smith. It is the title of an atmospheric poem of dark beauty and the name of the website dedicated to the author: http://www.eldritchdark.com. This dirge-like number about dark rites and ritual sacrifice features a vocal performance by Alia O’Brien that reaches an eerie crescendo in the final lines which gives me goosebumps!

The Candlemas Eve / Mid-winter witchery / On Candlemas Eve / This sacrifice receive

Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today by Margot Adler (1979, Viking Press)

Drawing Down the Moon is (presumably) a reference to the 1979 treatise on modern paganism by Margot Adler, which is seen by many as a benchmark publication on the subject, albeit with the band’s customary diabolic twist.

[update 05/10/2020: I found an entry in The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, by Rosemary Ellen Guiley (1989, Facts On File) which explains the term. Note; words in all caps are references to other entries I the book: An important ritual in some traditions of neo-Pagan WITCHCRAFT in which a COVEN’s high priestess enters a trance and becomes the GODDESS, who is symbolized by the MOON. The transformation is accomplished with the help of the high priest, who invokes, or draws down, the spirit of the Goddess into the high priestess.]

Next up is a group instrumental called Faunus, which is the only one credited to the whole band, individually. It’s a light folk-rock piece featuring flute that really sounds to me like an outtake from a Jethro Tull album, circa 1975-76. Mr. Kennedy does a nice solo on here with a bracing guitar tone.

Lastly, is the companion piece to an earlier work from their previous album, Living with the Ancients (2011). The song is The Magician and is the second tribute the band has done to the character Oliver Haddo, from the book of the same name, by W. Somerset Maugham. The former was about the sorcerer, in 3rd person, whereas the latter is in first person. Oliver Haddo was very much a doomy track with a heavy riff, but The Magician is decidedly more proggy. Both tunes end with organ solos.

The album was released on LP in a multiple special editions featuring colored vinyl and even a boxed set that contained a belt buckle!

The Eldritch Dark box set from Rise Above Records.

In summation, I feel that The Eldritch Dark is the point where Blood Ceremony stopped being a Doom-Rock band with proto-prog tendencies, to being a straight up prog-rock band. In fact, they remind me a lot of the Italian prog bands of the 70s, minus the Mediterranean melodies, of course. After this album, they released their first single, Let It Come Down, which was backed with a rip-roaring cover of the song Loving You by Scottish Hard Rock band, Iron Claw.

Let It Come Down, 7″ single (2014, Rise Above Records).

Blood Ceremony circa 2013 l-r: Michael Carrillo (drums), Lucas Gadke (bass, vocals), Alia O’Brien (lead vocals, flute & organ), Sean Kennedy (guitar).

 

 

Update 04/07/2020: Quarantine Blues II

Posted in Alaric de Marnac, Blood Ceremony (band), Carlos Aured, Frankenstein, Gilles de Rais, Helga Liné, Loreley (siren), Oliver Haddo, Paul Naschy, Spanish Horror Films, Updates, zombies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2020 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Hello everyone, just checking in again. This is my only communication with the world at large, so I am going to be keeping you all updated on a regular basis until I can go back onto social media when this all lets up. Although at first I was stressing real hard and having regular panic attacks, things have slowed down now and I believe I have started to adjust to this new situation. I’ve been practicing social distancing, not even seeing my family, which hurts because we are a close-knit clan. I only go to work, a few local food stores, and my local café (take out only, of course). I wash my hands and use so much sanitizer that I always smell like I just came out of a heavily chlorinated pool! To be honest, this is not too much different than my normal life, save for maybe all the sanitizer, only now I must be hyper aware of where I go, what I do and how I do it. yesterday I went to a doctor appointment for a prescription renewal check-up. I was surprised when I arrived to find the door to the facility was locked, but someone inside motioned for me to hold on. Soon after, one of the aides came out with a mask on and pointed a gadget at my forehead. I was taken aback, but I complied without a fuss, because I knew and trusted her and I’d heard that other offices were taking temperature. Still, it just would have been nice to have a head’s up first.

Temporal thermometer, like the one that was aimed at my noggin.

