Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cocktails and Carnage

When you think of horror inspired music what do you usually think of? Is it the horror punk anthems of golden age Misfits, complete with sing-along choruses, glorious devilocks and of course the satanic croon of the mighty Danzig? Is it the atmospheric syntho-prog rock of Goblin, weaving electronic webs of inorganic terror? Perhaps it’s the cacophony of full tilt heavy metal, with distortion drenched guitars, a thundering drum beat and lyrics hinting at an alliance with the Prince of Lies himself? More than likely one if not all of these sounds popped into your head at the thought of horror inspired music and not jaunty, upbeat melodies played acoustically with the odd treat of a mandolin or glockenspiel thrown into the mix, right? That’s because you have never witnessed the delight that is Harley Poe.

The path trodden by Harley Poe has been one fraught with both trials and tribulations, a shaky start of grinding through different members left fans of the band with some uncertainty as to whether they would make it through to the next release, but the pulsating undead heart of the music, frontman Joe Whiteford, persisted with the tenacity of one of the walking dead with an insatiable hunger for fresh, human brains. We’ll never know whether it was radiation, a comet, the resurrecting powers of Trioxin or just the sheer determination to survive of Mister Whiteford, but something of a less than natural nature won out in delivering us the solid lineup that is the current incarnation of Harley Poe.

I was first exposed to Harley Poe by a good friend of mine, Zakk, we have eerily similar tastes in pretty much everything to the extent that I sometimes wonder if maybe he is actually just my very own Tyler Durden, in a taller, better looking and decidedly male version of my ideal self. I can remember him popping online and ranting about this new band that I HAD to listen to. So, I had a dig around, found their myspace page and was as converted as he was. Their music is as infectious as a zombie’s bite and you find yourself singing along to choruses, clapping your hands and tapping your feet within that very first listen. Once those melodies and lyrics are locked into your brain, it’s not long before you find yourself wandering down the street under a swollen harvest moon singing tales of murder, revenge or unrequited love with a glazed and distant look in your eyes. Try to explain to your neighbour, at three o’clock in the morning why you are belting out, “I don’t want you, I waaaaaaaaaaaant your blood!!” or perhaps why you are merrily proclaiming, “Cold and wet and dirty. You’re looking mighty purdy, but I just don’t understand why a dead girl’s gotta be the one true love for me, I’m a Corpse Grinding Man!”. . . . especially when you are a short, little, round chick.

Never has deviancy, depression or psychosis sounded so particularly cheery, nor has it ever had the true ability to get the whole household, despite their feelings on horror culture, to sing along with smiles as wide as good old Bruce as he sinks his row upon row of serrated teeth into Quint’s boat. Harley Poe deserve a long and illustrious career, telling tales of ghouls and vampires, love beyond the grave and the high school nerd’s ultimate revenge until they themselves need the aid of a voodoo priest to resurrect their weary bones. Do the right thing people, get out there, listen to the music of Harley Poe and support the independent music scene by buying ALL of their back catalogue. Seriously. Do it, like, now.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

But, there is just so much blood. . .

There are so many bad jokes that start with the words “You know you’re getting older when:” and I battled hard not to use that as my opener for this new post, I succeeded obviously, but only in the most lamest of ways imaginable. It is odd the things you begin to notice as you grow older and mature, how your views on certain things change, how you become more accepting of some things and yet at the same time, your tolerance for others recedes with the same unforgiving rate as the hair of a man with male pattern balding. One of these losses for me has been my ability to sit back and blithely watch scenes of ultra violence and intense gore, which is not something you want to happen being a life long devotee of the horror genre, indeed, it is like being a vampire and discovering the sight of blood makes you squeamish or being a zombie and realizing that you don’t actually enjoy the taste of fresh from the cranium grey matter.

Let me put some perspective on this for you. For as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of horror in its many guises; from the excitement that Halloween brings every year since I was old enough to realize what it was , to actively seeking out new and improved ways to scare myself absolutely shitless. Some of my fondest childhood memories are imbedded in this life long passion. I remember curling up on the dark brown corduroy couch in a living room in Alberta, Canada, with both parents and an abundance of popcorn, watching Poltergeist on cable as a family. I couldn’t have been any older than six or seven and I also remember after the movie was finished, freaking out when the television continued to play the audio after I had switched it off, because it was played through the stereo, which I had neglected to turn off in my spooked haste.

Chunky strawberry jam and a lamb's tongue, yummy, no? (Blood Feast 1963)

As I grew older and my parents deemed films with more adult themes suitable for my precocious mind to be able to differentiate from reality, I began to find that I had a thirst for splatter and gore. By the time I was thirteen I was a full on and hardened, self proclaimed gorehound. I would actively search out the most extreme and visceral film at the video store and then of course insist that my poor Mother sit through whatever blood drenched piece of trash I had chosen. She would sit on the couch with her legs curled tight into her body, her hand half covering her eyes and the odd expletive or cry of “Oh ew!!” would sound from her side of the room. I found this highly amusing and would usually use her reaction as a gauge of the movie’s worth. I would laugh and usually console her with the worldly wise words of, “Come on Mum, it’s only a movie, jeeeese, stop being such a big wuss.” I still have no idea why that poor woman continued to agree on watching every single offensive piece of crap I bought into the house, perhaps it was some sort of masochistic Mother/daughter bonding ceremony on her part.

