Special Feature – Ceremonial Celluloid!

By Marc Lissenburg

Sleep deprivation aside, I prefer a clear head when treating my senses to horror based cinematic pleasures. Conversely, I personally find that my other passion, heavy-as-hell metal, is often better savoured while somewhat imnebriated. With this in mind, I’ve often pondered the curious instances whereby these two leisurely pursuits collide, pitching staunch sobriety against medicated blissfulness.

My disclosing ramble basically alludes to the fun that can be had with trying to identify the sound-bytes of sampled dialogue from our beloved horror genre that are cunningly interwoven into the heaviest music on the planet. This endeavour does have a varying scale of complexity, however. Whereas on one end of the scale, Regan McNeil’s profane howls are the proverbial no-brainer, the other end of the spectrum contains dialogue from flicks whose degree of obscurity make it down right infuriating to identify!

Attempting to produce a definitive inventory of horror-honouring hymnal heaviness in a mere article is ultimately a futile endeavour. This is largely due to my personal unchartered musical territory as much as anything. There are, however, a pick of bands from various sub-genres of metal that have given me pleasure and challenges in equal measures when striving to decipher such quandaries.

One of my earliest dilemmas arrived via the blackened sludge aural assault of the now defunct Coffinworm. The roving bass guitar intro to “Spitting in Infinites Arsehole” (yes that is a song title!) features a dark lingering admission lifted from a suitably psychotic feature. “Something’s happening to me that I just don’t understand. I can’t think straight anymore. It’s like my reasoning is all, uh, twisted and distorted, you know? I seem to be disassociating myself from reality more and more each day. I’m anti-social. I’m becoming dangerously amoral. I – I’ve lost the ability to distinguish between right from wrong, good from bad. I’m scared, Ma. I mean, I feel like I’m – I’m plunging headfirst into some kind of black void of sheer and utter madness…”

The instant that assertion ends, a guitar blast and grunted yowls bludgeon their way out of the speakers. I profess to not being able to identify the movie upon first listen, but assumed it to be something opaquely sinister. Imagine my surprise then when through a chance viewing, I discovered the quote was spawned from Frank Hennenlotter’s genially deranged but jocular FRANKENHOOKER!

Moving into the ultra-violent realms of death metal is a logical next step. There is of course a lot of fun to be had indulging in the flagrant blood splattered carnage of belligerent bands such as Necrophagia whose whole ideology is blatantly founded on paying homage to gore-laden classics from yesteryear. Such obvious deification essentially eliminates the challenge of trying to place a movie by a fraction of its dialogue. Deodato’s classic CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, for example, is venerated by Necrophagia’s song entitled… erm, Cannibal Holocaust! Any notions of coincidence are duly destroyed with its accompanying music video basically constructed of a collage of clips from the movie mixed with some nominal screen time afforded to the band plying their trade.

Indeed Necrophagia’s entire body of work is wholeheartedly dedicated to the adoration of the horror genre. Patent song titles and a copious peppering of sampled dialogue all but confirm their status as horror metal masters. An excellent starting point for those wishing to delve into the blood soaked melodies of Necrophagia is via the amalgamation of interviews and music videos on their Through Eyes of the Dead DVD. Among its highlights is the Blood Freak video, a smorgasbord of whiskey guzzling, incestuous degeneracy and breast gouging. Directed by Jim Van Bebber no less, the 5 minute masterpiece is topped off with a depraved climax (pun definitely intended) that Jörg Buttgereit would have been proud of! Also featuring prominently in the aforementioned DVD is a living heavy metal legend – Philip H Anselmo. Anselmo sparked the beast that is Necrophagia back into life after a 12-year hiatus by contributing heavily to the song writing for the Holocausto de la Morte album, the focal point in the TEotD disc. The masterful metal front man is an encyclopaedic font of horror knowledge and has a priceless horror movie library in his home. The bands he is most renowned for, Pantera, Down and Superjoint(Ritual) are decisively horror-reference free in their recordings. But Anselmo’s passion for horror is allowed to blossom in his self-styled side projects. Apart from Necrophagia, the solitary yet magnificent Christ Inversion LP features several of the more vile Regan quotes from THE EXORCIST. Although done to the point of overkill, the provocative prose is hugely appropriate, considering the band’s moniker.

