The relationship between heavy metal and horror movies

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Apparently Kirk Hammett’s Fear FestEvil went off without a hitch, bringing together metal fans and horror movie fans in a celebration of movie artifacts, horror movie personalities and metal bands saluting their favorite genre of film.

The festival featured performances by Exodus, Death Angel and Carcass, but also had as guests Kerry King (Slayer), Scott Ian (Anthrax/SOD), Doyle (Mistfits) and of course Hammett (Metallica) himself. In addition, you could meet movie legends like Boris Karloff’s wife and son, the man in the Godzilla suit Haruo Nakajima and a number of a directors and actresses from horror movies over the years.

The most interesting quote of the day however came from Hammett himself, who outlined the reasons for the relationship between metal and horror movies:

“There’s a lot of horror elements that have been used in heavy metal for a long time ago. I mean, Black Sabbath was named after a movie. And that was the amazing thing. I was a horror fan and then I became a music fan and then I discovered hard rock and heavy metal and I’d see all these little pieces of imagery or song titles or lyrics borrowed from horror films throughout all these heavy metal bands. They’re made up of the same ingredients. For me, a good horror movie is fun, dynamic, exciting to watch, peaks and valleys. A good heavy metal song, for me, is the same way — exciting to listen to, peaks and valleys, really fun and energetic.”

This leads to the broader question of the connection between metal and horror movies on an artistic level. While many writers have focused on the economic connections, shared fanbase, or similar aesthetic, few have analyzed the question as Hammett has by showing how the two gesture in artistically similar ways. But this resembles statements made by Black Sabbath about the invention of early metal:

One day I thought that it seemed strange that a lot of people spend so much money to see scary movies. Nobody really wanted to listen to us, so we decided to play slightly scary music. We liked it and, yeah, that’s how it all got started. That’s the story of Black Sabbath.

As many commentators have noted, Black Sabbath came out of the late 1960s when “flower power” was still in full flourish. The band wanted to inject a note of darker reality into the notion that one could simply peace out and all would be well. In the world that Black Sabbath introduced, darkness was preeminent but invisible, much like the threatening characters in horror movies who owing to their supernatural or psychotic states can never be pinned down and isolated.

Over the years, metal has cemented its relationship with horror films with lyrical and topical allusions aplenty. As various other cultural movements run themselves over cliffs like drunken parties touring the countryside, and yet metal (and horror films) endures, it might make sense to wonder if those who see the darkness were correct after all.

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The History of Metal and Horror documentary begins filming

The History of Metal and Horror

Director Mike Schiff has embarked on a new project: a documentary called The History of Metal and Horror which explores the complex relationship between heavy metal and horror films. The documentary will include interviews with horror icons such as Tom Savini, Gunnar Hansen, Sid Haig, and John Russo as well as musicians such as Kirk Hammett, Corey Taylor, Alice Cooper, Jonathan Davis, and more.

Metal Blade founder and icon Brian Slagel is producing the film. The producers released the following statement:

A documentary (currently in production) which explores the history of heavy metal music, horror films, and how the two genres have merged together over time.

Various metal artists share their greatest fears, favorite horror films, their influences, and much more. Horror film icons also discuss how their films have influenced the horror genre, their connections to metal artists, and why metal and horror work together.

For more info, head over to the movie website and watch the promo trailer below.

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Death metal horror film Deathgasm wins funding

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You may have read our previous coverage of Deathgasm, the metal-themed horror film that independent producer Jason Lei Howden of New Zealand intends to make. The film, which focuses on the story of two teenage boys who unwittingly summon an ancient evil entity known as The Blind One, will begin shooting in another eight to ten weeks.

Deathgasm is able to be produced because its producers won funding from the Make My Horror Movie competition designed to foster higher quality independent horror films. “With some of the most inventive and shocking gore ever captured, Deathgasm will gush bodily fluids, rain limbs and tickle your funny bone, before tearing it out and giving you a stiff beating with it,” the film’s prospectus promised.

