Friday, 11 August 2017

Lupine Record Club: Celtic Frost – Morbid Tales (2017 CD Reissue)

Year: 1984/2017
Label: BMG/Noise

You can’t talk about any type of metal or hard rock for too long without running across Celtic Frost. Hugely influential across death, doom, black, thrash, and even helping shape Creed(!), Celtic Frost are in a league of their own. There were lots of bands working in a similar vein at the time – most notably Venom and Bathory – but Celtic Frost always stood out above their competitors. There was an intensity and seriousness to their work that belied their youth, and I suspect has helped their work last the distance over the years.  

I first came across their name in 2002, when taking my first steps into the world of extreme metal. But this being a time before YouTube and Spotify, and me not being an avid music pirate*, I didn’t actually hear them until I picked up a copy of Morbid Tales in 2005. Not long afterwards, they’d reform again and release Monotheist; it was intended to be the start of a grand new era for the band, but within a few years things deteriorated again and Celtic Frost were no more, with the key members barely on speaking terms.

Frontman Thomas Gabriel Fischer (aka Tom G. Warrior) has gone on to form Triptykon, while bassist Martin Eric Ain has kept a comparatively low profile. Nonetheless, their legacy still looms large, so I was pretty excited when I heard there was a new reissue of their albums on the way. I think it’s been around a decade since they had any sort of larger scale release, probably to coincide with the then-new Monotheist.

Morbid Tales has been remastered, but not remixed as far as I’m aware. In the past, Tom G. Warrior has been pretty adamant that for better or worse, the original mixes of his albums should be retained, serving as something of a historical document. Plenty of bands of their stature take a pretty revisionist stance when it comes to their own history, so I think there’s something admirable about keeping things as they were, warts and all.

30-odd years later, it still sounds great. It’s definitely raw by comparison to modern production techniques – and even in comparison to some of their contemporaries – but it suited their sound, and it still holds a power that is often lacking in bands that are far more polished. Totally essential for anyone interested in the history of extreme music, and great on its own merits too. But is it worth upgrading if you already own a copy? That’s a more complex question than it might sound – you’ll see why at the end of the review.  


Aside from the remastered audio here are three major changes to the packaging – the first is that that the artwork has been restored to its original look. The more recent reissues had an ersatz artwork on it which was perfectly serviceable, but didn’t have the same crude 80s feel**. For some, this will justify the purchase on its own merits.

The second is one that annoyed me a little – namely, the three Emperor’s Return EP tracks have now been moved to the reissue of To Mega Therion. Every other reissue I’ve run across has had Morbid Tales and Emperor’s Return together, so it seems a little strange to me – but no doubt there are compelling reasons for now doing it this way. It is more “correct” in terms of release chronology. In their place are four rehearsal tracks – Morbid Tales, Messiah (an old Hellhammer track), Procreation of the Wicked and Nocturnal Fears. They’re novel, but (like most bonus tracks) not essential. Still, they were impressively tight on these old tracks; missing them live in Sydney a few years ago is still one of my deepest regrets.

The third is the inclusion of a new booklet; the lyrics are contained of course, but there’s also plenty of cool photos from the era, and some liner notes. But you’ll notice that there are no written contributions from Celtic Frost themselves…and herein lies the complexity that I mentioned earlier.
Though Fischer was heavily involved in the process of creating these reissues, he has now withdrawn support for them due to a dispute with BMG concerning his liner notes. Prior to their release, he also had this to say on Twitter:

 I’m sure both sides have compelling arguments as to why they were right, but being a creative type myself I’m more inclined to side with the artist. So would I have still picked it up had I known this beforehand? Probably not. The older reissues still seem to be readily available for the time being, and I was certainly satisfied with my older copy when I bought it all the way back in 2005 – the extras are nice but don’t necessarily warrant replacing an older edition. But if you’re a fan, you’ll have to make up your own mind.  

*Not to mention that a lot of metal was actually quite hard to get hold of if you wanted to go that route back then.  

**Curiously, it’s been readily available as a t-shirt design for pretty much this whole period; maybe they were able to get the rights back around the time they put out Monotheist 

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Lupine Film Club: The Void


Directors: Steven Kostanski
                 Jeremy Gillespie
Year: 2016

I first heard about The Void late last year, when its name began getting thrown round on a few movie sites as a horror movie to keep an eye on. Words like “Fulci-esque” and “1980s” were mentioned, and that immediately piqued my interest. I love horror but I tend to be pretty bad at staying current; I’m usually happy enough to wait a year or two and then check things out on Netflix or DVD. But this looked like a must-watch.

I would say that the initial descriptors have carried through to the final product. The Void isn’t as intentionally period piece-y as Beyond the Gates (also released in 2016) but the spectre of the 1980s still looms large over the proceedings. The most obvious cinematic touchstones are John Carpenter’s The Thing, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser and Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, but there are plenty of other references to be found too. H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmic horror and the Silent Hill video game series both deserve nods. So if you like any of these, then it’s a fair bet you’ll find something to enjoy about The Void.