Then there is the absurd chaos of Viking Crown: Anselmo (under his Anton Crowley pseudonym) teamed up with Necrophagia front man Killjoy for his first venture into the satanic realms of black metal. In my opinion their masterwork was the 1988 Innocence Through Hell album whose intro featured Horace Bones’s opening ritualistic spiel from 1970’s I DRINK YOUR BLOOD. Despite my adulation of the Innocence LP, VC are widely considered a derisory band. A spat of sorts occurred between Anselmo and Killjoy when the former made suggestions that the band were meant as a “joke”, something the latter is alleged to have never forgiven him for. Oops!

Staying in Hellish territory and we find the outstanding Columbian and American duo Inquisition. Their crushingly heavy yet chillingly atmospheric aural assault has metamorphosed from thrash into more opulent black metal over their 17 year career. Of interest here, though, is their 1998 Into the Infernal Regions of the Ancient Cult album. Within its malevolent riffs and demonic vocals is an array of vintage occult-fused dialogue taken from a movie of the same name. It’s at this point that our delving becomes a little more challenging.

The 1978 movie in question, INQUISITION, was not only written by Spanish horror legend Paul Naschy but also marked his directorial debut. Naschy naturally took the lead role as both the witch-hunting Bernard de Fossey and Satan himself. Often deemed a cash-in on the success of Witchfinder General, INQUISITION is one of Naschy’s more austere pictures in comparison with the bedlam of his varying ‘Waldemar Daninsky’ outings. If truth be told, its moroseness is at odds with the frenetic pace music of the band paying their respects. Owning a copy of the movie presents a further challenge, upon discovering the actual spoken words sampled are taken from the ultra rare English dubbed print of the Spanish production. Despite these heady days of digital re-mastered re-releases, the only way to possess an OFFICIAL copy of the movie with English language is the original VHS cassette. Depending on your own personal scruples, you could of course head down the digital bootleg ‘fan dub’ route in order to own an Anglo-vocalised version…

But it’s when things slow down and we descend into the mesmeric depths of stoned out doom metal that a treasure of obscure curiosities awaits us. The doom genre, by the sluggishly crushing heaviness of its design, is in many ways perfect setting for a sprinkling of little cinematic chunks. Bands such as Germany’s Weedruid would be a purely instrumental band if it was not for the clever dusting of sound clips gracing their recordings. Their debut album, Into the Acid Swamp, is a hazy green 55 minute fuzzed-out trip embellished with stretches of distinguished dialogue. The album’s second track, God the Goatsmoker, exemplifies this concept with aplomb by relaying Al Pacino’s memorable “God is a Sadist” rant from DEVILS ADVOCATE.

A band which was one of the first to truly embrace psychedelic horror and sleaze are of course Dorset’s very own Electric Wizard. Front-man Jus Oborn has publicly embraced celluloid from the 1970s on regular occasions. Indeed their adoration of vintage horror and exploitation doesn’t solely deal with carefully selected snippets of dialogue masterfully placed within their fuzzed out mantras. Their live shows are renowned for mixing the two art forms by having a mishmash of clips from their eclectic cinematic tastes playing on the backdrop of the stage. Lina Romay, for example, is regularly and dotingly brought back to life with clips of her strapped to a St Andrews cross in the kinky opening scenes of 1973’s EVORCISM. Add to that a meld of biker and sexploitation clips, and the hypnotic Wizard experience may justifiably be considered the epitome of psychedelic seventies brought to life.

