Playing Records – October 2014

Album Of The Month – October

Electric Wizard – Time To Die
2014 – Spinefarm Records

Electric Wizard Time To Die Blog

During the late evening of June 16 1984 in Northport, Long Island, New York, Ricky Kasso subjected associate Gary Lauwers to over four hours of hallucinogenic drug fuelled stabbings and torture. He allegedly did this in the name of Satan. He finished his grisly task by gouging out Lauwers’ eyeballs, ordering him to say he loved Satan then filled his throat with rocks until he finally expired. Gary Lauwers’ partly mutilated and decomposing body was recovered by law enforcement officers two weeks afterwards, Kasso was arrested and subsequently hanged himself in his cell the day afterwards.

It’s time to die now.

A simple case of an argument between teenagers under the influence of large doses of LSD about allegedly stolen bags of PCP, an acid dropping anti-social grave robbing loner wearing a metal t-shirt and putting all of life’s shitty fucked up faith in a belief in Satan. Is it really all that simple? This was in fact a story about death of self, destruction of entire belief systems, rejection of conventional values and the ultimate sacrifice – not drugs, Satanic ritual or a fucking AC/DC t-shirt. Commentators were quick to make the usual connections between Kasso’s taste in music, habitual and prolific drug use and interest in an alternative way of life that didn’t sit comfortably with theirs and condemned him for all of the wrong reasons.

Dorset’s finest doom metal band Electric Wizard have chosen to make this entire story the basis of their eighth album and it has quite literally blown me away with it’s terminally heavy, oppressively stoned despair. The burbling brook and TV reportage that opens the LP is shot through with a terrible sunlit starkness and unnerving reality. It puts you right there at the scene of the murder and makes you look at the rotting corpse as cops survey the scene. This first track, Incense For The Damned is a lyrically unnerving stare through another pair of eyes…

“We wanna get high before we die”

“You say drugs are evil / But your world seems worse to me / I don’t give a fuck about anyone”

Oborn and Buckingham’s guitars are intimately raw and immediate, their sound is thick and murky. Dirgeful, filthy and beautiful. Title track ’Time To Die’ features an unexpected organ intro which soon collapses under a welter of riffs and frenzied wah-wah soloing.

“Wake up baby it’s time to die / wake the children it’s time to die”

“Maybe I’m already dead… we’re all shadows in the darkness”

‘Funeral Of Your Mind’ is thick with weed smoke, a cloud of hazy, swirling drugginess and just the kind of brilliantly Sabbathian fuck you I haven’t heard for a very long time. Probably since The Wizard’s last LP. Oborn’s voice is veiled in reverb – he mumbles and wails incomprehensibly at times. The guitar solo is sublime, buzzing wah-wah alchemy which leads the track into a final disintegration of confused distortion. ’SadioWitch’ is a sneering, hateful ball of spite spewed from weed-sodden lungs – vengeful and just fucking nasty for the sake of it. ‘Lucifer’s Slaves’ is dirgeful and dripping with a drug habit that would give even a heavy user second thoughts. The subtle use of Moog midway through the track though is a thing of disturbed beauty that actually brought out a few tears. Not a common occurrence on a record such as this.

“Fuck your world, fuck everything”

“Die… DIE… fuck YOU”

But the best run of tracks here are utterly monumental, ‘I Am Nothing’ is eleven and a half minutes of sleazy, blood spattered riffage. As heavy, bleak and nihilistic as fuck. Sonic murder. Death by guitars. It’s akin to being repeatedly kicked in the face with heavy boots… or stabbed in the chest with a blunt rusty knife.

“I am nothing / I mean nothing / I see nothing / I feel nothing… as I kill you”

The whole track falls apart midway into a drug-fuelled freak out which seems to capture an ecstatic release of some kind. A build up to an immensely brutal act. Murder and destruction in musical terms. This fucked up coda then segues into more TV reportage pushing the fact that despite the fact that Kasso was interested in “Satanism and rock music associated with devil worship” the killing was being treated as a mere drug related crime. Nothing to see here folks, move along now. It was the drugs that did it guv’ and not The Great Horned One so you can all go back to your blameless, perfect, living-dead existences without a care in your antiseptic little lives. This brief interlude ends chillingly with the voice of an innocent child who passionately intones;

“Oh my Satan, destroy those who love god”

The LP ends with another brief, Moog heavy instrumental, ’Saturn Dethroned’ which is probably one of the most genuinely stirring pieces of music you’ll hear this year or next. And then the heavy fist of fucked up respectability punches you full in the face to bloody your nose in the name of some fucking spurious, spiritually bankrupt, god-fearing and ever loving bastard to remind you that;

“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. Or the third – you can’t get out”

Go right to fucking hell yourself, preferably with this album playing as your soundtrack.

