Halloween Endurance Test: Demon Knight (1995)

In the interest of keeping myself sane I decided to expand the Halloween Endurance Test’s parameters this year.  What a mistake this turned out to be.  Rather than send an hour or two watching a (frequently) forgettable horror flick, now I had to devote that time to an even more forgettable “horror” infused album. 

(“‘Horror’ infused” in this instance meaning “metal.”)

The above was written before I realized that I’d have to relisten to these albums over and over again as I wrote this blog!  I now officially retire this album until I’m 40!  (Except for the Gravediggas, whom I’m constantly thinking about.)

Demon Knight was HBO’s Tales From the Crypt‘s first attempt at box office success.  I don’t know how well it did at the box office, though it had to have done better than its successor, Bordello of Blood.  That one starred the pre-Republican Dennis Miller; many cite it as the point where he started using his comedic talents for evil.  Demon Knight starred Billy Zane, who parlayed his box office success here for a role in the Phantom.  Great job there Billy; congratulations, you’ve earned it.

This soundtrack was a fourteen year-old’s (wet) dream come true in ’94; if said fourteen year-old was a metalhead.  (Really, what fourteen year-old isn’t?)  Luckily for the sake of this blog, I was both at the time.  Now let’s see what another fourteen years has done to my opinions.

1.) Pantera’s “Cemetary Gates” – this is a special, film edited version of the song.  I’m assuming it originally stretched out longer; probably had more ham-fisted, chubby drumming and [ugh] guitar solos.  To this day I cite this as the only Pantera song I can stomach.  Mainly due to the “circus” guitar lines that Diamond, …er, Dimebag Darryl plays.  Those lines are all I can remember, mainly because they sound similar to the guitars from the Dickies’ own “Killer Klowns From Outer Space.” 

(Which is a much better song, by a superior, in humor, if not chops, band.  If you don’t have the time to listen to Stukas Over Disneyland, this Pantera song should suffice as a substitute.)     

2.) Ministry’s “Tonight We Murder” – this is the Ministry sound I can’t remember anyone liking.  A return to past mistakes in the gap between the Land of Rape and Honey and A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste.  Someone had the brilliant idea of removing the guitars (which are what would make Ministry famous) and replace them with drums and percussion.  Not a bad trade if your name is Yamantaka Eye; unfortunately Eye was busy recording Osorezan No Stooges Kyo.)

Ever wonder why Al Jourgensen’s vocals are usually mixed both low and distorted?  Listen to this.  For kids weened on Psalm 69: the Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs this is a huge let-down.  It’s synthesizer and percussion heavy when the band is only skilled in hammering guitar lines. 

The song’s only redeeming feature is that it sounds like Al sings, “And love knows these nuts,” early on.  That line always gets a laugh out of me.    

3.) Machine Head’s “My Misery [Demon Knight]” – they sure got that right.  Ugh.  I’m feeling pretty goddamn miserable right now. 

It is kind of cute that Machine Head wrote a song specifically for the soundtrack.  “Cute” in that, trying too hard in school, sort of way.  At least the song was actually included on the album.  The poor, yet supremely awesome, Stormtroopers of Death once wrote “Freddy Krueger” hoping to have it used in a Nightmare on Elm Street film.  It never was.  That said, the S.O.D. song still slays almost everything on this album.

[Editor’s note: make no mistake, my love of S.O.D. runs deep.  I wrote the entire Tampa Tantrums versus Palm City Punishers blog listening to Speak English or Die.  Luckily I edited out all the Billy Milano inspired lines.]

Firmly placing this blog in the “stranger than fiction” column, I recently ran into a man wearing a Machine Head shirt.  I so wanted to track him down and take a picture; maybe ask him how “My Misery” speaks to him. 

4.) Megadeth’s “Diadems” – this has to be the clean, born-again Dave Mustaine.  Yawn.  The Mustaine who now sounds concerned when he sings about the approaching Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  Before he sounded happy when he foretold their arrival; now he’s hoping they don’t make too big a mess on his lawn. 

“Sacrilege and blasphemy set the stage today…”  Yeah, this is definitely the born-again Mustaine.  The song does get better once they plug their guitars in, but not that much better.