There is, of course, a notable smattering of audible oddments incorporated into their infernally heavy earlier work. 1997’s Come My Fanatics album wore its horror affiliated heart clearly on its sleeve. A cocaine fuelled “Get off my case motherfucker” is dripped into Return Trip courtesy of the Frank von Kuegelgen English dubbing of Giovanni Lombardo Radice / John Morghen’s Mike Logan from 1981’s infamous Cannibal Ferox. On the same album, Wizard in Black is set in motion by Arthur Kennedy’s rant, complete with Ray Lovelock’s silencing retort in 1974’s LIVING DEAD AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE:

“You’re all the same the lot of you with your long hair and faggot clothes. Drugs, sex, every sort of filth! And you hate the police, don’t you?”
“You make it easy…”

Three years later, the album thought by many to be the pinnacle of their illustrious drugged out catalogue, Dopethrone, arrived. Within its resin-greased riffs, some marvellous film based intros to tracks are evident. While not a movie per se, the album itself opens with a sound clip from American news propaganda TV show 20/20 which did an episode called The Devil Worshippers that aired in 1985.

“When you get into one of these groups, there’s only a couple of ways you can get out. One is death… the other is mental institutions…” is the grave warning given by Dale Griffis, a then police chief in Tiffin, Ohio who is interviewed during the episode. The quote ornately kick-starts the album’s opening track Vinum Sabbathi. As the record progresses, further songs are initiated with shrewdly chosen film clips. Reggie Nalder’s sinister character from 1970’s MARK OF THE DEVIL perfectly launches the track I, the Witchfinder with the words “I am Albino… you wished to see me?” while a lo-fi homily from AIP’s THE DUNWICH HORROR adds a layer of mystique at the start of We Hate You.

After the anticlimactic Let Us Prey in 2002, a turbulent couple of years followed before EW triumphed with a new line up and album, We Live. The horror movie element remained prominent in its essence. The title of the opening track, for example, EKO EKO AZARAK mirrors Shimako Sato’s inaugural “Black Wizard” entry to his live action interpretations of the Manga horror series. As the album opener fades, Chief Inspector Hesseltine’s perplexing conversations with his sergeant from 1973’s PSYCHOMANIA gets the title track underway.

“Something must have forced him over”
“Did you get anything off of the witnesses?”
“Yes sir, exactly the same story from all of them. Two motorcyclists jabbing at his tyre with a knife”
“Any identification?”
“Yeah..the Living Dead again!”

My favourite EW album is bereft of any movie samples, though Witchcult Today’s front cover is graced with a tripped out depiction of a classic THE DEVIL RIDES OUT poster. An infusion of vintage horror is conspicuous with the narcotic addled ode to Hammer Films in The Satanic Rites of Count Drugula, plus a heavy reinterpretation of Acanthus’s classic title tune to Jean Rollin’s LE FRISSON DES VAMPIRES. It was back to the 1980s Satanic Panic era with 2015’s Time to Die, with extended clips from that 20/20 episode including news clips reporting the incarcerated suicidal demise of Acid King, Ricky Kasso.

Over the last few years, heavy music has been graced with the uprising of the self styled ‘occult doom’ sub genre. Within its spectrum is a truly intriguing band that remains uniquely original and fresh despite on the surface snugly fitting this faction’s blueprint. I present before you the intoxicating sonic experience that is the Canadian quartet known as Blood Ceremony…!

Blood Ceremony’s association with horror movies begins before a note is even struck. According to their record label, Rise Above Records, the band embarked upon a “mind numbing study of hundreds of witchcraft movies” before starting to “craft some songs”. Indeed, their very moniker is affectionately borrowed from Jorge Grau’s 1973 peculiar and moody take on the legend of Elizabeth Bathory. Ceremonia Sangrienta aka The Legend of Blood Castle aka Blood Ceremony is a steadily-paced slice of cinematic fascination pivoting around the central narrative of Luci Bose’s pained performance as the youth craving Elisabeth. Grau’s meandering subplots however contrive to incongruously weave together elements of vampirism, vanity, obsession and the odd cursed medallion for good measure!