Funds in the form of $200,000 will enable the filmmakers to create the final movie. The film idea beat out 400 other entries and will be funded by Make My Movie, the NZ Film Commission, MPI Media USA and nzherald.co.nz. Director Jason Lei Howden is currently seeking death metal bands who would be willing to allow their songs to be used on the soundtrack, with a preference for underground acts.

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Death metal themed horror film Deathgasm competes for funding

deathgasm_(film)-300x450Some time ago we wrote about Deathgasm, a death metal themed horror film which is attempting to get the most Facebook “likes” to get $200,000 of funding so it can be made.

Thanks tot he many metalheads out there clicking away, the movie made it into the final round of competition for funding. This pits it against a dozen other competitors, with the most popular option (determined by Facebook likes) winning the funds.

Naturally, this means that Deathgasm still needs your clicks, so if this fits your agenda head on over to the Deathgasm project page and click the Facebook “like” icon in the upper right corner.

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The relationship between metal and horror films

carnival_of_soulsWe all know why we distrust public statements by musicians. To be popular in this world, you first must endorse the lifestyle that most people lead, and this usually means praising something from the “edgy” mainstream so everyone knows you’re controlled (and thus “safe”) just like the rest.

Ironic, isn’t it. A whole group of people wanting to be rebels, but unwilling to go past that line that no rebel dare cross and still have the support of the peanut gallery which is encouraging him to rebellion. Reminds me of why the James Dean character finally offed himself in Rebel Without a Cause.

But Ihsahn, formerly of arch-rebels Emperor, is now a safe rebel and he’s giving some interviews praising stuff that you’d expect, if you watched your TV attentively, that “edgy” characters might like. However, some of the subversive is still left in him, so he sneaked in a few goodies in a recent interview:

The dynamics and emotional impact of soundtracks have been great influences on me and much of the reason I wanted to implement orchestral sounds in my music. Jerry Goldsmith’s work with the Omen movies has been an absolute highlight and still is. Also, his use of non-orchestral sounds in this context is very interesting.

However, this isn’t the first mention of horror movies as an inspiration. Just this week, Warbeast’s Bruce Corbitt opined that most of his work was inspired by horror movies. Entombed used horror film riffs in their own work. Black Sabbath tooktheir name from a horror movie, and wrote music to emulate the scary sense of suspense in the dark films they enjoyed.

At what point do we acknowledge this pervasive musical influence, with its own debt to modernist classical, as perhaps the foundational influence on metal itself?

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Warbeast to play Housecore Horror Film Festival on Friday, October 25

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Those of you who have read our coverage of the Housecore Horror Film Festival know that it’s a music/movies event starting today in Austin, TX that will feature a number of prominent metal bands.

Among those, Warbeast stands out as a unique hybrid between past and future. Comprised of members from classic Texas speed/death metal bands like Rotting Corpse, Gammacide and Rigor Mortis, Warbeast presents a modernized version of the speed metal classics of the 1980s with faster tempo changes, more abrupt riffing and more chaotic transitions.

Frontman Bruce Corbitt is the guy everyone wanted to emulate back in 1989. While other bands were lumping their way through yet another tedious song about social justice and how you shouldn’t take drugs, Bruce tore up the stage casually singing about murder, occultism and terror: With five easy slices, you’re in six lovely pieces / Bodily dismemberment as passion increases.

In his current role with Warbeast, he’s revitalizing a new scene and will do it live in front of you at Emo’s in Austin just before 9pm this Friday night. In the meantime, Bruce gives us the rundown on Warbeast and how they came to play a horror movie and metal music festival.

Warbeast released a new album this year, entitled Destroy, which seems to have turned up the volume. What’s different on Destroy versus the first album?

It started with the writing… Scott Shelby wrote the majority of the music and I wrote the majority of the lyrics. Once he had the music part of the songs down with the rest of the musicians in the band… I would add the lyrics later. For some songs he would have a general idea for what he had in mind for what the lyrics should be about. For the other songs, I would get a feel for what the music reminded me of before I came up with the subject to write about. So we had a good system going when we were preparing these songs to record in the studio. Plus we already knew what it was like to work with Philip Anselmo as our Producer. So the chemistry was even better when we recorded this album.

