Best (Heavy) Music of 2020 So Far

Most metal journalists will split the year in half and give their Top 10 of said year so far.  I am not a paid metal journalist, and as you may have noticed, we are past the halfway point of 2020.  However!  It's close enough.  I have opinions, and while I'm only enumerating five records, I thought you needed to know them.  Let's burn through this shit before the NBA season starts again!?*

5. Kvaen - The Funeral Pyre

A one-man black metal battalion charring the earth all the way from Sweden.  Because of course this stuff is Swedish.  Kvaen deals in speedy, antagonistic BM a la Panzer-era Marduk.  The riffs are charged up and ready to quarrel.  That's not why Pyre is currently a Top 5 release (we'll see how it fares in January when I compile my Top 10); no, I love it for its divaricate approach.  The music is pissed, but it's also nuanced.  Infernal blasting is forked with thrash-inspired guitar solos.  The leads, man...the leads!  Closing instrumental "Hymn to Kvaenland" mirrors Opeth in its dour delivery.  So fuck yeah, this is a Top 5 release.

4. Esoctrilihum - The Eternity of Shaog

I've featured Esoctrilihum on this here website before.  I was magnifying the cover art, but I can't remember what I said about the music itself.  This is yet another one-man black metal project.  Ringleader Asthaghul hails from France, and I can't believe he plays every damn instrument.  By the way, that includes piano, violin, maybe a harpsichord...I'm hearing a harpsichord.  The production is full-bodied.  Dude has upped his songwriting game to the point where each track has its own flavor.  Shaog is the fifth Esoctrilihum LP in three (!) years, so granted, some of my interest is colored by disbelief.  You're going to want to keep your eye sockets fixed on this prepossessing racket.

3. Caligula's Horse - Rise Radiant

I don't know when exactly, but a little over a decade ago, Australia decided to weaponize prog rock and nuke the rest of the world (in the best way possible).  In my estimation, Caligula's Horse is the best of the bunch in the absence of Karnivool.  Not to divert my own attention, but where did Karnivool go?  Are they fucking hibernating?  Anyway, Radiant is salaciously technical (my pants just tightened), orgiastically melodic (my breath just quickened) and those tits!  I mean, what?  Caligula's Horse is simply a band whose configuration exhibits a master at each post.  Guitarist Sam Vallen, in particular, has quietly become unequaled in his field.  More like Rise Radikal, am I right???

2. Psychotic Waltz ~ The God-Shaped Void

Reunion albums are a dicey jumble.  I had zero expectations for Void, as it was the first Psychotic Waltz recording in 24 years.  I would have forgiven them for sounding a tad rusty and out of practice, but they put any fatalistic forecasts to bed with these proggy pyrotechnics.  Sorry, my cheap alliteration is dishonorable.  The guys are swinging on all cylinders.  Buddy Lackey's vocals are as smooth and catchy as ever.  Brian McAlpin's goddamn geetars are astrophysical.  I'm sensing a theme as it relates to the twiddle-fiddle.  If you cherish crystalline leads, guitar harmonies, and finger-lickin' licks, you're tapping the right vein.

1. Inexorum - Moonlit Navigation

Speaking of guitars that sparkle, this melodic black metal gem is the mother to end all fuckers.  Layers of rainwater chords (there are only so many adjectives to buoy this kind of music) converge to craft tunes that enter one ear and stay there.  Somehow, Moonlit feels simultaneously morose and uplifting.  The hooks hit you like a cool, vernal breeze.  I've replayed this album more than the other four selections, if that informs you of its nobility.  There are even a couple of instances of lucid clean vocals.  It's still brutal, but it coats your stomach before the acids take effect.  Also, take acid.

* Go Raptors!


Matches That Time Forgot #68

If you've been watching AEW for several moons (even if you just watch Dark), you know of a deranged fellow by the name of Luther.  Commentators told us that he has a history filled with death matches in Japan.  And that's true!  After doing some research, I found that he trained in the infamous Hart Dungeon and made his debut for Stampede Wrestling.  That has very little bearing on today's match that time forgot, but I thought it was interesting.  Apparently, he used the name Mad Jack precisely once.  It was for an episode of WCW Worldwide (deary-dear) in 2000 (shitty-shit).