It’s this principle of multi faceted eccentricity that serves such a relevant fellowship between band and film. Founders and bastions Alia O’Brien and guitarist Sean Kennedy offer a collective array of musical prowess which combine to produce a potent sonic brew. O’Brien’s unholy trinity of talents comprise of ominously delivered vocals; evocative organ and fervent flute playing are complimented by an almost unashamedly joyous embrace of the profane courtesy to Kennedy’s lead guitar groove and occult inspired lyrics. The band’s diverse musical influences and backgrounds has not only enthralled listeners, but has also perplexed those intent on wishing to categorize their genus. “Flute tinged witch rock” is a common term bandied about while Kennedy himself shrewdly described their sound as “folkier Sabbath”. O’Brien, on the other hand, simply labelled it “heavy rock with doom influence”, which goes some way into nailing down the band’s sound.

When perusing the linear artwork of their self titled debut LP’s inner artwork we are greeted with the wonderfully surreal image of Isolde’s dreamlike emergence from the grandfather clock in Jean Rollin’s previously mentioned classic. This use of iconic movie imagery was in evidence when promoting their 2011 European tour. Flyers and posters lovingly bastardized the inlay of the vinyl soundtrack for Alan Gibson’s swinging thriller, GOODBYE GEMINI. But it’s the stylus gently nestling in the vinyl groove that serves to delight with a subtle sprinkling of horror ethos throughout their harmonious catalogue of work.

The opening seconds on their inaugural record announce the band’s essence with Alia’s organ growing from silence into a ritualistic din ahead of the rhythm kicking in. It’s then that the enigmatic front woman’s opening vocals conjure something quite special…

“Cagliostro sits in his vault of nepenthe. The bird woman waits with a mystical hen. A spell awakens the narcotic eye ……”

Jess Franco aficionados will have no trouble in recognising the link between that ode and the outlandish EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN. The lyric conjures images of Anne Libert’s almost trancelike portrayal as Melisa the ‘birdwoman’ alongside Howard Vernon’s staid performance as Cagliostro. With the metallic tinted Fernando Bilbao as Frankenstein’s ‘Monstruo’, Luis Barboo on flagellating duty (naked or sporting leopard skin loin cloth, depending on what version you watch) and the legendary director himself as Morpho, Dr Frankenstein’s (Denis Price) assistant, the term “narcotic eye” is somewhat apt when referencing this outlandish caper!

The first actual movie sample however is aired in the final bars of the track Hop Toad. Again it’s a line from PSYCHOMANIA, with Tom’s “in you go little green friend” fittingly used to close the track.

Their sophomore LP, Living with the Ancients, heralded a notable expansion in the band’s sound. Despite the more complex song structures, the lyrics imbued the spirit of celebrating antediluvian devilry. Concert favourite My Demon Brother is of special interest here though. The commencing organ notes are overlaid with Jonny Alucard’s enticing proposal from the much maligned DRACULA A.D.72: “A date… with the Devil. A bacchanal with Beelzebub!”

The album’s flirtatious adulation of Aleister Crowley peaks with the track Oliver Haddo, patently dedicated to The Great Beast. It’s this number that opens with the charily delivered dialogue:

“The seven moons have passed… today we shall take them. I want when the supreme day comes, that they are sufficiently prepared for the sacrifice….”

I couldn’t place the movie when initially hearing the song but thanks to a timely yet random viewing of another exquisite Paul Naschy picture, the source was revealed! 1973’s HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB is a charmingly peculiar slice of Spanish madness featuring Paul Naschy (again) in a trio of roles. The tale begins in medieval France with the beheading of evil warlock Alaric De Marnac (Naschy) at the hand of his righteous brother Armand (Naschy). Also subject to execution is the alluringly wicked Helga Line as De Marnac’s partner, Mabille De Lancré. The narrative then flits forward to present day 1970s and sees Naschy again, as descendent Hugo De Marnac. Via a séance, De Marnac is drawn toward the decapitated yet all powerful corpse of his ancestor. The warlock’s quest for rejuvenation is the basis for a satisfying tale of satanic vengeance with Naschy in fine form.

