Things that brought me delight in September 2023:
Blut Aus Nord, Disharmonium--Nahab
The great thing about the arrival of a new Blut Aus Nord record is that you never really know what to expect. On Disharmonium--Nahab, Blut Aus Nord operates with a mastery of dissonance. This is a churning, expansive project that evokes the darkest corners of the monstrous and unknown cosmos. Highly recommended for fans of the cosmic strain of weird fiction; this might be the soundtrack to all your favorite books that you never knew existed.
Sean Yseult, I'm In the Band
Sean Yseult's I'm In the Band is a book that documents the bass player's time in White Zombie. The landscape format, while a little awkward to hold, is put to good use here as it's absolutely packed with pictures from tours, publicity, and candid moments from the era. Accompanying the pictures are Yseult's reminiscences about what it was like to be in a weird band that, against all odds, rose out of the ranks of the underground and found unexpected mainstream success.
House of Darkness
House of Darkness was actually a pretty interesting film. A businessman gets more than he bargains for when he picks up a beautiful woman at a bar and drives her home. The film is mostly one long scene of seduction, interrupted by little moments of weirdness, until the final scene. House of Darkness really extends what would probably be the first half hour in a different film. It's pretty easy to see what's coming, and I'm not sure this is what most people think of as a horror film, but I liked the drama of it all. I guess I just don't get tired of Justin Long being a jerkass who gets menaced along the way.
Christa Faust, Gary Phillips, and Andrea Camerini, Peepland
Peepland is a pretty solid crime comic that captures the seedy vibe of Times Square in the 80s. The story centers on a punk rocker who's working the peepshow booths, when one day an on-the-run pornographer passes off a videotape to her before he is unceremoniously pushed in front of a subway train. When the videotape reveals the truth about a seemingly random act of violence in the city, our punk rock sex worker finds herself in the crosshairs of some powerful people who will do anything to get the tape. This one's a nice little jolt of hardboiled, with very fun, evocative art that really nails the grimy, gritty feel of the era.
EYEHATEGOD, A History of Nomadic Behavior
EYEHATEGOD might be the ultimate in Feels Bad music. Their sludgy, punky take on metal feels like being down and out, hungover, and praying for death. Time really hasn't dulled their razorblades at all; despite being a latter-day record, A History of Nomadic Behavior is lacerating stuff. I'm almost afraid to put on some days.
Joe R. Lansdale, The Drive In 2
I really loved Joe R. Lansdale's first Drive In book, but this second one is definitely a different beast. It's a bit odd, structurally speaking, that the sequel is a mostly comprised of lengthy flashbacks. The narrative's forward momentum only peaks it head out of the carnage in the last ten pages of the book, and even then the story of The Drive In 2 really centers on how sometimes it's too late to get a good resolution. That wasn't what I expected out of Lansdale's b-movie madness, but to be honest I appreciated the turn toward the arthouse. I do wish the dinosaur on the cover did feature more prominently in the novel though!
Christa Faust, Mike Deodato Jr., Lee Loughridge, Bad Mother
My monthly tour through Christa Faust's comic output continues. In Bad Mother, a criminal organization kidnaps the wrong soccer mom's kid! While it may strain credibility if you really think about how easily the mom in this comic slips into the role of criminal-thwarting vigilante badass, remember the maxim of MST3K: repeat to yourself it's just a show, you should really just relax. Come for the unusual premise, stay for the hardboiled crime violence meted out with an unnatural and disturbing precision.
Freaks on Parade, Scranton PA
Luckily it only started pouring as we were driving away from the venue! Great show, but we've determined we HATE the venue. Absolutely insanely chaotic clusterfuck parking situation and every employee at the place seemed to disappear as soon as the show was over. Just...no one directing a massive amount of traffic out of there. Also, compared to the awesome food trucks that showed up for the Ghost show the month before...the only choices were really expensive carnival food.
We got there in the middle of Filter's set and used their remaining time on stage to get beer and pizza because we do not give a shit about Filter. Ministry was surprisingly really good! And I appreciated that they didn't fuck around by playing songs from their latter-day albums that no one knows or cares about. Straight goth club banger hits out of them, bless.
I have not traditionally been the biggest Alice Cooper fan, recognizing that he is a classic guy who doesn't really grab my attention, but his show was fantastic actually! Also, Nita Strauss was one of his touring guitarists for this tour. If you put "make a rock chick" into the computer from Weird Science, Nita Strauss would step out.