I love watching old episodes of Worldwide for this very reason.  No, not to prop up a dying, moribund column; I dig them because the matches are so random and so...well, random.  That's the word.  I've featured Vampiro here before (suck my link), and while I'm certainly a fan, I had never seen this well-hidden bout.  It's standard fare.  Toward the finish, you can plainly hear Lut--er, "Mad Jack" calling spots.  His skull is drilled into the mat for the 1-2-3!  Spoiler?  On a sidenote, holy shit, Vampiro is over like gangbusters.  And he was coming off of his tonally bizarre feud with Sting.  It's almost as if the office wasted his superstar potential or something.


An Unreview of "The Wind"

What is an unreview?  Well, it's where I'm mentally enervated and bereft of the time necessary to devote to a proper critique of a film.  This won't be a recurring column.  I just want to document the fact that I've seen 1986's The Wind.  It's exceptional.  Directed by Nico Mastorakis, it's a suffocating chiller that finds Meg Foster fending for herself in a luxurious Greek locale overlooking choppy, imposing ocean water.  She plays an author of crime pulp, and wouldn't you know it?  She is being stalked by the caretaker.

Oh, the caretaker.  I didn't know it when I purchased the Blu-ray, but our villain is Wings (fucking) Hauser.  Fuck to the yeah!  He's pretty much perfect here.  The entire cast earns high marks, with Steve Railsback turning in a medium-sized, yet no less memorable performance as a...sailor/detective?  Okay, so his character is vague, but it works.  The Wind is all about atmosphere anyway.  The cinematography is breathtaking.  If you're curious, this is a 4-Z'Dar banger.  I'm off to watch sports.


Album Cover of the Whatever

Originally, I was going to hold off on posting an album cover of the day/week/fortnight, but then I saw this beauty.  The inky, disquieting nightmare fuel before you is Valdur's Divine Cessation, an oppressive death metal centaur.  I'm listening to it as I type.  To be honest, it's...passable.  I'm getting old, folks.  This is definitely heavy, and in technical parlance, it's a "pissed off motherfucker."  Going back to the imagery, that's how I see 2020 - a beryl-hued vision of the end.  See, the apocalypse can be pretty!


Blood Capsule #97


Full disclosure!  I saw this flick dissected on Best of the Worst and felt compelled to own it.  I have the new episode (the return of the dreaded Wheel) open in a separate tab.  Frankly, I just want to watch it instead of writing this Excedrin-incited stricture.  Half of you are probably not familiar with "BotW," but that's your problem.  Leave me out of your life.  What the hell is Alienator?  It's an insufferable mishmash of RoboCop and The Terminator.  Oh, and Critters on account of an alien bounty hunter.  The cast is peppered with cult icons, but neither Joseph Pilato nor Robert Quarry can emancipate this rubble.

Man, I need to revisit Count Yorga, Vampire and tap Day of the Dead while I'm at it.  That's what Alienator did to me, dear readers; it made me think of other things, better things.  I was foolish to postulate that Jan-Michael Vincent talking about sectors and executions would cheer me up.  Truth be told, there isn't much b-mileage here.  Gore is non-existent.  Nudity?  Nope.  In a Fred Olen Ray film!  That guy spread so much smut around video stores, his girlfriends had to pay late fees if they thought they were pregnant.  That was a layered joke.  Let it marinate.  So yeah, Alienator is a flunkee.  For your information, Teagan Clive (the platinum-haired heavy) played BimboCop in Vice Academy Part 2.  You're welcome.


What has Dom been up to?

~ Squiggly line.

~ I've been watching scores of Hayabusa matches.  If you're not in-the-know, Hayabusa was a supremely badass Japanese wrestler who was forced to retire in 2001 after a botched dive left him paralyzed.  Sadly, he passed away in 2016 less than a year after regaining some use of his legs.  I didn't mean to dump depression into your lap.  The main takeaway here should be Hayabusa's wicked mask, his wicked rope work, and the wicked, yet short-lived tag team he formed with Jinsei Shinzaki (WWF's Hakushi).

~ The goddamn Oxford comma.  Motherfucker.  I was taught in school NOT to use it, and shitpiss, it doesn't look right to me.  Still!  But after much deliberation, I submit that it's grammatically correct.  Starting with this entry, I will adopt the fucking mutant thing into my writing.  It won't be easy.  I won't like it!  Goddamn it.

~ Lists!  Or listicles, if you prefer.  I'm open to suggestions on lists that I could compile for the site.  On second thought, this may require a separate post to reach as many eyes as possible.  If your eyes do see this block of text, then by all means, send me your ideas.  I'll steal them.

