Sunday, October 30, 2016

"Stranded" - Gojira

Every so often a song just gets burned into my subconscious and I just can't get it out of my head...  Gojira's "Stranded" is such a song.

I had heard of Gojira before, but I'm sorry to say that I never gave them much of a chance.  That changed yesterday when a friend texted me the name of this song.  Holy cow!

From the start, that chugging, lurching riff with the horror-movie sounding screech is hair-raising and hypnotic.  The vocals on this are simultaneously angry and urgent, demanding your attention.  As the song progresses, the riffing becomes a march backing up the agonizingly desperate sounding chorus.  I dunno, to me it's just everything you could want in a metal performance.

Side note:  It didn't escape my attention that this group's name is based on a certain radioactive Japanese monster...  A heavy metal band named after a beloved kaiju?  This warrants further research...

Universal Monsters... By Alex Ross!

This is truly exciting news!  Alex Ross an artist most famous for his life-like renditions of superheros (how have I not shared a post on this guy?) has announced that he has a created a series of illustrations based on the Universal Monsters!  The series isn't actually going to be released until next year, but in the meantime enjoy the amazing artwork featuring almost the entire gang!


I was recently introduced to the Prisma app.  The app is basically a collection of filters you can apply to photos you've taken to transform them into painting, drawings, etc...  The results are quite stunning!

How is this the first and only picture of my daughter on this blog?
But, of course, I can only handle so much conventional beauty.  It didn't take long for me to use this newfound power for evil instead of good.  I ended up making some of my spooky photos even spookier!

Sometimes it's hard to choose just one filter...

This one looks like a "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" illustration...
I got carried away and even applied a filter to some existing artwork you might recognize...

Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time before vanity reared its ugly head...

Obligatory selfie...
Prisma is currently available for iPhone and Android devices.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

In Memory of John Zacherle

John Zacherle, also known as Zacherley, the "Cool Ghoul" has passed away.

Zacherle was one of the pioneering horror hosts who was most famous for his work on "Shock Theater" in the late 50's and early 60's.  Taking on the stage name Roland and later Zacherley, he not only introduced (and sometimes interrupted) the monster movies, but created a memorable crazed ghoul character, performing macabre skits infused with campy dark humor and gore.  He famously took advantage of the program being filmed in black-and-white, using Hershey's syrup as a cheap, but very effective stand-in for blood.

The monster/horror craze was at a fever pitch when Zacherle hosted "Shock Theater" and the actor amassed a cult following.  He was so popular at the time that he actually had a stint on the record charts (Top Ten Novelty Rock) for his song, "Dinner with Drac" in 1958.

Beyond his role as horror host, Zacherle worked on a variety of other television programs, radio, and voice work in movies.  But his work as Zacherley was to be his most famous role, and he apparently relished it.  Zacherle attended conventions and even got back into character time and again for various programs and events well into his 90's!

Beloved by Monster Kids everywhere, Zacherley will be greatly missed and certainly not forgotten.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

"Zombies!!!" Soundtrack - Midnight Syndicate

Midnight Syndicate is back!  With their amazing holiday album - "Christmas:  A Ghostly Gathering" - being released late last year, I wasn't expecting another album so soon.  However, with the group's reputation of churning out quality horror-themed works on a regular basis, it really shouldn't have been so surprising.

The new album is actually a soundtrack for the "Zombies!!!" board game produced by Twilight Creations.  The game apparently has quite a following, being first introduced back in 2001 it has went on to have 13 expansions released since then.  While I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I've never sat down and played the game, I have came across it countless times at comic stores and conventions.  I have always appreciated the artwork that accompanies the game and almost purchased it on several occasions based on the artwork alone!

Therefore when I heard that this series was going to basis of the latest Midnight Syndicate project, I was very excited!  However I will admit that I also had some reservations...  Since I became familiar with the group, I have associated Midnight Syndicate with the Gothic pieces they have produced.  The albums I'm most familiar with seemed to have a classical vibe in keeping with the classic, archetypal subject matter of haunted houses, vampires, and Victorian era ghosts.  Their music feels in many ways like it's from another time, while "Zombies!!!" series seems to have more of a modern vibe, paying homage to Romero's "Living Dead" films.  I worried, I just wasn't sure that Midnight Syndicate's music would be a good fit.

