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All posts for the month September, 2013

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Giger designing the iconic creature from the "Alien" franchise.
Giger designing the iconic creature from the “Alien” franchise.

Hans Rudolf Giger, better known as H.R. Giger, is a Swiss-born conceptual artist who’s designed some of Hollywood’s most terrifying images. Giger, born in Chur, Switzerland in 1940, is also behind some of the music industry’s most eyebrow-rising album art. Taking inspiration from the horror-fiction works of H.P. Lovecraft and images associated with the Necronomicon, as well as his own night terrors, Giger has been Hollywood’s go-to artist for the gruesome and macabre for over 40 years.

Giger began his career in the movie industry as a director, making small horror-tinged sci-fi films in his native Switzerland. He broke on to the international scene most notably for his work on the 1979 blockbuster, Alien. He designed the notorious monster after sketching down one of his own night-terrors, an ailment of which he frequently suffered. The Alien monster has become synonymous with the multi-million dollar franchise.

The Alien monster created by Giger.
The Alien monster created by Giger.

Aside from the Alien franchise, Giger has been involved in several major movies over the decades. He’s responsible for the most terrifying imagery in the horror flicks Poltergiest II: The Other Side and Killer Condom. He’s also credited for designing the Batmobile from 1995’s Batman Forever. Most recently, his original designs were credited in the 2012 horror/sci-fi Alien-precursor, Prometheus, and has been a creative consultant behind the computer game, Dark Seed.

Giger is also well-known in the music industry for creating some of the most controversial album artwork ever released by major labels. He’s the mastermind behind Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s 1973 album Brain Salad Surgery, which had to be edited due to its overtly sexual explicitness. He also designed the limited edition poster (rows of copulating genitalia) that was included in vinyl copies of the Dead Kennedys 1985 release Frankenchrist, which resulted in the arrest of the band’s frontman, Jello Biafra. More recently, Giger has designed a custom microphone stand depicting a naked woman for KoRn frontman Jonathan Davis and has a line of custom-designed signature guitars from Ibanez.

Giger believes that despite the dark and menacing tones behind his work, beauty can be found.

“Some people say my work is often depressing and pessimistic, with the emphasis on death, blood, overcrowding, strange beings and so on, but I don’t really think it is. Some people would say my paintings show a future world and maybe they do, but I paint from reality. There is hope and a kind of beauty in there somewhere, if you look for it,” said Giger in an interview with TIME Magazine.

Ian Curtis of Joy Division.

Ian Curtis of Joy Division.

By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

The often misunderstood (or mystified) Goth genre has roots in the darker and/or unexplored Glam Rock and of the course early modern European historical definition. While many rock journalists have cited Jim Morrison the first Gothic Rock singer with his low, intriguing baritone vocals and previously unexplored lyrical themes which were often disturbing both psychologically and artistically in the 60’s, The Velvet Underground achieved the complete backdrop instrumentally and via arrangement including stylistic contributions.

Lou Reed, singer/songwriter, along with Sterling Morrison, the explorative guitarist and velvet-voiced songstress, Nico probably had more in common with darker art rock of their day but this is in fact why they were astounding as an ensemble to the genre’s infancy.

Into the 70’s, Nick Cave and The Birthday Party continued to travel the uncharted territories with his own brand of improv and perceived madness. And while Ian Curtis of Joy Division did much of the same, he examined personal and rugged emotion, no matter the sort. The depressed Goth myth can begin here unfortunately.

Obvious Jim Morrison influences in lower vocal register were apparent, staggered lyric-focused melodies (like Reed’s) were also highlighted. But instrumentally, The Birthday Party and Joy Division embodied not only the “sound” but also arrangement which as again revamped but with a focus on bottom register as a whole (i.e. bass guitar and other instruments which include a lasher/velvety bottom end or even guitars with deeper timbre). These elements were explored and solidified. The style and name of the genre was being defined.

In September of 1979, Tony Wilson, journalist and host of the British show, So It Goes, used the term Gothic to define Joy Division’s stark and eerie style.

“Dancing music with Gothic overtones.” he explained.

By the time contemporaries such as the longstanding Sisters of Mercy which spanned, and spawned many other subgenres such as Goth-Industrial and Goth Metal. Eventually, contemporaries such as Souxsie and the Banshees and The Cure added their elements and developed their more otherworldly, ethereal take on the genre lyrically and instrumentally. Often sporting an odd mash up of the darker corners of the Glam Rock movement and a sort of Post-Punk irony, the aforementioned acts delivered and stamped Goth Rock into the psyches of any sub or sub sub-genre.

While some sub-genres are often thought of when many people nowadays think of “Goth,” there is no substitute for the root and its purposes; examining universal dark themes (not evil, but dark).

Dark is defined in the Free Dictionary as “Lacking or having very little light: a dark corner. b. Lacking brightness: a dark day. 2. Reflecting only a small fraction of incident light.” Such is the very definition of Goth in ANY medium dating back to Medieval and Renaissance visual art and architecture.