~ I love bands such as Veruca Salt and Letters to Cleo just as much as I love atmospheric black metal.  You didn't think it was possible to be that cool?  Friend, you have been proven wrong.

~ Seriously, I'm awesome.

~ I hate myself.  Well, "hate" is a strong word.  I'm dissatisfied in my "lot" in life.  I feel beyond hopeless.  It's hard to see into the future without seeing alarm.  What am I seeing exactly?  A cross between nothing and frenzied pain.  My brain lets me down at every turn, and I struggle with overpowering...well, my fucking brain.  It fucks with me.  I'm 35 years old.  I should be at a different juncture in life.  I question whether I should include this unctuous stanza or not.  For one, it's UNCTUOUS.  Secondly, people are going to try to help me, and I can only help myself.  Pity is annoying, unless sex is offered.

~ Hey, Oxford comma.  Fuck you!

~ I'll get cracking on a Blood Capsule.  It might be a horror film.


Japan, ladies and gentlemen...

What do we have here?  Good question.  I was going to call this a Geek Out, but it's more of a Match That Time Forgot.  I'm saying "fuck it."  This belongs in a miscellaneous folder.  W*ING was a Japanese wrestling promotion that lasted from 1991 to 1994 (not counting one-off reunion shows).  It was shepherded by FMW defects.  If you don't know the score, FMW was a hardcore promotion that popularized "death matches," especially contests that snarled up barbed wire and explosions.  Anywho, W*ING was goddamn daffy.  Their roster interpolated the talents of...wait, this needs a new paragraph.

Ahem!  Freddy Krueger, The Crypt Keeper, Boogie Man (Eddie Gilbert in a Michael Myers costume), Leatherface, Jason the Terrible (a guy in a hockey mask), Kamala, The Moondogs, Wahoo McDaniel (!?), Goliath el Gigante (fucking Kurrgan), and of course, a host of Japanese wrestlers.  It was madness.  The match I cherry-picked for your viewing pleasure represents a scant share of said madness.  It's a three-way fight between Boogie, Jason and Grave Digger.  Research has told me nothing about this Grave Digger fellow.  I can only shrug my shoulders.

W*ING should have been called W*TF.  Case in point, there is a post-match run-in made by ECW's Sandman and The Pitbulls.  What?  The?  Fuck?


Rassle Inn #5

Last week, I fought my inhibitions and won.  I posted an image of...erm, some guy to adorn this column.  This week, it's business as usual.  Candice LeRae is hot as a heel, and I'm loving the purple-silver locks.  It's ironic that I'm using a current NXT talent as the frontispiece, as I preferred night two of AEW's Fyter Fest to what the Great American Bash delivered.  NXT didn't suck.  Needles to say, the wrestling was more than competent.  The presentation was just bland.  I don't care at all about Keith Lee or Johnny Gargano or Bronson Reed or Dexter Lumis or even the luchador stable that will be buried by this time next year.

The women's division is stronger, but in my opinion, it's the only thing that WWE/NXT can hang over Tony Khan's head.  Fyter Fest felt consistent for two hours.  I was highly skeptical on the main event, but Cassidy and Jericho made it work.  I knew that Le Champion was going to reign victorious.  Or did I?  There were a couple of moments where I wasn't so sure.  The eight-man tag was boffo.  I loved every second of it, and I can't wait to see where these teams soar next.  I mean, fuck.  That's a tag team division.

PS-I wasn't shitting on AEW's ladies.  They're kool (yes, with a "k"), but they aren't featured quite enough, and as fate would have it, a few of their best workers are on injury reserve.  At least they have found a way to include an infirm Britt Baker.  She is truly America's roll model (sic).


Trapped Alive

1993.  The year that Monday Night Raw made its debut on the USA Network.  Those early episodes are fucking golden.  Don't let anyone tell you that a show where "Macho Man" Randy Savage AND Doink the Clown might appear isn't golden.  Those people...they are bad people.  Anyway, Doink--wait, fuck!  I have to review Trapped Alive, don't I?  I don't have to, but whatev(er).  This wintry, niveous knuckle-duster was actually shot in 1988, but it was condemned to the shelf for five years.  Because.  Eons ago, I saw the trailer and for some reason I have yet to ascertain, I decided that I longed for Trapped Alive.  This has not been a tidy movie to track down.  Thankfully, Arrow has given it the Blu-ray treatment, and fuck-flavored semen berries, it didn't deserve such stately, resplendent treatment.