This LP is probably all I’ll be listening to for the coming weeks and months. It says so much to me right now, connects with a part of my being that I never knew I had. It repulses me too but completely draws me in to it’s twisted, noxious and supremely squalid gorgeousness. When an album touches you as deeply as this one clearly has, it truly changes your life. It may be the difference between a hair’s breadth or a seismic shift but your life is somehow different because of this music playing on your hi-fi… in your head, in your mind.

This album has definitely changed my life in parts these past few weeks, I’m still trying to work out how much those changes amount to and what comes next.

Essential listening doesn’t go nearly far enough.

Electric Wizard 1

The Arrival Of The Huge Brown Parcels

A week or so ago I was hard pressed to find a single decent title online, even after a good hour of searching on the iPad but then without warning, things changed completely. I struck a seam of books which were all offered at ‘Buy It Now’ prices (I’m far too impatient for all that mucking about waiting for auctions to end malarky!) and began to make a tentative selection before the spectre of cost began to loom over the whole endeavour and spoil things with reality. Then a job lot of Digit paperbacks joined the search and I was once again sifting through a whole pile of ‘possibles’ and ‘maybes’.

After a long bout of heated consideration I had my ‘essentials’ list compiled and finally got round to the financial transaction of this admittedly large stack of paperbacks. Eventually I decided that the cost was within my range and so I set about adding the twenty or so titles (plus the job lot naturally) to my basket. The Paypal step was over far too quickly and now all I had to do was wait for my new arrivals, something else I’m incredibly impatient about!

A few days later a a couple of huge brown parcels arrived for me containing my newly acquired stash of books. I was as excited as a kid on his birthday morning as I tore away the wrappings to reveal piles of carefully wrapped novels. Happiness for me is a series of simple things – a great book with a cracking cover, the completion of a long overdue collection or even the nostalgia inducing whiff of stale paper as I quietly read all serve to boost my endorphin levels.

But enough of this interminable preamble, here is a selection of eight books, all of which were contained within those two fabulous parcels, I’ll be slipping in more covers as time passes – comments at the ready;

This Immortal by Roger Zelazny
This version was published in 1968 by Panther Books
The cover artist is uncredited

Zelazny This Immortal

Patron Of The Arts by Wiliiam Rotsler
This version was published in 1974 by Ballantine Books
The cover artist is uncredited

I just love the subtle blending of anatomical design, nudity and psychedelia on this cover, yet another example of the dying art of the 1970s book designer.

Rotsler Patron Of The Arts

The Trial Of Terra by Jack Williamson
This version was published in 1962 by Ace Books
The cover artist is Ed Emshwiller

Williamson The Trial Of Terra

Time Out Of Joint by Philip K. Dick
This version was published in 1965 by Belmont Books
The cover artist is uncredited

PKD Time Out Of Joint

Apollo At Go by Jeff Sutton
This version was published in 1964 by Mayflower-Dell Books
The cover artist is credited to ‘Jacks’

Sutton Apollo At Go

Ashes And Stars by George Zebrowski
This version was published in 1977 by Ace Books
The cover artist is Bob Pepper

Zebrowski Ashes & Stars

World Without Men by Charles Eric Maine
This version was published in 1963 by Digit Books
The cover artist is uncredited

Maine World Without Men

Veruchia by E. C. Tubb
This version was published in 1973 by Ace Books
The cover artist is uncredited

Tubb Veruchia

The bookseller sent me a rather pleasant email message explaining that he had met E. C. Tubb some years ago and had asked him to sign a few books as a favour although he wasn’t sure if this book was included in the autographs. I was thrilled to find out that this novel does indeed contain the author’s signature on the flyleaf.

E. C. Tubb Signature

A Missive From Soddenham

Soddenham Pamphlet front & back cover

On Saturday I received a mysterious little package wrapped in brown paper and tied up with stout twine. Upon opening the curious parcel I was greeted with another odd missive from Messrs Les Taret and Eric Nullbrigg, both great stalwarts of keeping Soddenham’s illustrious past alive.

Those who are unfamiliar with the tiny village of Soddenham and her ways should seek out more information from their humble website which is located hereabouts on the internet.