Rob Zombie was great. If anything he's gotten more energetic on stage--now he does a lot of high kicks? His on-stage banter is weirdly normie--but the setlist was great. Here's a funny thing: before the last song they played a commercial for the release of House of 1000 Corpses. I'm not used to a commercial in a gig, dude.
I didn't get around to Witchkrieg in last month's return to Witchery, but I sure as hell made time for it in September. Frankly, Witchkrieg kicks like a mule. Super tight blackened thrash all the way through, with a bunch of pretty good guest appearances to boot. This thing threatens to push your face in, and then it follows through.
Christa Faust, Mike Deodato Jr., Lee Loughridge, Redemption
Compared to the other Christa Faust comics I read in September, Redemption is a totally different deal. Taking place in a post-apocalyptic Western landscape, the comic deals in regret, vengeance, and the high price paid for holding onto ideals. There aren't many surprises where the characters are concerned in Redemption, but the worldbuilding is pretty nice; it gets the mix of Western conventions and post-apoc bad times just about right. However, whereas Bad Mother felt nicely self-contained, I wouldn't have minded a few more issues to let Redemption really stretch its legs a bit more. I still really enjoyed it--I mean, c'mon, I'm asking for more here!
Still Dead: Book of the Dead 2
Still Dead: Book of the Dead 2 is a book I got my hands on back in 1992, and it was pivotal. I was just getting seriously into horror fiction at the time, I was exploring the more transgressive ends of art, and this splatterpunk thing was...a thing. This book wrapped all of that up in a putrid little package. I wasn't sure that I'd like it nearly as much after re-reading it decades later, but this thing still kicks so much ass. Nominally based on George Romero's zombie flicks, the book collects a number of stories with a real punk rock ethos. Things are seedy, trashy, sardonic, and there's heart under the black leather and rotting flesh. I can't stress how badass this anthology is--I'm not sure it's ever been equaled. I talk about it more on this episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
Dan Brereton, Night Owls
I found myself turning to Dan Brereton's art books for inspiration after devouring a ton of them last month. In September I got ahold of Night Owls. Night Owls mostly collects pin up art of his characters from Nocturnals, but toward the end you get more of a mix of his renditions of monster girls and characters famous from comics and movies. Brereton has a type and man does he follow that muse no matter what dark alley it leads him down.
Do you like pumpkins? Get this. You like hot spooky chicks? Get this. You like some of the best painterly art out there at the moment? You get the picture.
Jill Bauman's art
I picked up some new art in September, including this piece by Jill Bauman, which was used as the cover art for Tor's original edition of Ramsey Campbell's The Doll Who Ate His Mother. I've long loved this particular piece; I probably love the art for that particular Campbell novel even more than the novel itself! There's something about the contrast of classical ruin with the blood and the threat lurking within that really gets me. Just as a fyi, Jill Bauman's prints are quite reasonably priced and come expertly packaged--if you're an afficionado of dark art, you're likely to find something in her catalog or prints that catches your fancy.
Christa Faust, Pricilla Petraites, and Marco Lesko, Hit Me
Rounding out my tour of Christa Faust's crime comics was Hit Me, in which a "professional pain slut" gets mixed up in the criminal underground when a client dies in possession of a bag of stolen diamonds. It turns out that being a sadist is a valuable skill when you're being worked over by the mob during an interrogation. The comic has a wonderful mix of seedy characters, nice action sequences, and a lively, glitzy art style throughout. Not every author successfully makes the transition for comics--and most who try don't get it together--but Christa Faust feels like a natural.
Ramsey Campbell, Ghosts Know
I've been iffy on Ramsey Campbell's work for a long while, despite really wanting to get into what he throws down. That said, Ghosts Know was the easiest of Campbell's novels to get into, so far. Ghosts Know is about a radio host who is trying to expose a "I can hear your dead grandpa" style psychic who seems to be exploiting the family of a teenage girl who has gone missing, but the radio personality ends up accused (in a veiled way) of her murder by said psychic. I would characterize the novel more as suspense than horror, but I appreciate that Campbell didn't tie up all the loose ends too nearly. Also, it's worth mentioning that one technique he makes good use of is hinting at the violent wellspring of the protagonist's anger before spelling out his dark history.