Once my lack of a fever was confirmed, everyone seemed to let their guard down and resume their usual friendly demeanor. I left there after a bit with a clean bill of health, although the doc was concerned about my blood sugar rising a few points. He asked me if I drank sodas or much alcohol and I responded in the negative. Of course, I neglected to mention the slab of tres leches cake I bought on Friday and ate piecemeal over the weekend. Speaking of things one eats, but probably shouldn’t, I picked up an instant Cup Noddle soup from the Asian food shelf at Walmart that was Curry flavored! I’d never seen one before, but apparently it’s popular in Japan. I figured I’d take a chance, and it wasn’t half bad for what it was. It had a decent curry flavor and little bits of potato and some mystery meat that I assume was beef. In a pinch, I’d get it again.

Nissan Cup Noodle soup, Curry flavor. The meat in my cup was minced meat, not cubed.

Over the weekend I continued my Spanish Horror film marathon. I watched La Marca del Hombre Lobo (1968, released stateside in a doctored print called Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror, in which neither Dr. Frankenstein nor his monster made any appearance), La Noche de Walpurgis (1970, Shadow of the Werewolf ), El Retorno de Walpurgis (1973, Curse of the Devil), all of which featured Paul Naschy. My favorite though was El espanto surge de la tumba (1972, Horror Rises from the Tomb), in which Naschy plays his 2nd most popular character, Alaric de Marnac. Alaric is essentially inspired by historical serial child killer Gilles de Rais. In this film Alaric, a warlock, and his lover, the witch Mabille De Lancré (portrayed by the lovely Spanish/Portuguese actress Helga Liné), are executed for the practice of witchcraft. Alaric is beheaded and Mabille is disrobed and hung from a tree to be tortured before being put to death. Before their executions the pair curse the men who officiated at the event saying that they will come back in a couple of centuries to bring down the houses of their families.

Helga Liné & Paul Naschy in El espanto surge de la tumba.

Naschy and Liné are a great villainous duo in this film. They both have an otherworldly appeal that makes them look both fearful and enticing. They go through the film, chewing up the scenes, seducing everyone in their path and turning them into mindless slaves and when they grow tiresome, they kill them and reanimate them as zombies. Naschy in particular seems to relish the sinister role, and really gives a no bars held performance. Canadian occult-rockers Blood Ceremony sampled a line of his dialog about ritual sacrifice (from the English dub version) for their song Oliver Haddo. Of note are the scenes featuring the handling of Alaric’s talking severed head by his thralls, which are quite clever considering the limitations of the era.  My DVD copy of this film has a nice commentary section with Naschy and director Carlos Aured, in Spanish, with English subtitles. It is also a double feature, paired with a non-Naschy vehicle for Liné called Las garras de Lorelei (1973, The Loreley’s Grasp). As the titular water spirit, Liné mostly flits through the scenery in a fringed bikini and lies around staring forlornly off camera, but her preternatural beauty and personal charisma carry the film.

DVD double feature of The Loreley’s Grasp and Horror Rises from the Tomb.

Next installment: Italian Gothics!

Update 04/01/2020: Quarantine Blues.

Posted in Allen Koszowski, Ashley Dioses, Blood Ceremony (band), Boris Karloff, Chapbooks, Clark Ashton Smith, Derek Fetler, Edgar Allan Poe, Giallo, Hereditary (2018), Paul Naschy, Robert H. Knox, Somerset Maugham, Southwestern Horror, Spanish Horror Films, Stephen King, The Magician (1908), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Stand (miniseries), The Wolf Man, Thriller TV Series, Updates, Video Watchdog, William Peter Blatty, Zachary Strupp with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2020 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Well, it is April 1st, April Fool’s Day, and the joke is on us all. This Covid-19 is the pits. I hope that, if you are reading this, you are well, and that you and your loved ones are safe and sound. As far as I know, my family and friends are okay. I say as far as I know, because I am shut off from access to most of my regular communication venues. I am a bit of a luddite and have no personal Internet service, and I have an old flip phone, so I can do nothing but call or text. I keep in touch regularly with my parents, and they fill me in on family stuff, but many of my friends I only communicate with through social media, which I have no access to at present. Nor do I have access to my personal email. I am only able to do updates on here because my work computer does not block access to my blog.