On the first album we were still a relatively new band coming up with our first originals. Some of those songs came from material that was written before Warbeast. I guess what I’m saying is that by the time we started writing for Destroy… we were more aware of what we wanted the band to sound like. I’m proud of both albums and love the fact that they’re different… but they both sound like Warbeast.

How do you think Warbeast will develop in the future? Are you working on new material now?

We intend to keep progressing and improving as a band in all areas. If we can continue to top our last effort on each new album… I would be happy with that. Hopefully we can keep a busy tour schedule like we have in recent years. Yes, we’ve recently started the early stages of writing for a third full-length Warbeast album. So we plan to enter the studio and record it sometime in 2014.

You’ll be playing the Housecore Horror Film Festival in Austin on October 24-27. What are you looking forward to with this performance?

I’m really honored and I feel very fortunate to just be part of this. This will hopefully become an annual event that fans of Horror and Metal will look forward to every year. So it’s really cool to play at the inaugural HHFF! This is one of those highlights from all these years in bands that I know I will be proud of for the rest of my life.

Just the fact that there is going to be such a huge gathering or Horror and Metal fans all assembled for one big weekend will make this a special show for Warbeast. So I’m sure we will be fired up and ready to have some fun when we perform on Friday night.

I understand you have a longstanding relationship with horror films. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

It goes back to when I was a little kid. I always loved Halloween, Haunted Houses, monster movies etc. I loved TV shows like The Munsters and The Addams Family. As far as movies… at first it was the classic Universal Monsters (Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Dracula etc) and also the Godzilla movies that I would try to catch on TV. Once I started going to see movies at the theaters… it was always the Horror Movies I wanted to see.

Then when VCRs came around in the 80s.. I was always in the Horror section when I went to rent or buy movies. Of course I started recording and collecting movies and my Horror Movie collection became immense. Then when I joined Rigor Mortis in 1986 and they already had the Horror and Gore image and theme going… I fit right in with that shit. It was cool to sing about some of our favorite Horror movies. Even on the upcoming Rigor Mortis album Slaves To The Grave and also on the Warbeast album Destroy I’m still singing songs about Horror movies or stories.

Finally, for those who are new to Warbeast, what should they expect at a Warbeast show, and why should they make sure to come see Warbeast if they’re at HHFF?

They should be prepared for an old-school dose of Texas Thrash Metal, a non-stop jolt of energy coming from every member of the band and an adrenaline rush that could wake up the dead. We want it to feel like Godzilla has entered the building! We want to get the crowd warmed up for Goblin and Down… so we will be ready, serious and focused to do just that…

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Death metal horror film Deathgasm solicits funding

deathgasm_(film)-300x450A New Zealand director is campaigning to get his death metal themed horror film funded through a crowdsourced campaign. The film, named Deathgasm, will concern the adventures of social outcasts who discover music that can summon evil.

Written and to be directed by Jason Lei Howden, Deathgasm is designed as a throwback to the early 1980s budget splatter films and the Heavy Metal horror genre. The director promises that Deathgasm will have a soundtrack that “will be the bane of noise control officers the world over.”

The plot revolves around evil, antisocial behavior, Slayer lyrics and black magic, but ultimately turns on a plot point related to music itself. Deathgasm will thus be a themed film with death metal as an integral part of that outlook.

We got a few questions back from director Jason Lei Howden to give our readers more of a feel of where the film is going.

What’s your history with horror movies, and heavy metal?

I’ve been obsessed with horror since I was a kid, and was naturally attracted to the imagery and dark storytelling of Heavy Metal.

When I was really young, I remember seeing Motley Crue and Iron Maiden cassettes and thinking the contents must be the most insanely satanic shit. Which in hindsight seems absurd.

I quickly progressed towards Thrash and Death, those amazing years in the early 90’s, Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, Deicide. Such a great time for Metal.

What are the connections between Deathgasm and heavy metal? What about death metal specifically?