While acts such as Bauhaus are often praised and many worthy modern Goth acts (especially Industrial acts) such as ThouShaltNot are overlooked, modern dark ambient and ethereal examples especially from the Projekt Records label are strongest overall “GOTHS.” Acts such as Black Tape for a Blue Girl, This Ascension and Unto Ashes, as well as the solo projects from Mortiis from the Black Metal band, Emperor, own this era of the genre and have kept it strong and genuine since the 90’s via label owner and musician, Sam Rosenthal.

In addition to my “Picks of the Week” which spanned a proto- Goth to 80’s Goth timeline, I also offer for your consideration the aforementioned classic acts and the following modern often overlooked examples of the best of the genre. Enjoy! And do try and pick up or legally download these independent artists’ records.

Black Tape for a Blue Girl – Across a Thousand Blades

This Ascension – Mysterium

ThouShaltNot – Without Faith

1001199_10151728969039210_262961048_nBy Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Local comic book writer Chris Yambar had a vision some four years ago. That vision was to give his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio the experience of the popular Comic Con comic book showcases that other major cities have annually. He took it upon himself to organize a free showcase held on his own front lawn.

Now, in its fourth year, Yambar’s Lawn Con boasts an eclectic lineup of mainstream and independent artists and writers, as well as all the specialties you’ll find at any other Comic Con. Also, even some surprises that you wouldn’t find anywhere else.

Yambar, who is well-known in the comic industry for his Mr. Beat series, keeps his annual showcase free for the public and for featured artists alike. He does this because independent artists often get shafted at larger events.

“The independent guys, self-publishers and small press guys, are always having their prices jacked up to compete with the other high-priced tables and it’s not fair,” said Yambar. “Some of these people are driving from all over the country, they deserve to be able to sell their stuff at a reasonable price and walk away with something.”

Yambar also indicated that the money it takes for an independent artist to set up a table at a major event is equal to what they could use to publish themselves on a mass scale.

“It costs them $500 to $800 to do a show. As a small press guy, that’s a lot of money. That’s a ton of printing for a lot of things,” said Yambar.

He stressed the importance of smaller publishers and why their work is important.

“These guys are what it’s all about. The small publishers have a lot of passion and love for what they do. There’s some really interesting people coming this year, a little something for everybody,” said Yambar.

Lawn Con 4 will also feature a good selection of mainstream artists too. Some of the people behind The Simpsons and the actor who portrays Spawn will be attending, along with some pop-artists including an artist behind Popeye the Sailor.

“We’ve got Spawn coming this year,” said Ymabar. “We’re all really excited to get to hang out with him.”

The showcase will also be unique in many ways to that of run-of-the-mill comic book shows. Aside from the arrays of exclusive independent talent, there will be a side-show featuring unique talents, stand-up comedians and live performances from local acts Baroque Monody and Phoenix Rising.

Recently, Yambar discovered that DC Comics and Warner Bros. in particular, held an event called “Lawn Con” in San Diego. He indicated that he was displeased with their lack of research before naming and holding the event.

“Would it have killed to do as much as to Google the name before using it? I’m not against what they’re doing, but I just wish they would have done their homework first. I did this for three years prior. I’m not after their money. I just want credit for the idea. I’d love to see Lawn Con Albuquerque someday. It would just have to be done right,” said Yambar.

Lawn Con 4 will be held on Oct. 5 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Yambar’s front yard, located on 23 South Hartford Avenue, Youngstown, Ohio. The event is free, but all donations will go toward children’s literacy via First Book Mahoning Valley.

“This year we are again proud to partner with Amy Neral and First Book Mahoning Valley by providing an environment to not only encourage literacy, but to make sure that every child has the opportunity to read and own their first ever book. Over the past 3 years, Lawn Con and First Book have put hundreds of free children’s books into the hands of young readers without charging them or their parents a dime. We’re excited to continue this tradition,” said Yambar in a mission statement.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Ministry

Artist: Ministry

Album: From Beer to Eternity

Rating: 3.7/5

Release Date: 9/10/13

Following the release of 2007’s The Last Sucker and the world tour that followed, Ministry mainman Al Jourgensen claimed he would put the band to rest indefinitely. Retiring on top of a successful career renaissance, Ministry released a trio of albums during the years of the George W. Bush presidency, heavily criticizing the administration. And Ministry and Bush were to live happily ever after in history. However, that plan didn’t exactly follow through.

By 2011, Jorgensen had reunited with long-time Ministry guitarist and collaborator, Mike Scaccia, to work on their country side-project, Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters. Scaccia had left Ministry during The Last Sucker sessions to reunite with Death Metal pioneers Rigor Mortis, his pre-Ministry band. It wasn’t long after getting a taste of the brutal break-neck riffs Scaccia was so well known for that Jourgensen decided to resurrect Ministry, and 2012’s lackluster effort, Relapse, was produced.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck the Ministry camp in December of last year. Scaccia collapsed on stage and died of congestive heart failure while performing in his home state of Texas. His death deeply affected Jourgensen, who had a long close friendship with him. Nevertheless, triumph overcame tragedy as Jourgensen decided to use Scaccia’s leftover tracks and churn out one last final piece of uncompromising, politically-fueled industrial-metal.