5.) Melvins “Instant Larry” – I was riding my bike down Livingston Ave midday, dodging SUVs transporting busy soccer moms, when this song come on.  I had no idea who it was.  What caught my attention was that the drummer was playing twice as fast as the bassist.  Which is at least an inspired idea.  It also sounded as if the guitar player took that rhythmic mess and just spazzed a solo on top of it.  Not forgetting to add a dose of ultra-fuzzed out vocals for good measure. 

At first listen it sounded as if the band didn’t give a shit.

Then I discovered it was the Melvins!  So I knew they didn’t give a shit.  Knowing them, they took all the money Atlantic records gave them to record a song a spent it all some Hollywood flea market.  Returning home with bootleg masks, they recorded “Instant Larry” in Buzzo’s bathroom. 

6.) Rollins Band’s “Fall Guy” – this song strikes me as odd for a Rollins song.  I’m not used to hearing him take the victim role.  So much of his career has been spent as what can best be described as a motivational “singer.”  (“Singer” used here loosely; ‘cuz Rollins has always been more of a talker than a singer.)  Here Rollins is playing the whining loser; crying about being down on his luck.

Not necessarily a bad song, just a bad fit for the singer.  The band (Hasket, Weiss, and “Sugar” Sim Cain) nails it as they always did.  This, similar to the Megadeth situation, is the neutered Rollins Band.  Gone is the anger and rage found in the “Gun In Mouth Blues.”  Instead we get a self-help module.

7.) Biohazard’s “Beaten” – Biohazard might be the one metal band I’ve unerringly enjoyed my entire life.  My opinion of most others will wax and wane; never with Biohazard though.  Their album Urban Discipline stands as the defining crossover record.  Metal crossing over with (the always macho) NYC-style hardcore, which is usually something I can’t stomach.  Here it manages to work.  This mixture might be the only way that that style of gruff singing is acceptable.

Biohazard is not the most popular band, nor the most talented.  They are consistent though.  As my brother once pointed out, “It’s four Jewish guys from Brooklyn in a metal band.  You have to support them; just for that!”  (Actually only one of them is Jewish, Craig.  I’ll let you figure out which is which.)  An added bonus is that they love Sabbath, yet don’t sing, er… shout, about dragons and crap.

The one student I had who was arrested for bringing pot to school was a Biohazard fan.  I remember seeing it written on one of her notebooks.  (Probably her only notebook.)  All I could think of was, “Holy crap!  People (i.e. kids) still listen to them!?!”  We would’ve bonded over that if she hadn’t been booted from school for bringing a brick of weed with her.  Or if we hadn’t spent minutes(!) discussing how ridiculously awesome the Locusts’ “Anything Jesus Can Do I Can Do Better” is.  Seriously, that’s all I talked to the stoner kids about. 

8.) Sepultura’s “Policia” – Another crossover song.  Heavy, yet still ultrafast.  Which is the surest way into my heart.  Sepultura always kill it.  As (another) added bonus, it’s totally in Portuguese, so I wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of it even if they slowed it down.  I do know that “Policia” translate into “police.”  The only other I recognize is “puta!”  Which leads me to believe that Cavallera and company didn’t think too highly of their public servants.

Clocking in at under two minutes, Sepultura still manage to include a polyrhythmic, Indian breakdown in the middle.  ‘Cuz you don’t have time to waste down in the favelas.  You just throw everything in at once.  Sepultura’s speed shows that they’ve studied their Ratos de Porao alongside their Metallica. 

This song does remind me of my recurring fear that someone is going to do an in-depth investigation on Sepultura’s background.  Only to find out they’re not from the slums, but instead from some comfortable, or [gasp!] wealthy Brasilian family.  Discover that they’ve come Stateside only on a whim; just to show Slayer who’s the boss.

9.) Filter’s “Hey Man Nice Shot” – Filter has been totally outgunned on this compilation.  While they do have the only actual hit, what do hits matter to metal kids?  Popular metal songs always stink; just look at Metallica’s track record.  “Hey Man Nice Shot” is also probably the most structurally sound song on here.  There’s a designated, clearly defined opening, middle (sadly, minus any reference to indigenous, Brazilian polyrhymics) and end.  This dedication to song craft really goes against what makes great metal great; its “devil may care” sloppiness.  (Even if its not truly sloppy; it’s supposed to look and sound like it’s sloppy.)

Not surprisingly, Filter’s also the least metal band on the album up to this point.  They inhabit that NIN-lite category that was all the rage in the late nineties (refer to Gravity Kills, Stabbing Westward et al for more examples of this sad, disgusting trend.)  Why don’t people complain and mock about this stuff as they do the rap-rock that later took this spot in the musical hierarchy?  Both were intolerable; why does industrial-lite get a pass? 