Yes, I am still working. I do captioning for the hearing impaired, and we are considered essential workers, for the time being anyway. I work 10 hour days listening to phone calls of people freaking out about the virus. It is a bit overwhelming sometimes, and I generally go home feeling depleted. Once I settle in, I generally just make supper, watch a DVD from my vast collection, then maybe I’ll read for a bit or listen to a CD before retiring for the night. I live alone, and if ever I were lonely, this has been exacerbated tenfold by the quarantine. In normal times, I would have a few social activities which would keep me feeling connected. I would go to my local coffee shop every morning and chat with the staff and a few of the regulars who were nice enough to engage me in conversation, and I had family visits as well as my frequent movie/game night soirees with my friends at my buddy Zach’s house. Now I have none of that, and weekends in particular, I get cabin fever and pace my apartment itching for a human interaction. For selfish reasons, I want this all to end and everything to go back to normal. I also am fearful that someone I know will get this, especially my loved ones who have vulnerabilities.

Anyway, to pass the time I have been reading and watching DVDs, as I’ve said. In the beginning I foolishly consumed a bunch of stories and movies with plague themes and basically spooked myself! I started out by reading Poe‘s The Masque of the Red Death. It’s a masterfully written story and very effective.  I couldn’t help but think of those covidiots (a new term I’ve seen written on a dry-erase board at work) having parties or going to the beach, then getting sick. In fact, I even heard tell of a bunch of well-to-do folks from Scottsdale or some such affluent neighborhood that got together to hunker down in some remote rural area to keep out the riff raff but, as in Poe’s fateful tale, the Covid-19 held illimitable Dominion over all. 

“The dagger dropped gleaming upon the sable carpet”. illustration by Harry Clarke.

 I did re-watch the 1964 Roger Corman film eventually, but not right away. It is a fun film and I hope to do a separate post about it some day soon. I then watched the miniseries of Stephen King’s The Stand, which was like an amped up version of what’s going on right now. It was a bit eerie to watch. After thoroughly spooking myself, I decided to lay off the plague films for a while. I watched several episodes of the TV series Thriller, featuring Boris Karloff. Then I re-watched Hereditary (2018), which I’d checked out from the library before they closed. I’d been putting it off for a while, but finally gave in. It is a brilliant movie but harrowing to watch. I remember being white-knuckled, gripping the armrest of my seat when I saw it in the theater with my buddy Chester. I followed that with a viewing of “The Version You’ve Never Seen” of the Exorcist. I enjoyed it in the theater when it came out in the early 2000s, but seeing it now, with a more critical eye, I believe it’s a perfect example of “gilding the lily”. Although it’s interesting to see the additional footage (Regan’s spider walk down the stair is especially fun to finally see after having reading about it in Video Watchdog over 20 years ago) some of the new scenes mess up the pacing and diminish the impact of the more shocking or thrilling moments. Also the image of Captain Howdy is startling when seen briefly in Father Karas’ dream sequence in the original cut. but seeing the same image pasted all over the film like graffiti is almost risible.

Captain Howdy

This week I’ve been watching my Paul Naschy DVDs. For the uninitiated, Paul Naschy is the stage-name of Jacinto Molina, a Spanish actor/writer/director  who is renowned for his films series based on the character of Waldemar Daninsky, a reluctant werewolf in the mode of Larry Talbot from the Lon Chaney Jr. Wolf Man series. Naschy also co-wrote and starred in many other horror/thriller/exploitation films in a career than spanned from the late 60s till his death in 2009.

Blue-ray double feature of classic Paul Naschy features.

His movies are Gothic fever dreams. Like the giallo films of Italy, they don’t make much narrative sense, but their intensity and graphic imagery leave an indelible mark on one’s psyche. Unlike the Italian gialli, however, Naschy’s films are a bit less stylish and are more rough around the edges. Fun fact: my current favorite band, Blood Ceremony, sampled an ominous snippet of Naschy’s dialog from 1972’s El espanto surge de la tumba (Horror Rises from the Tomb) for their song Oliver Haddo, the first of two tributes they penned about the villain from Somerset Maugham‘s 1908 novel The Magician.

I began last week with 1980’s El Retorno del Hombre Lobo (The Return of the Wolfman) a remake of his most successful film 1972’s La Noche de Walpurgis (Shadow of the Werewolf). Essentially, the film pits the werewolf Waldemar Daninsky against a vampiric Countess Bathory. Werewolves + sexy vampires + skeleton knights = Gothic Horror fun.