I almost went with "semen-soaked Scooby snacks."  I'm a writer.  The plot involves a pair of giggly girls being carjacked after leaving a Christmas party.  This wasn't just any Christmas party.  It was attended by Cameron (goddamn) Mitchell!  He appears for two minutes total.  Not even worth mentioning, but here we are.  The carjackers have just escaped prison, and I'm sure they had grand plans of dereliction.  Unfortunately, the car they jacked skids into a mine shaft.  We're underground, folks.  You know what that means.  If not, I'll spell it out for you.  The viewer's eyes are privy to darkness, near-Cimmerian lighting and more darkness.

That could be a huge piss-off, but Trapped Alive is a well-cobbled production.  Don't get me wrong, kid; the budget is low, so low that it impairs the film in other ways (more on them later).  However!  Director Leszek Burzynski keeps everything crackling on a professional tip.  I like his camera spacing.  A bizarre, random compliment, but yeah.  The action isn't too far away, nor is it too close to the camera.  Yeah.  Several cast members have this grotto gathering listed as their only credit, but on the pothole (get it???), the acting is solid.  Sullivan Hester fares well as the cute final girl.  Oh, you'll never believe this, but one of the villains is a giant, toothless oaf named Mongo.  Wrestling fans will appreciate that, although he meets his end in the first act.  Inexcusable!

Speaking of villains, I haven't said much as it relates to the main heavy.  Technically, he's a monster, but he's painfully human.  You can pretend that he was created in a laboratory, I suppose.  Still, he's fucking dull.  The death sequences?  Dull.  The worst thing you can say about any genre flick is that it's untenably dull and that's precisely how I would paint Trapped Alive.  It has its moments.  Thanks to Arrow, the colors are gorgeous, but that's the veneer.  I don't see anyone jumping for joy over the product itself.  It needed more Cameron Mitchell.  And Doink!  It needed more Doink, "the most evil clown that ever lived."  That's a Savage quote, by the way.



Album Cover of the I'm Lazy

It's not that I'm lazy; I just...took the weekend off?  Yeah, that sounds alright.  That's why you're getting another Album Cover of the Whatever.  This time, it's Teitanblood's Purging Tongues EP.  Superlatively evil, and it stands out like a motherfucker.  I'm going back into my cave of wonders to churn out the next movie review.  Brace your stitches!


Rassle Inn #4

Do you know how hard it was for me NOT to use a picture of Penelope Ford?  I'm trying not to be a scumbag.  It would be easy to view today's topic entirely through the "male gaze," but again, I'm trying.  I may fail later in this very tract.  Oh, that's Wardlow.  He tagged with M.J.F. against the Jurassic Express in the fun opener of last night's Fyter Fest.  Obviously, there was a lot of wrestling to absorb.  WWE fast-tracked the yellow brand's Great American Bash, and I must say, AEW took the prize on night one.  The ratings disagree.

I dug NXT's show.  But I...oyk, I didn't want to break down each and every match.  Look, here's the nutshell version of my opinion: With Fyter Fest, I don't have any substantive grouses.  With GAB, a couple of matches didn't sit well with me.  The strap match...why the gimmick?  What is the actual feud?  Is this the best way to utilize Roderick Strong right now?  And the handicap match.  I found it to be entertaining, but it was way too long.  It's pathetic because Robert Stone was poised to become a formidable manager overseeing a formidable stable.  At present, he's a punchline whose only client is Alayhiaalyala.

I'm shockingly old (I refuse to believe that I'm only 35), so my eyelids were weakening against the tremendous strain of gravity during the Fyter Fest main event.  It wasn't the product's fault.  I admit that I'm not a softhearted proponent of Best Friends, but all in all, they crafted an engaging contest with Omega/Page.  My favorite fyte of the nyte (perhaps on either show) was the AEW Women's World Championship match between warrior queen Hikaru Shida and emulous challenger Penelope Ford.  This one took me by surprise.  I already knew that Shida kicked ass, but Ford milked the most out of a great opportunity.  Hell of a showing.

My precious Io Shirai did battle with Sasha Banks in what should have been a killer 20-minute brawl, but it felt like simple angle advancement.  Don't get me wrong, dude; shit was solid, but it was used to prop up other titles.  And it was the main event!  It was cool to see Io and Asuka "reunite," as it were.  Next week, we get more Fyting and Bashing.  Will I write about it?  Depends on the ratings.  If my column doesn't do a number, I may have to introduce new characters.  To kill off.


Busy night...

I shall post my impressions tomorrow!