I should have known better.

While the music has a distinctly different texture, the fingerprints of Midnight Syndicate are all over the album.  In keeping with "Zombies!!!" general aesthetic, the music wouldn't be out of place in a B-movie zombie film.  That sounds like an insult, but that's actually a great compliment.  As is often the case with Midnight Syndicate, they find a way to bring something fresh to the table and manage to reinvigorate even the most tired of horror tropes.

Some of the pieces are generally creepy.  Through the combination of sound effects and sparse atmospheric cues, I had to look over my shoulder more than a few times to make sure I wasn't actually being stalked by the undead.  For eample, check out "They're Coming for You..."

Like on "Monsters of Legend", Midnight Syndicate continues the tradition reworking some of their older pieces into new albums.  For example, "I Don't Think They're Dead" is another version of "The Witching Hour" and "Veiled Hunter" - possibly the most catchy track - was originally released on 2005's "The 13th Hour", but it works great within the context of "Zombies!!!"

One of the things that I have always felt that sets Midnight Syndicate apart from other artists within the genre is their ability to incorporate actual hum-able melody into their pieces.  While most would opt for percussion-heavy music with haphazardly piercing violin shrieks or something of that sort, Midnight Syndicate recognizes that melody matters, and even on "Zombies!!!" this comes to the fore and defines many songs.

With this being an album meant to serve as a soundtrack to the "Zombies!!!" board game I think that this collection is a success.  I may have to finally get around to purchasing the game!  However, even for anyone with little interest in the board game, I can honestly say that like all Midnight Syndicate's work this is a great album for getting into a spooky mood and with Halloween approaching this would be a great accompaniment to your home-haunting activities.

Overall, I recommend "Zombies!!!" as highly as I do the other Midnight Syndicate albums I have reviewed up to this point.  The quality of their output is consistently amazing and I can't wait to hear what to hear what they conjure up next!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

In Memory of Jack Davis

During the hiatus from the Cryptic Corridor it didn't escape my attention that we lost a truly great and influential artist.

Jack Davis, one of my favorite comic artists, passed away on July 27th.

Truly a lifelong artist, Davis was a published illustrator at the age of 12 and he did not retire until he was nearly 90.  He enjoyed a very busy, decades-spanning career creating a staggering amount of output in the form of movie posters, album covers, and various advertisements.  Of course, he is most well known for his work with E.C. Comics and later MAD Magazine.

Davis' artwork gushed irreverent humor so well that he was a perfect fit for MAD's "Usual Gang of Idiots".  He had a very distinctive style which primarily consisted of mangy caricatures with exaggerated features.  At a glance his illustrations might seem haphazardly tossed together, and a maybe a bit sloppy or unrefined, but a closer look at any of his work reveals that he was in fact a master of a variety of media including pencil, ink, and even water color.  His talent has been acknowledged with

Below are a few of my favorite of Jack Davis' illustrations.

"Persecution of the Masses"

Shin Gojira or Godzilla: Resurgence is coming to American theaters this upcoming week and I'm counting down the days with great anticipation.

In addition to being a longtime Godzilla fan, I also enjoy a good soundtrack.  Based on what little I've heard so far, it seems like the music for Shin Godzilla will be another classic theme for the series.

The track starts out with sound effects from the original film which is a great nod to Godzilla's roots.  From what I've read this is just one of many homages to earlier Godzilla films that are to be found in the new movie.  It's great to know this as a fan, that the filmmakers apparently have a deep respect for the character and its history.

The music itself is incredibly haunting and moody.  Shiro Sagisu conveys a great sense of tragedy, but also a feeling of hope.  This fits well considering that much of the promotional materials released up to this point have played up the "Godzilla versus Japan" angle.  The monster is going to wreak a lot of destruction, killing numerous in its wake, but Japan is going to fight back.  I'm so glad to see the series going back to its roots, featuring a Godzilla that is an unstoppable force of nature.

I realize that there's a lot of supposition based on just one piece of music, but I have very high hopes for this movie.  I'll post my thoughts on the Shin Gojira sometime next week after I've seen it.