Back to the contents of the package; I was holding a small pamphlet in my hands entitled “Soddenham Children’s Rhymes” which contains a number of rhymes, songs and sayings used by the local children in play during the distant past of the village. Soddenham has a great oral tradition, not to mention a prodigious pamphlet output so it’s great to see another booklet swelling the ranks.

Each rhyme is accompanied by an odd little woodcut which increases the feeling of slight unease felt when reading these lines. The cover clearly depicts a woman hanging by her neck from a tree – punishment for supposed witchcraft in the area?

Soddenham Pamphlet front cover

The poem which begins “Candle smoke, candle smoke…” shows what can only be a scene taken from the witch trials as a woman is thrown into the fast moving river from a bridge. This is undoubtedly an early rendering of Candlesmoke Bridge over the river Leam. It makes one shiver to see such startling images next to children’s innocent words.

Soddenham Pamphlet - Candle Smoke

Here are a few more of my favourite rhymes with accompanying woodcuts;

Soddenham Pamphlet Hay Man

Soddenham Pamphlet Charley Barley

The final poem does not have an illustration and I’m somehow glad that it does not. It is short an innocent upon first reading but then gets under the skin and a sinister tone seeps into the words causing the imagination to run riot.

Soddenham Pamphlet Doctor Dell

Still, it’s a beautiful pamphlet and I’m very happy to have been sent a copy by Les and Eric whom I’d like to thank greatly for sharing these words with me and keeping another little piece of Soddenham’s heritage alive.

Soddenham Pamphlet opening page

Well done to you both, now it’s off to the Teat for a few pints of Witches Brew with you, I wish I could join in your celebrations dear fellows.

Soddenham Shield

A Badger Book On Sunday With The Reverend R. L. Fanthorpe & Friends, Chapter 2

Rev Fanshawe Portrait

Last week (here in fact), I mentioned the sense of calm and serenity in the unsubscriber home on a Sunday when flipping through the pages of a good book by The Reverend or one of his many collaborators.

Today I have turned my attention to the following book; The Last Astronaut by Pel Torro which was the pseudonym used by Fanthorpe and another staff writer Harry O. Mansfield.

The cover on this one is just wonderful – a vengeful spaceman (complete with glass domed helmet and requisite baddies’ pointed beard) looks down on an average small town at twilight. But why, could that be the sleepy town where you live?

The tagline on the front of the book reads;

“He had come across a thousand galaxies, the last of the spacemen.”

Makes you shudder with anticipation of the thoughts of terrible revenge he could wreak against puny makind and the trail of devastation he would surely leave in his wake. I’ll leave it up to you to keep you guessing what ultimately occurs dear readers but one thing is for sure, The Reverend R. L. Fanthorpe will always take you on a bumpy ride!

The Last Astronaut by Pel Torro
This version was published in 1963 by Badger Books
The cover artist is H. Fox

Torro The Last Astronaut

An Anthology Of Anthologies (Part Five – The Final Chapter)

After compiling a total of four previous articles covering SF anthologies (here, herehere and here if you’re interested in seeing more) I mistakenly thought that I had exhausted the subject for the time being and was happy to end things there. Then a few days ago I was indulging in a little blog post-related housekeeping when I discovered that I’d used a couple of rather striking anthologies in wholly unrelated earlier articles and this got me to thinking… Wouldn’t it be best to combine all of these books together under an easily identifiable heading for ease of use? And so part Five of this series was conceived to display a couple of previously published covers, some newly acquired additions and a few remaining unseen library favourites. I hope this seems more like a worthwhile exercise in reorganisation than merely a bit of lazy recycling.

Here are the eight books I’ve chosen, let me know your favourites in the comments;

Imagination Unlimited edited by F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty
This version was published in 1966 by Mayflower-Dell Books
The cover artist is Richard Powers

bleiler-dikty-imagination-unlimited

Alternities edited by David Gerrold
This version was published in 1974 by Dell Books
The cover artist is uncredited

Anthology Alternities

Impulse, March 1966 edited by Kyril Bonfiglioni
This version was published in 1966 by Roberts & Vinter Publishing Ltd.
The over artist is Judith Anne Lawrence

Anthology Impulse

Science Fiction Terror Tales edited by Groff Conklin
This version was published in 1969 by Pocket Books
The cover artist is uncredited

Anthology Science Fiction Terror Tales

Things edited Ivan Howard
This version was published in 1965 by Mayflower-Dell Books
The cover art is by signed ‘Jacks