 Next on the video machine was 1974’s Exorcismo which, despite what Naschy may have said to the contrary, has many scenes that are at the very least inspired by William Peter Blatty‘s The Exorcist. I then watched 1973’s La rebelión de las muertas (Vengeance of the Zombies) where Naschy plays no less than 3 roles! In a convoluted story of supernatural vengeance, the daughters of a handful of prominent English families, with ties to an old scandal that occurred in India, are being murdered then resurrected as zombies to mete out vengeance on their own people from beyond the grave! Thugees and voodoo; two great tastes that taste great together! Last night I watched 1972’s La Orgia de los Muertos (The Hanging Woman), in which Naschy guest stars as a necrophilic grave digger. This too features murderous reanimated corpses. We’ll see if I continue my marathon tonight or not.

Nostalgia of the Unknown: The Complete Prose Poetry of Clark Ashton Smith (1988, Necronomicon Press, cover art by Robert H. Knox)

Just before the self-imposed quarantine, I received a package from artist Robert H. Knox containing a 2nd printing of the Necronomicon Press chapbook Nostalgia of the Unknown: The Complete Prose Poetry of Clark Ashton Smith. (1988), signed by Knox. I had lost my original copy a couple of years ago, and this was a welcome replacement. Inside the package was also another chapbook Manfish & Other Tales, which he also signed, and a card that featured the poem Djinn Deceiver by my fellow weird poet Ashley Dioses, illustrated by Allen Koszowski.

The Smith chapbook contains the prose poem Offerings, which my old cohort Derek Fetler and I recorded as a spoken word recording accompanied by synthesizer back around 1989-90. I once had it on cassette tape, which I have long since lost. I need to ask him if I can still get a CD burn of that some day.

Anyway, thus ends my first quarantine missive. I will try to keep in touch with you all as I can. Be safe, be well…

PS: I forgot to mention that Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht  (Nosferatu the Vampyre) was the third plague film that I watched. In this 1979 remake of the 1922 Murnau film, Herzog emphasizes the connection between Count Dracula and the plague. Rats infest the town of Wismar, Germany, and people cavort in the town square with farm animals as the world around them falls apart and coffins pile up by the dozens. This is another film I have much to say about and hope to do a separate post for it on here some day soon.

The plague scene from Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979). Note the rats under the table.

 

Johanna Sadonis: Queen of Satanic Doom

Posted in Black Sabbath, Blood Ceremony (band), Doom Metal, Gaz Jennings, Johanna Sadonis, Lucifer (band), Rise Above Records, The Oath (band) with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2017 by Manuel Paul Arenas

I have been a fan of the group Black Sabbath since my grade-school chum Jan den Hartog turned me on to the album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973) back in 1978. Their melodic, doom-laden riffs touch a dark spot on my soul (my “d-spot”?) in a way that few bands have done since. Although they spawned legions of followers and imitators, few have really understood what it was that made them so great. Within the subgenre of Doom Metal, which was directly inspired by their more infamously heavy tracks such as Electric Funeral (1970) and Into the Void (1971), there are a slew of bands that just play plodding, drop-tuned riffs and tri-tones with someone growling indecipherably about death and despair. Unfortunately, they do not have the knack for writing a catchy melody or an interesting bridge, which is part of what made Sabbath so successful.

Johanna Sadonis striking a decidedly devilish posture.

Recently, however, I have come across a few bands which seem to have finally  created a more accessible brand of Doom influenced music. The first band to catch my ear was Blood Ceremony, whom I have already covered here on the Book of Shadows. The next were a pair of bands (both labelmates of Blood Ceremony, on Rise Above Records) that shared a connection through a common member: vocalist Johanna Sadonis.  The bands, The Oath and Lucifer, respectively, are both Doom influenced but have much more going on than your average Doom band. I cannot find much information on either band online, but I did find this under the entry for Sadonis on the Encyclopedia Metallum:

Female vocalist, DJ and promoter from Berlin, Germany, who sang in various metal bands during the ’90s/early 00’s. In 2010, she was part of the electronic indie pop band Informer along with Rayshele Teige, a former employee of Century Media in the US. She’s currently the lead vocalist of the Berlin/London-based heavy rock band Lucifer.  [Encyclopedia Metallum_Johanna Sadonis_retrieved 11/10/2017]

Promo Pic for the Oath featuring (left to right)Linnéa Olsson & Johanna Sadonis.