From Beer to Eternity, Ministry’s thirteenth and supposedly final studio album, was release on Sept. 10 via Jourgensen’s 13th Planet Records. After the flop that was Relapse, From Beer to Eternity is a crushingly concise piece of music that will leave Ministry fans of all era pleased.

The album kicks off the lengthy intro track, “Hail to His Majesty (Peasants), a mid-tempo slugger that utilizes Ministry’s trademark quip and ranting. From there, “Punch in the Face” slams with the industrial-metal the band has spent a career pioneering. Classic Ministry through and through, the track sees heavy use of (often comical) samples with machine gun-like programmed drums colliding into a wall of thrash guitars.

From there, more trademark Ministry takes hold. A trio of tracks, including the first single, “PermaWar,” “Perfect Storm,” and “Fairly Unbalanced” all use (and abuse) political themes, giving the far right a repeated kick in the balls. “PermaWar,” a track that’s very in tune which today’s political climate involving the issues with Syria, talks of America’s ever-thriving lust for violence and war, and politicians getting their rocks off in the process. “Perfect Storm” continues along similar lines, with Jourgensen screaming, “These politicians stick their heads in the sand, that’s their solution to the problem at hand. A perfect storm is coming our way, but I think this one is gonna stay.” If you can get past the tired growling vocals, these are really good songs, among the best the album has to offer. Finally, “Fairly Unbalanced” takes a jab at the overtly biased Fox News Channel with a riff that sounds like it could have been heard on Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All.

Sample heavy tracks “The Horror” and “Side FX Include Mikey’s Middle Finger (TV 4)” hark back to Ministry’s early and more primitive industrial days, while “Lesson Unlearned” incorporates an infectious groove amidst the chaos. The Album then begins to drag, with the unnecessarily overdrawn tracks “Thanx but No Thanx” and “Change of Luck.” These tracks get their point across well before their respective eight and seven-minute marks. Finally, the album concludes in true Ministry fashion, with a clash of unintelligible noise on “Enjoy the Quiet.”

From Beer to Eternity is a mostly solid album, their most solid in over a decade. Any riff of Scaccia’s is certainly a highlight. Long gone are the days of The Land of Rape and Honey and The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste, Ministry’s groundbreaking classics. But the band has naturally evolved into a more thrash metal direction, with the emphasis of classic industrial elements dwindling. The album does have it’s share of moments where it touches back to those days, more than any Ministry album since 1996’s Filth Pig. And, thanks to Scaccia, there are no shortage of well constructed, brutal heavy riffs.

All in all, From Beer to Eternity is a good send off for Ministry, as well as an accurate portrait of Mike Scaccia’s intricate style. Pleasing to fans old and new, an album certainly worth picking up for fans of industrial and extreme metal.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

The many stage personas of Wes Borland.

For many, Wes Borland is most well-known as the eccentric guitarist for 90′s rap-metal pioneers Limp Bizkit. Many other know him for his own industrial-rock project, Black Light Burns. However, what many may not know is that Borland’s first love isn’t any of the aforementioned projects, and it might not even be music altogether.

Borland’s often “secret” identity is an oil painter. His love for painting stems from childhood, where he mastered his crafts at the Douglas Anderson School of Arts in Jacksonville. By his teenage years, his other interests, music and guitar, proved fruitful as he joined Limp Bizkit in the mid-90′s and by the late 90′s, they were superstars.

However, Borland never silences his other creative half. Not only did he design the album art to every Limp Bizkit album he was a part of, but created a unique onstage persona that quickly became a unique attraction to the band, adding an exciting, if not confusing, visual element to the high-energy music the band was known for.

An original sketch by Wes Borland courtesy of www.theborlandgallery.com.

“I go onstage wearing almost nothing. I have underwear and my boots on, and I paint my whole head black, from the neck up, and I have the black contacts. All you can see is these glowing teeth,” said Borland in a 2002 interview.

By the time Borland ventured on his own with his own project, Black Light Burns, both the music and his visual artistry came to a head. The music served as the perfect companion to his beautifully bizarre and often surreal oil paintings. Borland described his work in his own third-person account:

“Wes Borland is an Oil Painter who is best known for being a rock guitarist. He is writing this Bio in third person which is awkward, but can’t find anyone else to do it. Delving into realism and surrealism, his work sometimes relies on dog penises, nudity, guns, balls, racism, and Persian rugs in order to look like it’s trying to make a statement that holds some kind of weight or significance. He never projects images to canvas in order to paint and thinks anyone who does this should have their shirts pulled over the tops of their heads while being beaten with sawed off horse legs. His music related credits are virtually endless, but he’s just now getting into the visual art world in order to hopefully have a career that involves art later on in life so he can continue to be a spoiled perpetual baby and not have to ever get a desk job. He loves to paint and kind of hopes you like his paintings, but not too much, because he realizes they aren’t going to change the world or anything. He doesn’t have any awards or credits, but most likely will think he’s a better painter than everyone else anyway, regardless of it being true or not.”

Many of Borland’s present and past paintings can be found on his website,www.theborlandgallery.com.