I was in the mood for a slasher flick, but the movie I picked out was so bad I only mention it here to warn you off of it: Alone at Night. Disappointed, and with my slasher itch unscratched, I turned to the third season of Slasher, a series I that's been languishing in my queue for years. And you know, contrary to some opinions I've seen, the Solstice season is actually pretty fun! There are some inventive kills, and a fairly intriguing storyline. Sure, it stretches credibility that most of the potential victims live in the same apartment building, but no more so than a summer camp where murders regularly occur staying open. Spoiler: some folks don't like that "bad" characters survive in the end, but I say if you're watching slashers for the ethical lessons you've already fucked up.
El Gato Gomez's art
While I was on my little art buying binge, I bought a couple pieces from El Gato Gomez. As you can from the picture on the right, I picked up a great vintage-inspired spooky print. You can practically hear the wind blowing eerily, right? I also picked up a not-pictured print depicting all the monster cereal mascots. Damn, I love those guys and want to party with them.
Dan Abnett, Pariah
Is Dan Abnett the most talented author to write tie in game fiction? It sure feels like that's the case. Pariah is the first novel in a sequence that threatens to cross the streams on two of his best series; the book reintroduces the character Bequin, though this is a different Bequin than the one we new from previous novels, as a way to set up the epic confrontation between the inquisitors Ravenor and Eisenhorn.
The setting details in Pariah are great. There are streets in the city of Queen Mab considered holy because a saint once walked down them, so they've been abandoned in reverence by everyone except the PTSD riddled augmented soldiers who make war against each other; Traitor Marines are depicted as monstrously as they should be. And readers of the previous books will get the peculiar joy of noticing elements from the past and figuring out how they fit into the scheme of things.
Ash vs. Evil Dead, Season 2
I'm pushing on with Ash vs. Evil Dead. To be honest, I think this season doesn't hold together as well as the first, at least overall. The episodes in the asylum, in particular, didn't do much for me! But on the positive side, I have to note that Season 2 does all in on some great gross-out gags. And by "gag" I mean you might just gag when some of these scenes roll around. I plan on finishing the series in October; hopefully things pick back up. Spoiler: also, boy, Ash's love interest in this season sure does get over the death of her husband and daughter in short order!!
Famous Monsters, In the Night!!! and Around the World in 80 Bikinis
You can tell that Halloween is right around the corner because I'm digging out all the spooky and fun tunes already. Famous Monsters is an all-girl group who specialized in monster-themed surf rock. Although not the most technically proficient group--if I recall, a couple members may have been fairly new to their instruments--In the Night!!! and Around the World in 80 Bikinis have a primitive charm that's really hard to deny.
Since I was running a hack of Dark Heresy and Savage Worlds in September, I dug up Necropolis 2350 and its supplements for mechanical inspiration. For those who haven't seen it, Necropolis 2350 is basically Warhammer 40k with the numbers filled off and the premise boiled down to a singular focus; instead of presenting a science fantasy world as expansive as 40k's world-building and competing factions, Necropolis 2350 pits a religious human empire against the forces of the undead. There's a lot of cool ideas here, and plenty I can repurpose. I will say, though, that the print in the adventure collection is so miniscule as to be unusable!
I'm not generally a fan of movies with more ambiance than plot, but Enys Men was pretty good. I wouldn't recommend it to many people, but if anyone wants to watch a good approximation of the "hauntological" 70s British horror aesthetic and just let the folk horror vibe wash over them, this is a decent bet. After watching Enys Men, you'll probably be like me: left with no idea what is happening in the movie. Something about an isolated woman on an island with a mournful monolith, reliving her past trauma. Also something about eerie invasive lichen. It hardly matters; just enjoy the creepy ride.
Sandra Niemi, Glamour Ghoul: The Passions and Pain of the Real Vampira, Maila Nurmi and Cassandra Peterson, Yours Cruelly, Elvira
One of these is a biography of Vampira, the other an autobiography of Elvira. I won't say more now, but you can look forward to a very special October episode of Bad Books for Bad People in which we explore both in terrifying depth!
Daniel Way, Jen and Sylvia Soska, Rob Dumo, Kill-Crazy Nymphos Attack!
I hope you weren't expecting subtly from something called Kill-Crazy Nymphos Attack! because you sure as fuck aren't going to get it. Delightfully over-the-top and unafraid of being charged with bad taste, the comic concerns a cut-rate scientist who concocts a formula to make every woman his sexual plaything--except that he's terrible at science, so he just manages to turn all the women in his area into the titular kill-crazy nymphos. You can expect blood, lowbrow gags, and no punches pulled from this baby.