Anthology Things

Four For The Future edited by Harry Harrison
This version was published in 1974 by Quartet books
The cover artist is Patrick Woodroffe

A human skull that transforms into a heart against a psychedelic backdrop, what’s not to like? Mr Woodroffe, you are my hero of the day sir.

anthology-four-for-the-future

Window On The Future edited by Douglas Hill
This version was published in 1970 by Pan Books
The cover artist is  W. F. Phillipps

Anthology Window On The Future

Possible Tomorrows edited by Groff Conklin
This version was published in 1973 by Coronet Books
The cover artist is uncredited

This extremely odd artwork was clearly perpetrated by the same team who came up with the frankly bizarre Poul Anderson series from the previous year also via Coronet which can be seen (here) if you’re feeling brave enough!

Anthology Possible tomorrows

From The Library Of The Unsubscriber No.6, A Mixed Bag Of Randomness

It’s been an unusually quiet stretch on the postal front so far at the back end of last week & weekend with no new parcels arriving to brighten up my dull and rainy days. Because of this relative lack of activity I decided that I should just randomly skim the bookshelves and see what I pulled out. The resulting five books were a very mixed bag as you will see below but all have intriguing covers so the experiment appeared to work. I must come up with a more scientific approach to my method of book selection but I suppose that would end up destroying the random approach which seems to yield some interesting combinations.

And so here are this week’s five random selections from the library of the unsubscriber, feel free to make suitably random comments;

The Dream Master by Roger Zelazny
This version was published in 1973 by Ace Books
The cover artist is uncredited

Zelazny The Dream Master

The World Menders by Lloyd Biggle Jr.
This version was published in 1972 by Daw Books
The cover artist is Kelly Freas

Biggle The World Menders

The Androids by Frank Belknap Long
This version was published in 1969 by Tower Books
The cover artist is uncredited

belknap-long-the-androids

A Tale Of Two Clocks by James H. Schmitz
This version was published in 1965 by Belmont Books
The cover artist is uncredited

Schmitz A Tale Of Two Clocks

The Open Cage by Ronald Hall

This version was published in 1973 by Panther Books
The cover artist is uncredited

Hall The Open Cage

A Badger Book On Sunday With The Reverend R. L. Fanthorpe & Friends, Chapter 1

Rev Fanshawe Portrait

Sunday in the unsubscriber household is indeed a glorious day of rest for me. A day of quiet reflection of the week gone past and thoughts of the possibilities to come during the next seven days. I’m in no way a religious man but on Sundays in particular I always try and find a little time to spend musing over the good Reverend and his companion’s works for they bring me succour my friends. They deliver to me hope in despair, pleasure in fruitlessness and above all, a little bit of fluff in the sometimes over serious world of science fiction.

For those of you who don’t know of the Harley Davidson riding Rev. R. L. Fanthorpe, he worked for the Badger Books publishing company as a staff writer in the 1950s & 60s and produced an astonishing number of titles during his fifteen year tenure there under a variety of different pseudonyms. These alternative pen names are brilliant work in themselves, he used Olaf Trent, Othello Baron, Elton T. Neef, René Rolant, Deutero Spartacus, Bron Fane and Oben Leterth amongst many others. He also worked with other staff writers on collaborative efforts which would have their own set of bizarre pseudonyms. His bibliography is a vast and hugely daunting prospect to navigate due to this fact. As an example of his almost superhuman prodigiousness, he penned a total of eighty nine books over a three year period whilst working at Badger – that’s an entire novel completed every twelve days!

So today’s book is one that started off my Badger/Fanthorpe obsession – Hand Of Doom, which was published under Fanthorpe’s own name. Yes it only runs at a slim 158 pages and is never going to be classed as one of the towering philosophical cosmic greats, it’s merely a little slice of guilty pie for me to nibble on when I’m peckish but I’m so glad that I picked it up when I did.

To be honest, it was the title and cover that did it for me after spotting it in the bookshop and the fact that Black Sabbath’s second LP, 1970’s Paranoid also had a track called Hand Of Doom on it. If it was good enough for the mighty Sabbath, it was surely going to be good enough for me… and so it was.

Hand Of Doom by R. L. Fanthorpe
This version was published in 1960 by Badger Books
The cover artist is Ed Emshwiller (thanks to Bernie for her invaluable help on this one.)

Fanthorpe Hand Of Doom

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