Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Intimations of Death, Suicide Forest, Lady Snowblood, 20 Buck Spin

Things that brought me delight in August, 2019:

Felix Timmermans, Intimations of Death
Although he is better known for his humorous tales of the Flemish countryside, Felix Timmermans wrote this collection following a near-fatal illness. Poe-like fixations are on full display throughout the five stories collected here: morbid obsessions, displaced psychosexual yearnings, deathly harbingers, and nerves strained to fevered breaking points. The most outlandish of the tales, "The Cellar," was like Poe's "House of Usher" but instead of brother and sister it's a husband and wife who live in an old house to study "the secret science." The husband is obsessed with staying sexually "pure" to master the occult but the wife discovers carnal desires and it drives them both past the brink of sanity. 

Suicide Forest, self-titled
As you might guess from the project's name, Suicide Forest play depressive atmospheric black metal. (Bandcamp link)

Lady Snowblood
A sublime tale of revenge. I had been meaning to watch this for a long time, but never got around to it until a recent power outage left me with just enough laptop battery to watch it.

Filthy death metal from 20 Buck Spin
 20 Buck Spin is an independent record label specializing in extreme ends of the metal spectrum. I've had a real craving for especially filthy, abject death metal and the label has been scratching that itch. Tomb Mold's Planetary Clairvoyance, Fetid's Steeping Corporeal Mass, and Ulthar's Cosmovore albums have been my repugnant aural repast lately. (Bandcamp link.)

Richard Sala, The Bloody Cardinal
A book written by a presumed-dead murderer poses more questions than it answers as it draws people into a nefarious web. Sala's art is, as always, a rare treat.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
As a huge fan of the books, I experienced more than a little trepidation about the movie adaptation after watching the first trailer. Honestly? This is a great horror flick for a pre-teen audience and it has just enough interesting contextual grit (Vietnam, the draft, Nixon) to keep an older audience in their seats without trying their patience.

Phil Hester & Friends, The Wretch omnibus
I had been unfamiliar with The Wretch comics until Trey from Sorcerer's Skull brought this omnibus to my attention, but now that I've read it I can confidently say that Glass City is no place to settle down and raise a family. All aspects of American Weirdness seem concentrated in Glass City, and the only thing standing between its citizens and Fortean weather, monstrous toys, and demons created by playing heavy metal records backwards is a silent, oily "hero" named The Wretch (also known in his earliest incarnation as The Creep). The individual stories in the collection, which tend to be brief, veer wildly from Deadpool-esque superheroics to Kirby pastiche and Ted McKeeveresque horror, but they're all excellent, bite-sized bits of story perfect for times when you need a comic you can pick up and put down as needed.

Vesania, Deus ex Machina
Vesania's symphonic black metal has always had a carnivalesque edge to it. Deus ex Machina, in particular, feels like the soundtrack to a diabolic masquerade ball.

Kameron Hurley, Rapture
The final book of Kameron Hurley's Bel Dame Apocrypha trilogy is a case study in how you conclude a series. One thing I appreciate about the trilogy is that it has no qualms abut presenting a war-torn world as unthinkably and unpredictably dangerous. An important character dies out of nowhere at a fairly low stakes moment because that's the brutality of war. No character arc, no final moment of heroism, just a bright candle snuffed out without warning. I also really liked the introduction of a powerful sorcerer who is basically like Gandalf if Gandalf were a woman and also basically a walking magical nuke who was just amused to be unleashed on the world again.

Rosalie Cunningham, self-titled
Rosalie Cunningham, previously the lead singer of the now-defunct band Purson, re-emerges with her first solo album. This self-titled record is similar in tone and approach to the work produced by her former band; the genre is still psychedelic rock, but here the cabaret sound really comes to the fore.

Glow, season three
Rapid fire: brutal season opener, still great character development, kinda miss the wrestling because women being physically triumphant on tv is still a rarity, Gina Davis was a great addition to the cast.

Michael Chabon, Gentlemen of the Road
Excellent picaresque adventure tale in which two Jewish vagabonds inadvertantly fight to restore the former ruling family to Khazaria. How unfortunate that Chabon felt it was necessary to write an afterword to address the fucked-up wrongheadedness of both the "literary" and "genre" fiction camps. Literary readers have to be told that it's okay to write an adventure story; genre readers have to be told it's okay for the adventurer heroes to be Jews. In any case, beautiful language and a ripping yarn require no explanation.

 The Autopsy of Jane Doe
I have some doubts about the movie's big revelation and resolution, but The Autopsy of Jane Doe managed a real tension throughout must of its run time.

Three kids are menaced by a babysitter who isn't who she claims to be. Emelie gets away with some pretty fucked-up things happening to those kids and it's made all the more horrific by focusing on their reactions instead of showing the nastiness itself.

Stephen King, Elevation
I found Stephen King's Elevation to be oddly whimsical. Not just in that folksy New England Castle Rock way (though that's in there too), but there's something nearly twee about this guy using his newfound weightlessness to footrace against the lesbian he's trying to befriend. Interesting to see him return to an old idea (the premise isn't dissimilar to Thinner) but with a vastly different tone.

Baroness, Gold & Grey
It's hard not to welcome a new Baroness album, even the one's like this that are a little distractingly noisy and overlong. The second half, which takes a moment to breath, feels like the stronger part of the record.

Winter's Bone
Powerful film about the grinding cycle of poverty, violence, crime, and authority that has no clear vision of how it all works.

Ready or Not
Like Winter's Bone above, this is a movie about a blonde woman fighting for survival. Very different tone, of course; whereas Winter's Bone is grim and harrowing, this is a lighthearted grindhouse navigation of murderous in-laws. Rich people, it turns out, are just the god-damn worst.

False, Portent
Strangely triumphant black metal. (Bandcamp link)

Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, Jordi Benet,
American Vampire Volume Four
Exploring the mythic underpinnings and evolving anxieties of America through the lens of vampire fiction continues! There are three stories in this volume. "Beast in the Cave" is the weakest link; that said, I do appreciate the turn: Skinner Sweet is not the first American vampire; that honor goes to a Native woman whose history has, of course, been erased and replaced with the tale of a descend of white colonialism. "Death-race," which pairs vampires with drag racing, is good fun. "The Nocturnes" grapples with the changing face of America in the 1950s--we've got war veterans and doo-wop, but things aren't what they seem.

Hideyuki Kikuchi and Yoshitaka Amano,
Vampire Hunter D: Mysterious Journey to the North Sea, Part One
The first multi-part Vampire Hunter D story! D comes into possession of a strange bead that leads him to the remains of a resort town that once catered to the pleasures of vampires. Along the way he faces a coterie of strange assassins sent by a Baron Harkonnen-like crime boss to steal said pearl. We meet the only woman so far in the series immune to D's beauty; well, until he gives her a piggyback ride...after that she get's a "warm ache in her loins." As you do.

Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert, 
Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?
No one ever dies once; every version of them remembered by another person dies a death in multiplicity. Worth noting, the other issues collected here are top-notch. "Original Sins/When is a Door" might be the antidote to all the Gritty Batman reboots. "Pavane" was like the horror anthology segment you didn't know you feared.

Dark Sun: Dragon Kings
I find it fascinating to watch the retconning in motion. If I'm not mistaken, in some versions of Athas there is only one dragon in the setting. In Dragon Kings we learn that all of the Sorcerer-Kings were dragons in one stage of development or another. We also get rules for characters turning into dragons. And TENTH levels spells--really interesting seeing what that design space meant at the time.

Lost Laboratory of Kwalish
Plenty of science-fantasy stuff I can steal for Urazya games in this one.