Although not mentioned in the preceding bio, from 2012-2014  Sadonis fronted the band The Oath, which also featured Swedish guitarist Linnéa Olsson (not to be confused with the progressive-pop cellist). I cannot tell whether the rest of the band are just session musicians, but I did notice that there is another guitarist credited with the guitar solos. All the promotional photos however are solely of the women, both lovely blondes, clad in black leather. Make no mistake though, this is not a puff band. These ladies can rock. The opening track, All Must Die, is a bass-driven rocker reminiscent of  Motorhead’s Ace of Spades which sets the tone for the rest of the album, the sound of which is retro but not derivative. The overall vibe is of a polished NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) from the 80’s but with catchy hooks and Sadonis’ clear vocals singing her paeans to Lucifer; imagine if Girlschool had hung out with Tony Iommi instead of Lemmy Kilminster, and you’ll have the idea. There’s even a requisite acoustic guitar piece! How’s that for old school? The songs are tuneful and simple but the arrangements are interesting with some unusual choices. Not being schooled in music theory, I cannot say exactly what’s different, but I can definitely hear it.

The album was a hit in the metal community, and the vinyl version even came with a collectible 7″ single featuring a cover of the song Night of the Demon by NWOBHM band Demon, which is better than the original. Then, just as their downward-pointing star was rising, they broke up leaving everyone asking WTF? I have looked online and even watched an interview with Sadonis online, but whatever it was that was the catalyst to the split, she doesn’t seem to be very forthcoming about it. Perhaps there are legal reasons for her reticence. Olsson joined the Finnish Goth-Rock band Grave Pleasures (a waste of her talent, IMHO) and Sadonis ditched the leather jacket for a satin kimono with an eye on the back, which I suspect is the left eye of Thoth symbolizing the moon, wisdom, and magic. She formed a new band with Oath drummer Andy Prestidge, named after her favorite inamorato: Lucifer.

Variant pressings of Lucifer’s “Anubis/Morning Star” 45″ single, which I borrowed from the Epicus-Metal blogspot.

They put out the single Anubis which eschewed the NWOBHM sound for a more explicitly Doom-influenced  sound with a fuzzed-out headbang-inducing riff that couldn’t help but bring to mind the glory days of Sabbath. Unfortunately, the vocal melody is a hodgepodge of vocal lines from Sabbath’s 1972 ode to cocaine, Snowblind. Even so, it’s a lot of fun and definitely worth a spin and the B-side, Morning Star, an awesome slab of Doom Metal with a nod to Iron Maiden, would resurface, in a slightly tighter performance, on the subsequent album,  Lucifer I.

Vinyl copy of Lucifer I (2015, Rise Above).

At first listen, I wasn’t sure what I thought of the long-play album. The first track I heard off the album was the single, Izrael, for which they have a promotional video. It didn’t seem quite as heavy as the Anubis single and it almost sounded pop-ish were it not for the heavy guitars and occult themed lyrics. It grew on me though, as did the album and I eventually decided to purchase my own copy.

Now I beg your indulgence while I share with you my experience in picking up this CD at my local record store. I had seen a used copy at a Mesa branch of the store I frequent, which shall remain nameless here, but didn’t get a chance to buy it then, so I had them transfer it to the store by my home in Phoenix. When I picked it up, the cashier was a young man who was genial and even sported an Iron Maiden t-shirt. When he pulled it off the hold shelf to ring it up, he seemed a bit awed by it and asked something to the effect of, “Is this what I think it is?” To which I responded “Actually, it’s a bit different, the riffs are heavy but there are clear vocals over the top providing a nice contrast; it’s actually quite beautiful.”

You see, I believed he had been inquiring as to its sonic heft, but apparently I was wrong, for his response was, “The bible says the devil will make himself beautiful.” Yeah…well I just countered with a bemused “Uh-huh.” then ended my part in the conversation. Even so, he continued, seemingly so freaked out by it that he could hardly express himself, faltering for words. His sentences trailed off and he seemed to be almost enchanted by the album. He commented on the cover art, which as you well can see has nothing but the name of the band, yet he was afraid to even touch it. He commented on the track titles, specifically Morning Star and Izrael. Eventually we finished the transaction and I was able to leave the store but I was definitely put off by the whole interaction. This is what I deal with all the time in this part of the country. I have no problem with folks believing what they want as long as I don’t have to hear about it and it doesn’t impinge on my own civil rights. It’s hard to be a free thinker when  everyone else is still living in the Dark Ages. I think that I did confirm for him that the lyrical content did lean towards the diabolic; but in truth, Sadonis’ themes are not like that of say Venom, or Slayer, both of whom focus on demonism, maleficia and blasphemy, whereas her lyrics lean more towards metaphysics and ritual magick.