Ghoultown, Best of the Dead West Volume One
Although I've got a bunch of the songs on this "best of" disc from Ghoultown on other releases, there are enough rarities here to make it a worthwhile listen. Of particular interest is "Mistress of the Dark," the band's paean to horror hostess extraordinaire Elvira. "Werewolves on Wheels," "Dead Outlaw," and "Drink With the Living Dead" are also treats.
The Nun II
Let's be honest, The Nun and it's sequel are not good movies, but I'm giving The Nun II some credit for being a bit of decent escapism exactly when I needed it. Although it's a movie that fundamentally doesn't trust its audience--there are at least three instances of flashbacks inserted to explain the (actually quite simple) plot of the movie just in case the people watching are dum-dums--and it's honestly light on scares (even jump scares, oddly enough), but some of the Catholic Lite location work is kinda fun. Also the effect where the demon nun makes a bunch of magazines look like...a demon nun...is pretty cool, even if it makes little sense in the context of the movie.
Dan Abnett, Penitent
I enjoyed Penitent, but it might be the first time where I thought Abnett's plotting gave way to a kludge of necessity rather than just being a cool series of pulpy events. Bequin descends into the city's underbelly, where the desperate and depraved are competing against each other in a bloodsport, just to say thank you to a guy who is not going to remember her? Weird.
Anyway, things get better from there, but it's also an odd choice to have Eisenhorne and Ravenor act like children when they're hundreds of years old. Additionally, one funny thing in the climax: Penitent ends with the revelation of a character's real name, but I'm not steeped deep enough in 40k lore to escape saying "Oh...who is that guy?" Now I've got to wait for the third installment, which is nowhere in sight.
Tales From the Loop: They Grow Up So Fast
They Grow Up So Fast is a campaign book for the Tales From the Loop rpg that focuses on some fateful camping trips and what the kids find out there in the wilderness. I was thinking of running one of the adventures in this book as part of my Halloween games, but they fit so well together as a campaign I can't bear to pry them apart; They Grow Up So Fast feels like an "all or nothing" proposition, which I mean in a positive way.
Gordon Rennie and Martin Emond, White Trash
White Trash is one wild-ass comic, man. An Axl Rose-lookalike falls in with Elvis on the road. Elvis, it turns out, has made a deal with the Devil that requires him to mount a comeback in Las Vegas. Along the way, Elvis engages in extreme ultraviolence and says a bunch of slurs; KKK members, rednecks, and evil preachers get merked left and right and Elvis and his little buddy head toward Sin City. White Trash is an absolutely amazing skewering of American trash culture; absolutely essential PLANET MOTHERFUCKER inspiration, if you ask me.
Hexvessel, Polar Veil
On first listen, Polar Veil was a huge surprise. I'm used to Hexvessel delivering weirdo psychedelic, arboreal folk, but Polar Veil presents an unrelenting wall of churning guitar that is somewhere between shoegaze and Emperor. Hexvessel is outstandingly aggressive on this release, and frankly this curveball is a welcome change. This one is going to require multiple listens to really come to grips with, but I'm legitimately fascinated by this record.
The House That Screamed
Every Halloween season I make a list of movies I want to rewatch (usually ones that my girlfriend hasn't seen yet), but I also always sneak in a few movies that I've been meaning to scratch off my personal list as well. At the end of September, I finally got a chance to see The House That Screamed, aka The Finishing School. This flick concerns a boarding school for young women with some sort of illicit darkness in their past, and of course it isn't a safe or supportive environment. I love a boarding school Gothic, and this one is fantastic. You can definitely see how it influenced films as diverse as Suspiria and a whole host of slashers. Also, I want to note that Arrow Video's restoration of the film is exquisite!
Dark Heresy: Black Sepulchre
We played through Black Sepulchre, the first third of the Apostasy Gambit campaign, in September. (Although we used a hack of Savage Worlds and Dark Heresy instead of using Dark Heresy proper.) I was surprised to see that this series of adventures is held in low esteem in some quarters of the nerd-ass internet; personally, I thought this one had a nice mix of exploration and action, to say nothing of a great introductory scene and a fun "big reveal" at the end of the book that will be especially thrilling to hardcore Warhammer heads.
Soska Sisters Print!
This signed print came with my copy of Kill-Crazy Nymphos Attack! Man, I love the Soska sisters.