Review: Sons of Perdition – Trinity (2013, GraveWax Records)

Genre: Gothic Country, Traditional Country, Western

Trinity - Front Cover

It’s been three years since Zebulon Whatley released a full length under the name Sons of Perdition and Trinity marks his triumphant return with more songs of woe and damnation. Trinity completes the “Dissolution Trilogy” which also included The Kingdom is on Fire (2007) and Psalms for the Spiritually Dead (2010). As with previous releases the lyrics are full of dark, gruesome imagery. Zebulon Whatley is as much a narrator as he is a vocalist, Trinity being his most linear effort yet. His words follow the story of a man’s travels through the West as he falls into crime and descends into madness. As with the past two albums, religious themes are heavenly interspersed throughout the lyrics, if you couldn’t tell by the name. “Lenders in the Temple” criticizes the church’s greed as the poor starve around them, this is shown in one my favorite passages in the song after the priest shoots our main man’s partner after they attempt to rob the church; “The priest hit his knees like a man meant to pray, his vestments in gore, his beady eyes glazed. But he wasn’t giving last rights to my friend growing cold. The cops swarmed around me as he clawed for his gold”. The lyrics perfectly paint a picture of the story that Whatley is telling, you can practically taste the dust of the ol’ West in your mouth as you read along to his words.

The music and production is the most notable improvement from the past releases. Not that it was bad on the past two albums, but that it’s so excellent on Trinity. This sounds like the soundtrack to the most haunting western movie you’ll ever see. “Bones of Ymir”, a story of cannibalism and madness, is downright creepy. Perfectly supplementing Zebulon’s crooning voice is an orchestra of eerie, rising violin, crawling double bass lines, some background ambiance sounds, and subtle electric guitar lines that build up to a cacophonous conclusion. “The Serpent” sounds like the getaway music of an outlaw on the run with it’s galloping acoustic guitar, soaring strings, and classical guitar melody. The vocals in the chorus are quite catchy too. “Profane the Night” features an electric guitar rolling through chords with heavy use of the vibrato bar, a classic sound in many westerns, as Whatley’s distorted, demonic vocals (that have been heavily overdubbed) trade words back and forth with Sophia Nadaud’s howling voice. The music on “Lenders on the Temple” is much more pleasant than the gorey lyrics would make you think; with soft piano parts, harmonica, and some acoustic guitar guided by slow paced double bass lines. The longest track on the album at just over seven minutes, “Zero Point” leads us towards the epic conclusion, building up with piano and soft acoustic guitar before a fuzzed out electric guitar breaks through with the closest thing to a guitar solo you’re going to get on a Sons of Perdition album. The album slows down and closes with “Ascension”, the epilogue to Whatley’s epic tale, as the Apocalypse seems to come true with Whatley trading vocals with Peter Murphy of Peter Murphy ‘s Carver Combo (not of Bauhaus, it’s okay I got mixed up too). Would you expect any other ending from Sons of Perdition?

This album is the closest thing you’re going to get to stumbling upon a stranger’s campsite in the Old West and having him tell you a story of murder, damnation, and woe. Zebulon Whatley’s haunting voice and words full of dark and gruesome imagery backed by his layered, meticulously composed instrumentals will throw you right into the heart of the story as it plays out in your head like an old picture show. I loved this album from start to finish, and I’m sure anyone into dark country, western films, and murder ballads will love it too. It may be a bit grim for the average music fan, but for the storytelling aspect alone I recommend that anyone at least give it a try.

Trinity will be released on November 12th 2013.

9/10

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sop

Review: Bad Milo! (2013, Magnet Releasing)

“EMBRACE YOUR INNER DEMON.”

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Category: Body Horror, Horror-Comedy, Monster Movie
Directed by:
Jacob Vaughan

Written by: Jacob Vaughan, Benjamin Hayes
Starring: Ken Marino, Peter Stormare, Gillian Jacobs, Stephen Root, Mary Kay Place, Patrick Warburton
Music: Ted Masur
Cinematography: James Laxton

Yet again Magnet fails to let me down with another one of their quirky horror films. Bad Milo! is the story of Ken (Ken Marino; Party Down, Children’s Hospital) who’s got a lot of shit to deal with; a douchebag boss (Patrick Warburton; Seinfeld, The Venture Bros.), annoying coworkers, an overbearing mother (Mary Kay Place; she’s been in probably a hundred movies if not more) desperate for grandchildren, an absent father (Stephen Root; Office Space, King of the Hill), and his wife (Gillian Jacobs; Community) who also wants a baby. Eventually all of his stress physically manifests as a tiny demon who resides where the sun doesn’t shine. With the help of his therapist (Peter Stormare; The Big Lebowski, Fargo) he must bond with the little fucker to keep him from going on a bloody rampage. With a synopsis and cast like that backed by Magnet, there really was no way this could be awful. I’ve never heard of director Jacob Vaughan, I think this might be his first big production film.

The dialogue in the film is really well done, a lot of hilarious interactions between characters. The movie is pretty goofy as a whole, but the humor doesn’t come off as corny. Well some of it is, but it works. There is a decent amount of blood shed too which is always a plus. Most of the effects seem to be practical, aside from a few moments Milo apprears to be a puppet or animatronic throughout the film. There’s even a scene where someone clearly just threw his stiff dummy like a football, totally fake looking but it adds perfectly to the humor of the film. If you’re familiar with the cast at all, you know you really don’t have to worry about bad acting. Sure some characters are a little over the top, but that’s kind of the point of this whole movie.

Anyone who’s in the mood for some silly, horror comedy should definitely check this out. I dig this movie, I knew before I saw it that it was going to good and I wasn’t let down. Magnet doesn’t fuck around, check out the rest of their catalog.

8/10

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Thoughts?

Review: The Burrowers (2008, Lionsgate Entertainment)

“EVIL WILL SURFACE.”

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Category: Monster Movie, Western
Directed by:
J.T. Petty

Written by: J.T. Petty
Starring: Clancy Brown, William Mapother, Laura Leighton, Sean Patrick Thomas
Music: Joseph LoDuca
Cinematography: Phil Parmet

The Burrowers takes place in the late 1870s Dakota Territory (which would split to become North and South Dakota post 1889) where members of the Stewart Family have been murdered with some of their kin missing. A posse forms together to search for the missing family members. Initially suspecting a tribe of Native Americans responsible, the gang discovers that something much more supernatural is afoot.

While it’s shot well this movie never really pulled me in or did a good job building tension, it just sort of meanders through its story line. It wasn’t scary or gory enough to be a horror film nor intense enough to be a thriller, it’s just a slow crawling film set in the West with some creatures thrown in. The dialogue is a bit stale, all of characters are pretty much stereotypes. It’s hard to comment on the acting due to what the actors were given to work with, not bad nor very convincing. There’s a cool scene where they find a girl buried alive which is pretty gnarly, not much else struck me other than that though. Oh, there’s lots of abuse and racism towards Native Americans throughout the film, which makes sense given the setting but some of it had nothing to do with the plot. The creature design is alright, definitely different. I saw plenty of reviewers that hated the ending, but that was honestly my favorite part. It was unexpected with a twist of bleak humor, right up my alley.

Not the worst movie I’ve seen, it’s something to watch on a rainy day when you don’t have much else going on. Hopefully the next weird western I watch is a bit better. Check this out if you want to see some Injuns get fucked up and white people get killed by subterranean critters.

5/10

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Thoughts?