Anyway, off the soapbox and back to the album: I finally got a chance to hear Lucifer I on my CD Walkman (don’t judge) and was able to hear its layers and nuances. It’s not quite as layered as say a Kevin Shields composition, but there were times (like in Izrael)when I was reminded of Brian May’s layered guitar work on the early Queen albums, or even Tony Iommi for that matter. This might be due to the addition of guitarist Gaz Jennings, late of the English Doom Metal veterans Cathedral. His talent for composing choice riffs make him a pretender to the Iommi mantel of Riff-master General. There also are chimes to be heard on here and in places, rain, birds, and even tolling bells appear on the appropriately named Sabbath. The overall sound of the album is vaguely psychedelic, which suit Sadonis’ plaintive vocal style and arcane lyrical themes a bit better, yet with an updated take on the old school heavy rock sound.

In the interview she did with Jimmy Cabbs she spoke of how their goal was not to look back to retread old territory so much as to look for inspiration which they would absorb then apply with a modern approach. She and (I believe) bassist Dino Gollnick spoke in the interview of trying to make things simple and go back to the roots of heavy music as Metal has become so extreme these days and how much further can one take it? Gollnick is gone now however, as are Jennings and Prestridge, according to the Encyclopedia Metallum, which lists Sadonis as the only consistent member in the current lineup. Even so, no matter who she works with she seems to come out okay and to hone her musical vision just a little bit more, and I look forward to whatever she comes up with next.

PS: I have noticed that a lot of haters have been posting on Youtube that Johanna is just a Jinx Dawson wannabe. For those of you who are not familiar with Ms. Dawson, she was the vocalist and primary lyricist for the band Coven whose 1969 debut album Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls was a minor hit in the underground music scene. Despite their Satanic subject matter, Coven’s music was psychedelic pop without much heft. They were definitely unique and probably one of the very first bands to openly sing about occult topics and especially witchcraft, but they never really were metal in any way shape or form. Jinx Dawson, now accepted as the Grande Dame of occult rock has rebooted her career and is touring with a new band brandishing a heavier sound and touting herself as the Metal Goth Queen.

Album cover for Coven’s Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls (1969,Mercury). Jinx Dawson is the pictured on the far left side.

Now, with all respect to Ms. Dawson and her legacy, the only similarity between them is that they both have long blonde hair and they both have occult themed lyrics. One might argue that Dawson paved the way for the likes of Sadonis, but I don’t hear any specific similarity in their styles or even stage personas. Don’t drink the haterade, don’t believe the trolls.

Update 12/28/2017

After living with these albums a while, I find that I cannot get enough of  Lucifer I. I still dig the Oath album, but find myself returning to the Lucifer album time and again. Basically, what keeps me coming back are the catchy minor keyed melodies, the choice fuzzy riffs and the clean vocals. I really get tired of the fact that every time I find a new heavy band I like, the vocalist sounds like the Cookie Monster. I also find the lyrics intriguing. It also helps that there are numerous live videos of the band on Youtube. The best one being a gig at a record store in Oldenburg, Germany. The video and audio quality is great and the band burns through a 50+ minute set which basically includes Anubis and most of their debut album.

Loser 7″ (2015, Rise Above).

Apparently there exists a limited edition of the LP that includes a 7″ single featuring two cover songs, Devil’s on the Loose and Loser (the former originally by The Rattles and the latter by Angel Witch). I have heard Loser on Youtube and it is a decent tune but doesn’t quite fit with the Sabbathy sound of the album proper. I am curious to hear the other track and shall look for this version in the future as well as the Oath LP with the Night of the Demon single.

Blood Ceremony: Toronto’s exponent of “flute-tinged witch rock”

Posted in Acid-folk, Black Sabbath, Blood Ceremony (band), Ceremonia sangrienta (1973), Doom Metal, Lord of Misrule (2016), Oliver Haddo, Psychedelic Rock, Somerset Maugham, Sylvia Townsend Warner, The Magician (1908) with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2017 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Blood Ceremony band logo

Formed in Toronto Canada in 2006, Blood Ceremony is one of the more interesting bands taking their cues from their musical forefathers. In the promotional material found on their Facebook page as well as on their profile on the Rise Above Records website, they describe themselves in this manner:

“BLOOD CEREMONY’s distinct style of flute-tinged witch rock evolves from an infernal marriage of occult-inspired acid folk and vintage hard-rock riffing. After a mind-numbing study of hundreds of trashy witchcraft films, the group began to pour their energies into crafting songs, transforming their fascination for horror into a profane musical vision. ”

English language poster for the 1973 horror film “Ceremonia sangrienta” which is the band’s namesake.