It’s a good pool of influences to draw from. But with that caveat, it would be pretty fair to say that The Void is driven by style over substance. The plot is thin even by the standards of the genre; all you need to know is that some kind of cult is trying to open a gateway to the titular Void, and so a whole bunch of horrifying stuff happens along the way. As for how it actually plays out…well, let’s just say you will have many questions, and virtually none of them will be answered by the final reel. The characters are barely even archetypes. Kenneth Welsh’s Dr Powell is fleshed out a little, but you’ll find yourself longing for the rich characterisation found in something like Zombie Flesh Eaters. I also think there are probably a few too many characters onscreen; even allowing for some of them merely being there to build the body count, it doesn’t aid the viewer in building attachment to any of them. There isn’t anything terribly original for experienced viewers and the experience may well be too abstract for newcomers to horror.   



But don’t let this put you off! After all, most of this is a deliberate tribute to The Void’s grindhouse and pulp origins, and the final product is a lot of fun. There are a lot of horror films which are kind of trash when viewed on their own merits, but contain scenes or a special effect that ultimately redeem the film. The Void still stands above plenty of its forebears in that regard. It’s consistently great to look at, with excellent special effects – if you can stomach the gore – and something weird is always about to happen, so you’re never given the chance to be bored. While I wouldn’t say there are any plot twists per se, there are still definitely numerous gruesome surprises in the way things play out. The mythos definitely leaves room for a sequel, and if they take the IndieGoGo route again, I’d be more than happy to put my cash forward. 



The Void is a good, stylish piece of low-budget filmmaking, even showing signs of greatness at points. It’s held back on a number of points, but it’s nonetheless a welcome change from the standard demonic possession fare that has been filling cinemas over the last few years. Highly recommended, if not quite the instant neo-grindhouse classic that I was hoping for. 

Friday, 4 August 2017

POP! Television – Bert Macklin (Parks & Recreation)

Parks and Recreation was one of my favourite comedies of recent years, and there’s no doubt that a huge contributor to its success was Chris Pratt. He’s now a massive star, but just a few years ago he was podgy Andy Dwyer, a lovable fool bumbling his way through life.

One of the most memorable aspects of Andy’s character was his alter ego – FBI agent Bert Macklin.  He’d show up every so often, essentially acting the way a kid does when they’re playing cops and robbers, but usually actually managing to solve a mystery or right a wrong in the process. My favourite episode he features in was probably the one where he helps solve the mystery of who pied Leslie, but all of his appearances are worth watching.

Side note: The spelling of his name seems to be a big ambiguous; most sources online seem to list it as “Burt” but presumably “Bert” is the correct spelling, given that this is an official piece of merchandise.  

I was originally going to pass on the POPs from the Parks and Recreation line. All of them are quite good, but in a time where I am largely restricting myself to horror POPs, I felt Bert was probably the only one I felt would fit in. It’s kind of funny to imagine Bert Macklin bumbling about amongst supernatural foes like Pinhead and IT, but still managing to save the day in the process.

The POP nails the pose and the overall sculpt, but the paint is kind of sloppy. It’s disappointing that Funko are still letting it slide like this after having a couple of years of relatively good paint work. But nonetheless, Bert Macklin is still great fan if you’re a Parks & Recreation fan.       

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

POP! Movies – Pennywise with boat (Chase Version)

I’m normally pretty ambivalent about book-to-movie adaptations. And I must say, I become particularly ambivalent when it comes to Stephen King adaptations, because the hit-miss ratio is very unfavourably skewed.

But with that said, the upcoming adaptation of IT actually looks quite good. Trailers can be misleading, but I’m quietly confident that this will be a good update of the source material. Entertaining as it was, the 1990 Tim Curry miniseries is definitely showing its age (look no further than the spider scene if you need confirmation) and it’s time for an update. It’ll be good to see a new generation pick up the book too.  

Anyway, Funko have decided to release POPs based on Pennywise the Clown, the titular IT. There are three different sculpts, but four versions in total if you include the Chase. The “with boat” version is the basic one, with the other two sculpts serving as retailer exclusives in the USA. No word on when (if ever) they’ll show up in Australia, but I would assume sometime around the movie comes out.

Though I had my initial reservations, I quite like the design they’ve gone with for Pennywise’s costume. The 1990 miniseries was a good take on a “real” clown, though of course with various distorted details to make it clear he was actually anything but. This version is a little more overtly creepy, with the costume having a sort of Elizabethan look, combined with Drop Dead Fred hair and weirdly angled teeth. And of course, he’s holding Georgie’s little paper boat. Poor Georgie…

The paint leaves a little to be desired, but this seems to be the same across regular and Chase versions. The teeth in particular could be neater, but it’s all within acceptable standards.

When I found out there was going to be a Chase version, I figured it would be a pretty easy pass. It’s a sepia paint scheme, which are often underwhelming in execution. But then I ran across it in person and decided it looked just as good as the regular version, if not better. I wouldn’t go and pay aftermarket prices for him, but at retail price it was much of a muchness.

It remains to be seen whether this new look will become iconic in the same fashion as Tim Curry's take, but with the movie just around the corner we don't have long to wait to find out. In the meantime, this figure is a great take on the creepy clown trope; one that doesn't simply look like a poor man's Insane Clown Posse.