If I were to calculate the amount of blood I have seen spilled, limbs torn from bodies, deaths via stabbings, blunt force trauma, exploding heads, gauged out eyeballs. . . .you get the idea, I am more than certain that via the wonders of celluloid I have witnessed more human suffering than both World Wars, Vietnam, Korea, both Gulf Wars and an entire season of Friends combined produced. So, with this in mind you would think that a few more splashes of the old red stuff, the odd death or three of fully deserving stupid teens or even the flaying of some poor unfortunate would be breakfast viewing over a nice hot bowl of shreddies, by now right? In fact the exact opposite is true, for the shame and no doubt eternal mocking of my thirteen year old self.

Peter Jackson was far more fun before he started fooling around with hobbits (Dead Alive AKA Brain Dead 1992)

This isn’t a gradual thing either; this new intolerance is something that has sneaked up on me with the stealth of my beloved stalk and slashers, and struck with the same fearless and unyielding tenacity of a chain saw brandishing psycho. This is something that has happened within the last three years. The last thing I can remember watching that was considered gory and horrific to the average Joe public and actually being able to roll my eyes and feel genuinely unaffected by was Hostel. Okay, I was able to shake my head in the plot holes the size of Luxemburg and shrug off all of the gore and blatant sensationalism. . .apart from the slicing of the Achilles tendon moment, but that’s allowed, because that has always made me have that “rodent writhing in my stomach” feeling, even back in the days of Pet Sematary, where poor old Fred Gwynne suffered that particular fate.

Since this discovery I have been wracking my brain to figure out how this has come about. I had always had a problem watching real violence and suffering, I’ve never been able to watch the nightly news or any of those reality TV shows based in hospitals that showcase human suffering as cheap entertainment. That thick scarlet line between reality and fantasy has continuously shone brightly and unlike many of my friends that were fellow gorehounds, I never searched out the legendary Faces of Death. For those who are not in the know, Faces of Death is a mondo style movie with realistic scenes of (yes, you guessed you, you clever things!) death, interspersed with genuine footage of murder, deaths both of our fellow human beings and other creatures we share the planet with and grainy shots of human suffering, from wartime footage of Hitler inspiring the masses to the napalming of Vietnam. This never seemed like a form of entertainment to me, even though I knew a good forty percent of the movie was faked. The pain, suffering, death and destruction just wasn’t fun if someone was really getting hurt and it was no longer “safe”.

Oh noes!! Michael Ironside made mai hed splode!!! (Scanners 1981)

Is it my own fragile mortality that forces me to half turn away from the gallons of Karo flavoured blood and slabs of latex lovingly created in the image of human flesh? Is it perhaps the strong voice of my inner maternal instinct that causes me shrink away from scenes of beautifully choreographed torture and violence? Is it perhaps some sort of awoken with age social conscious of the real atrocities that my fellow human beings are more than capable and possibly somewhere out there carrying out that causes my heart rate to increase to the point I feel close to vomiting when the chorus of screams from the beautiful young actress on the screen is mutilated by the hand of her on screen villain and a whole team of CGI wizards? What is it that is turning me into the very vision of my Mother on the couch, her hand obscuring her eyes and her feet pulled in tight to her body to avoid the grasp of cold hands clutching at her from under the furniture? What the hell is it that is turning me into a big pussy?!

It has gotten to the point that despite, glowing reviews and stills saturated with absolutely glorious and gory beauty are not enough to take that leap into watching certain films. There are a handful of new movies that are critically acclaimed for their brutal new vision, the veritable new breath that the genre has so desperately needed, especially in a time where remakes are running rampant. Films such as Frontiere(s), Inside and Martyrs have all been side stepped at every given opportunity to watch them and instead I have made do with something else I know for a fact pales in comparison, in both quality and intelligence. My fingers have dangled teasingly on the slick plastic of the DVD cases and that thirteen year old voice rings out in my head, daring me to take it to the counter and rent it, but I am a grown up and am impervious to the taunts, even if they are coming from myself.

The food is always the best at the Captain's table! Zombies say "OM NOM NOM NOM !!!" (Day of the Dead 1985)

The good news is that I can still endure supernatural or just out and out stupid gore as was recently proven by sitting through Laid to Rest. (Keep your peepers peeled for an upcoming review) There was plenty of the claret stuff splashed around and even some disgustingly enjoyable kills which rekindled the love of those silent prowling maniacs that seemed to inhabit the brightly lit shelves of the video store in the eighties. So at least I now know that so long as the entrails are being used like bunting for a small child’s party or the plasma is being sprayed by the hands of some gribbly creature or even if the killer that is hacking the upper portion of his victim’s head off with a rusty axe is doing so in jovial manner; I am still okay and my inner gorehound can be sated and not have to mock me for being old and wussy. . much like my poor Mum was all those years ago. . .sorry Mum, I guess karma did rear up and bite me in the ass in the long run.