Taking their name from the 1973 Spanish/Italian Horror film “Ceremonia sangrienta” their lyrics (penned by founding member guitarist/composer Sean Kennedy) explore occult themes and reference folklore and occult film and fiction (he seems to be fond of Somerset Maugham’s character Oliver Haddo from his 1908 occult novel The Magician based on Maugham’s impressions from his brief acquaintance with occultist Aleister Crowley; penning not one, but two separate songs about him, The Magician, and Oliver Haddo, respectively). Originally conceived by Kennedy as an old school heavy rock band, things took on a more eclectic turn when flutist/organist Alia O’Brien joined the band. Originally invited to play flute on a couple of songs,  O’Brien joined full time as lead vocalist when their original singer left to go to India.

An early image of Alia O’Brien which I have seen incorporated into gig posters and depicted in fan art.

An accomplished instrumentalist, Alia O’Brien’s flute and Farfisa organ playing have fleshed out the sound transmogrifying it into an alchemical amalgam of such early 70’s rock icons as Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull and Uriah Heep. Although not a trained singer or front person, the statuesque Ms. O’Brien has really come into her own over the years and has developed her voice, look, and persona in a way that has brought much attention to the band. Make no mistake though, she is not just a pretty face and the success of the band relies not just on their image, but the evolving sound of the band.

Blood Ceremony’s eponymously titled 2008 debut album featuring artwork by George Barr from the 1970 Ballantine Books collection of Clark Ashton Smith stories, Zothique.

Initially they were grouped in with the Doom Metal scene because of their heavy Sabbath influenced riffs, but they have so much more going on musically and their sound, although thematically consistent, is anything but stagnant. Like Sabbath, their riffs never stay in one place for long, and the avowed influence of both 60’s psychedelia and early English folk-rock acts such as Pentangle and Fairport Convention flesh out the sound to something of a proto-prog vibe or as Kennedy describes it “a folkier Sabbath”.

Blood Ceremony 2016, from left to right: Mike Carillo (drums), Alia O’Brien [seated] (lead vocals, flute, keyboards), Lucas Gadke (bass), Sean Kennedy (guitars).

Since their debut in 2008 they have released four albums and one single, each unique unto itself. Their most recent offering, “Lord of Misrule” is probably the most diverse of the lot, with the inclusion of mellotron (Loreley) and some 60’s psych-pop tropes (Flower Phantoms) to accompany the usual heavy riffing and flute and organ flourishes. There is even a brief nod to The Pink Floyd’s 1967 psych-pop gem Lucifer Sam in the opening notes of the album’s lead rocker The Devil’s Widow, the lyrics of which deal with the forsaken fairy mistress of Tam Lin, as she pines for her lover after he was rescued from her enchanting clutches by his human sweetheart.

Screencap from the promotional video for the song Goodbye Gemini.

Although I had come across Blood Ceremony before in my Youtube searches for psychedelic and progressive rock bands, I was always under the impression that they were a one-off indie band from the 70’s until a friend of mine shared some digital files of their hard-to-find albums with me. Even so, I didn’t realize they were current and still touring until I found their profile page while perusing the Rise Above Records website recently. Too bad it took me so long to sort that out as I would have loved to have seen them on their last tour in 2016! Until their next release however I must make do with their one promo video for the tune Goodbye Gemini off their 2013 album The Eldritch Dark (an apparent fan fave according to the myriad Youtube comments I have seen; if you see the video, keep an eye out for the scene where drummer Mike Carillo pauses from his drumming duties to take a puff off of a churchwarden pipe–presumably loaded with Halflings’ Leaf!) as well as the many fan videos of the band from their various shows over the last several years, and pray that they come around again in 2018. Perhaps I need to make a sanguinary oblation to the dark gods of occult rock?

Update 04/16/2020:

In 2019 the band put out their second single, an original called Lolly Willows, backed with a cover of Heaven and Hell, by the Who. The cover is okay, but I was never a big fan of the original. Lolly Willows however, is a great tune presumably inspired by the 1926 novel Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner.

Lolly Willows 7″ single (2019, Rise Above Records).