BC’s highly anticipated third album, The Eldritch Dark, is often regarded as the bands crowning achievement. (Personally I have found trying to ‘rate’ their albums in order of greatness a futile endeavour due to the wonderfully diverse nature of each offering). Overtures of H.P. Lovecraft, along with traditional folk tales, form the basis of the albums themes. The album opens with their reimagining of the Witchwood folk tale with Alia’s superlative talents at their haunting best throughout the track. Her organ adds a stratum of atmosphere to Kennedy’s sonic craftsmanship, while the chilling inflection of her voice is at times hypnotic. The song’s perfectly executed climax meanwhile makes it seem completely plausible to ‘head bang’ to the purposeful flurry of her flute!

It’s this opening track that caused me my biggest challenge when trying to nail down the source of any film sample. As the flutes enchanting shrills pervade, a captivating film quote, delivered with a whiff of hallucinogenic echo had me somewhat perplexed…

“The old customs remain, and the ancient gods live ON….”

Possibly due to the acoustic song Lord Summerisle as the albums’ third track, I pictured it as a line from THE WICKERMAN delivered by Christopher Lee as the aforesaid character. Alas I was totally off track! The search began, trawling through the internet and forums in search of the answer. In hindsight, considering the band’s accessibility, a simple message to their Facebook page may well have put me out of my misery. But firstly I am very much a Facebook-phobe and secondly, a much anticipated Blood Ceremony concert was fast approaching. With a venue full of fans and of course the band themselves, what better opportunity would I have to organically satisfy my query?

Getting to the venue early I was encouraged to see bassist Lucas Gadke at the merchandise table. More than happy to converse with the fans, I waited my turn to ask my burning question.

He intently listened as I explained my misdemeanour for wrongly assuming Robin Hardy’s masterpiece. The bassist fondly racked his brains… but ultimately had to admit he couldn’t recall the actual film title! “Sean and Alia will know… the whole movie thing is more their baby”, I remember him delegating. No problem. At least it gave me a reason to approach them should I get the opportunity to pay them my respects in person.

After fruitless chats with fellow fans, roadies, and the goddess herself that is Alia O’Brien (congrats on the PHD in ethnomusicology m’lady) I finally got a minute or two with Sean Kennedy. A gushing chat about movies soon confirmed his passionate admiration of archetypal 1970s occult themed cinema. I asked my question… and Sean answered with a cool and casual…“Oh that’s Peter Cushing from The DEVILS MEN..”

I felt a meld of relief and a touch of embarrassment that I somehow contrived to miss the fact my favourite actor of all time was responsible for such mystery. The minute I arrived home that night, I duly purchased the DVD and savoured it the instant it arrived through my letterbox later that week. I only had to wait a few minutes for a crimson-robed Cushing to deliver the ritual based dialogue with outstretched arms as flames licked the night air in arguably the movies’ best scene!

The idea of Cushing as Baron Carofax, the head of a Satanic Cult sited on a remote Greek island, making sacrifices to the great god Minotaur and being pursued by an exuberant yet hapless priest Father Roche (Donald Pleasance) sounds a whole heap of fun. I must confess I found the movie to be something of an anticlimax. Some lame humour and crater size holes in the plot make this a regrettably forgettable experience. But… at least I can rest easy again knowing where that line came from!

Their 4th album, Lord of Misrule, completes the BC story thus far. Although film associations are at a premium, the band playfully experiment with different musical styles while still enthralling in their own unique way. The opening track, certainly the heaviest from a rock perspective – The Devils Widow, is a stomping riff laden slab of music telling the tale of Tam Lin. While it’s more feasible this was inspired by the original Scottish folk song, Tam Lin, as opposed to Roddy McDowall’s 1970 movie (his first and last venture in the director’s chair) it was enough to at least bring that obscure outing onto to my radar. With Ian McShane in a lead role joined by an array of British horror talent such as Stephanie Beacham, Joanna Lumley, Jenny Hanley and Madeline Smith, there is more than enough reason to give this forgotten flick a look.

Well I hope my horror metal meander has intrigued and maybe even answered the odd burning quandary among you. While writing this piece, the new Dopelord album, Children of the Haze, landed on my lap. Apart from the fact it sounds almost orgasmic in places, an array of mysterious but vaguely familiar clips of dialogue have given me my next challenge…