The characters are teenage outcasts. Death Metal is their only form of release. They won’t be wearing Disturbed t-shirts or anything like that; these kids are pure death fans. They are social rejects but find strength in the music. I want to stress that we aren’t out to parody or make fun of Metal, it’s more of a salute to the genre.

I want heaps of references to the classic bands in there, but if we could get some up and coming Death Metal bands on the soundtrack it would be awesome.

There are some amazing Heavy Metal horror films, and Trick Or Treat is a big influence. But it’s a dormant genre and it’s about time to combine brutal sounds and gore again. Death Metal in particular has imagery with is extremely horror when you think of the album covers and lyrics.

There are also occult and satanic themes, they start to dabble in black music and get in over their heads.

In saying that, I want to clarify that you won’t need to be a Metal fan to enjoy Deathgasm, just like Metalocalypse appeals to a huge audience. Anyone who has felt like an outsider will relate to our characters, and fans of Evil Dead, Bad Taste or the Troma films will love the Deathgasm.

Do you think there’s a horror movie culture? What about a heavy metal, or death metal, culture?

New Zealand is so small it’s hard for me to gauge, but Metal culture seems to be far smaller than it used to be. Because there are so many sub-sub genres now, it’s more fragmented. Maybe Metal is better off being underground, whenever it gets too mainstream it de-fangs it a bit.

Horror seems to be still huge, seeing shows like “The Walking Dead” and “American Horror Story” on mainstream TV and getting Emmys is surreal.

Can you tell us about your history with film and horror film?

I went to film school and since then have finished a couple of fantasy/post-apocalyptic short films. It’s really hard to get horror funded here, our industry is based around small coming-of-age dramas.

But even if I don’t get funding, I’m adamant I’ll do a horror next. I work as a visual effects (VFX) artist, working up to 80 hours a week. I need to get outside and throw blood and guts around. We are really lucky to have the Make My Horror Movie Competition; it’s a great opportunity.

You’re launching a funding drive for Deathgasm right now. How close are you to what you need? When you get there, what happens?

The winners get $200,000. The project with the most Facebook “likes” gets into the top five. Right now we don’t have many votes compared to some other projects, but we only submitted recently. We would need a couple of thousand more Facebook “likes” to crack in to that threshold.

There is no sign up or spam, if people go to the page and just click the Facebook “like”, then maybe share it with friends it gets the project visibility and lets the judges know there is a market for a brutal Heavy Metal Horror film.

If we don’t win we may develop the idea more and do a Kickstarter campaign. I want it to be a community thing, with an awesome soundtrack and heaps of Death Metal in-jokes and references.

And gory as hell! The Evil Dead remake was shot in NZ and was pretty gory, but we can take it up a notch or two from that. We have some talented friends and contacts in the practical effects industry here, I don’t want to give too much away but we have some awesome death set-pieces planned. We want to keep it practical; VFX gore just doesn’t look right.

If all goes well-ish, meaning according to plan and accounting for life’s little glitches, when will we be able to see this movie? And where (theatres, Netflix)?

Dark Sky films is a partner, they distribute some great horror, recently Frankenstein’s Army and Hatchet 3. So a lot of people are going to see it. I’m unsure about a theatrical release, netflix would be pretty probable. Would be looking at a late 2014/early 2015 release I would say.

For more information, and to support Jason Howden in his quest to make Deathgasm a reality, please visit the funding page and show support for this project.

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“The Egg” horror/sci-fi from “Until the Light Takes Us” team

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A team of graduate students is working in an experimental science facility when the world goes silent. The people outside are either dead, or have vanished. The students and advisers have to figure out what’s happening before it’s too late. The longer it takes, the worse things get. The students are safe for now. But that’s about to change. Because something new has shown up, and it wants in.

http://www.kickstarter.com/profile/egg

Audrey and Aaron’s collaborative videos and installations have shown in galleries and museums in New York, Tokyo, and Europe. Their award-winning documentary about the black metal underground, “Until the Light Takes Us,” comes out on DVD this September:

http://www.blackmetalmovie.com/

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