Industrial music, even at its height, made no sense.  Making music inspired by an industrial society that was no longer industrial.  None of these musicians ever slaved in a factory.  They flipped burgers as the rest of us did.

“Hey Man Nice Shot” is based off some county accountant who was caught embezzling.  So he called a press conference so that his suicide could be broadcast live on television.  There might be no better example of a “bait-and-switch” scam working for us than right here.  If you’re going to kill yourself, by all means, call the press to your office; making them think they’re covering your resignation.

(Thanks to the magic that is wikipedia I found that the man had a name.  Budd Dwyer in fact.)
 
This suicide is special to me because I have a copy of it on a VHS tape somewhere. 

Originally I had a random copy of Psychotronic Movies that included a thank you list that was three, single-spaced pages long; all bearing the smallest font you’d ever want to ignore.  Naturally I became bored one day and read them all. Right in the middle there was a message that could not be refused.  “Thanks to blahblahblah, write him at: 154 Dumbass Ln…, for free stuff.” 

Free stuff? 

Of course I sent him a letter!  In return I received a package a few weeks later with a letter from blahblahblah personally informing me that he had some degenerate disease that left him a cyborg.  Yes, a fucking cyborg!  So would I please be so kind as to send him some money to buy cyborg food, oil, or whatever the fuck it is that cyborgs use for food.  Included along with the letter was an unmarked VHS tape.

Throwing the tape into the VCR, I was assaulted by that wondrous feeling of equal parts curiosity and dread.  What could possibly be on it?  Well, it started off promising with a twenty-minute harangue by what appears to be a homeless man explaining how Satan is running the world.  He sounds pretty convincing; he even draws charts to prove his points!  Next up was a few choice selections of the Cramps playing at a mental institution.  Then came the suicide.  Just a jump-cut; no warning.  Dwyer warns the reporters to stay back, pulls the gun out of the envelope, and blows his brains out.

How do you top that?  With random footage of people being beat up in poorly lit parking lots!  This cyborg managed to anticipate the whole Bum Fights phenomena years before it broke for the rest of us!

Above is a prime example of why I’m quite content not having an internet connection at home.  I’d totally end up dead in some bizarre robbery after inviting the perpetrator in on some spur of the moment, “let’s talk about robots” shit.

10.) Gravediggaz’s “1-800-SUICIDE” – Prince Paul is a genius.  Not only did he invent the skit that is now a prerequisite since 3 Feet High and Rising dropped; he also put this super group together. Paul figured that if pretending to be gangstas will sell millions of records, why not pretend we’re monsters?  And thus horrorcore was born; dying a short time thereafter.  It turns out rapping about guns is acceptable.  Rapping about the shovel you used to bury your victim is not.  Which is a lesson for us all really.

Have you ever wanted to hear Wu-Tang mastermind RZA (cleverly monikered as the Rzarector) give you tips on how to kill yourself?  Probably not, though it still turned out to be awesome without your support.  Everyone already knows that RZA’s raps usually barely make sense to begin with, so here his knack for cumbersome wordplay is acceptable.  I mean, he’s supposed to be evil anyway!  Isn’t expecting to be reanimated and rap as well as Rakim asking a little too much?

Many would wonder about having Wu-Tang’s own resident superproducer only rap on a record.  ‘Cuz as I was mentioning earlier, it’s not as if RZA had that much lyrical talent to begin with.  At his best RZA is painfully esoteric, at worst?  Well, just go listen to the Bobby Digital album again.  I rest my case.

Relying on Prince Paul’s production allows the RZA to give his raps his undivided attention.  How does he use this newfound surplus of concentration?  By recreating infamous “torture motherfucker” segment from “Method Man” in every one of his raps.  Band mates or not, that’s some tough competition.  RAZ isn’t able to best Method Man’s own suggestion about “sewing your asshole shut” so he can keep feeding you; Rzarector’s torture/death suggestions are superior to Reakwon’s.

This song is easily the highlight of the Demon Knight album.  Not just for breaking the monotony of the metal fest, but for hijacking metal’s own motifs and reusing them more effectively.  (Ice-T tried to conquer metal with Bodycount, and failed, albeit grandly.  It’s not the guitars that are ultimately important, just the Satanic goodness.)

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