Horror Metal Sounds – May 2013Friday, 24th May 2013
I could go on and on about the influence of horror in music, but it doesn’t stop there. Horror authors John Skipp & Craig Spector co-wrote the quintessential horror heavy metal novel called The Scream. David J. Schow wrote the Kill Riff as his first published book and although not entirely related about metal, Clive Barker entered the fray with Cabal and it proved to be a lethal story about monsters that truly lived the rock ‘n roll lifestyle. Writer Garrett Boatman contributed Stage Fright as his official entry into the genre and Silence of the Lambd by Thomas Harris might qualify for exhibiting that rock ’n roll attitude, but not really considered as a true horror heavy metal novel. I am including it as a part of this discussion because Hannibal Lector is diabolical as any other frontman in metal can be.
Also debuting in 1988 was Gorezone magazine (Fangoria’s sister publication), plus Slaughterhouse and Fear magazine out of Britain. It seemed everyone was rushing out to release everything and anything horror-related, so the year definitely proved to be the right time to be a fan. Fangoria ran features that year on Black Roses, Slaughterhouse Rock, Return of the Living Dead 2, Pet Cemetery and Pledge Night. All these films dealt in large part with the connection to horror and metal and as you can see the year proved to be dynamite for genre fans. I know I found ‘88 to be an integral part of my genre education in music and movies and this is how my deep love affair for the genres began. I owe it all to Black Roses, so look for future installments of Horror Metal Sounds to examine all avenues within the cultures of horror films and heavy metal music.
Now as I was saying, 1988 proved to be a vital year, thanks in large part to John Fasano’s imaginative take on a gang of demons dressing up as rockers to deceive the unsuspecting youth of a small American town. Cameos in the movie included real-life rock drummer Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge and King Cobra fame) as one of the demonic Black Roses band members and the musical score was backed by a heavy metal soundtrack. These tracks were supplied by Lizzy Borden, Hallow’s Eve, King Cobra, Tempest and Bang Tango. The song “Me Against the World” is featured prominently in the film and it appeared originally on the album Visual Lies by Lizzy Borden. This is a superb soundtrack overall and bolstered by Borden’s catchy anthem, anchors the film to full effect.
Films like Black Roses utilize practical make-up FX, ultimately relying on primitive rod puppetry to bring demonic characters to life. The Julie monster is one such creation that first titillated me back in ’88, and although it may look cheesy by today’s standards, there is a certain charm to the effect that is lacking in modern horror movies. Talented make-up artists Tony Bua and Mike Maddi were responsible for bringing the Julie monster to life, and it is just one of a handful of demonic beasts that plague the citizens of Mill Basin. Actor Sal Viviano appears as lead singer Damien and he is transformed via facial prosthetics into a hellish demon for the climatic sequence, complete with a serpentine tongue. This is arguably the most shocking moment in the movie as lead actor John Martin does battle with the demon in a flaming auditorium.
The ending is truly apocalyptic, and surely this scenario is one that metal bands back in the 80’s would literally draw inspiration from for lyrical content. Most of the Bay area thrash bands who grew to prominence enjoyed singing about nuclear destruction, demonic possession and overall utter darkness on many landmark albums, so a film like Black Roses just became a mirror image of what was being put down in recording studios across America. Like I said, Black Roses is influential on many fronts, including the subtext of how groups like the PMRC lead the moral majority in the mid 80’s in a crusade against metal bands (Judas Priest and Twisted Sister) for offensive lyrics. Reality and fantasy collided in Black Roses, allowing the film to draw inspiration on multiple levels to make a point about the ignorance of youth culture during the Regan Administration.
To sum this all up, 1988 was a phenomenal year for rocksploitation films like Black Roses. Hell, the music of choice for most headbangers reached incendiary levels equally, so the backdrop was set perfectly for Roses to find success with most metalheads. Whether you feel this film is a colossal flop or a revered classic is up to you to decide, but I feel the charm the movie projects far outweighs the negatives. Certainly there are many cheesy looking creature effects and sub par acting moments to sway people into believing this is one bad B movie, but not for me it isn’t. Black Roses takes me back to the glorious days of my youth, ultimately stimulating my imagination and thrilling me to no end.
So does the movie deserve to be on a list citing the 10 top cheesiest heavy metal horror movies of all time? Well perhaps that might be warranted to some, but in my book, it will always be number one and considered to be a MUST HAVE metal horror movie from the 80’s.
Until next time…
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